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Faux Pho

The Vietnamese mix-in soup is easy to make, using just a brick of cheap instant ramen noodles.

I started my first two websites in 1996, back when we still referred to it as the “World Wide Web,” because I am as old as balls.

My first two websites were, in order, a multi-page, five-navigation-levels-deep, exhaustively researched homage to the glory days of the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System, called “NintendoSlut,” which mostly consisted of MIDI sound files of the tinny theme songs from my favorite old games, and pages filled with armies of 16 color animated GIFs of the Eggplant Wizard from “Kid Icarus” endlessly marching in sequence, looped forever in bug-eyed lockstep. The only people that were interested in reading it were other kids who were even more obsessive in their knowledge of the minutiae of the Nintendo universe, and mostly, they just wanted to correct me when I misspelled “Hayabusa.”

My second wasted effort was a collection of hundreds and hundreds of instant ramen noodle recipes, painstakingly re-typed into fifty-foot long HTML pages that, when printed, would lead to a request from my Computer Science professor that I maybe stay out of the lab for a few days.

Few of the recipes from that website stand out in my mind. Most were barely recipes at all, instead mere suggestions that crushed-up dry ramen noodles were a good addition to a sandwich, or that the flavor pack from a package of 17 cent ramen was delicious when sprinkled on popcorn.

The more ambitious recipes suggested that a microwaved brick of ramen covered in jarred spaghetti sauce was a reasonable, low-budget alternative to an expensive night out in a fine Italian restaurant. This website has long-since been lost to the annals of internet history (though plenty of others have taken its place), and people have gotten rich (?) self-publishing cookbooks along the same lines, marketed toward broke and starving college kids.

Spending a year testing ramen recipes, to the benefit of no one but my future cardiologist, was enough to put me off of packaged instant ramen for more than twenty years. Recently, however, thoughts of ramen have been nibbling around the outer edges of my brain, and I have become overwhelmed with visions of slamming that MSG-and-sodium spike back into my vein. And unlike the recipes from college (“Mixing cooked ramen noodles into instant mashed potatoes and canned gravy makes every day taste like Thanksgiving!”), this dressed-up instant ramen recipe actually tastes good and resembles real food.

With its strong cinnamon and ginger flavors lending complexity to the beef broth, and the ability to add as much spicy heat from the raw serrano peppers as you’d like, this recipe allows you to recreate most of the pho experience right in your very own home, without ever having to rub elbows with another human being. Your inner introvert will be pleased.

Faux Pho
Serves 4
Making the delicious Vietnamese soup using only a brick of ramen noodles and your wits is easy.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  2. 1/2 onion
  3. 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  4. 1 big piece fresh ginger, peeled
  5. 2 1/2 cups beef broth
  6. 1 whole star anise
  7. 1 cinnamon stick
  8. 2 cups mixed mushrooms (such as oyster or stemmed shiitake), thinly sliced or torn
  9. 1 scallion, thinly sliced
  10. Kosher salt
  11. 2 packages instant ramen (noodles only; throw away the flavor pack or use it for other stuff)
  12. 1 1/2-pound piece beef eye round, sliced against the grain as thinly as possible
  13. Bean sprouts, basil leaves, and thinly sliced serrano chiles
Instructions
  1. In a medium pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion (with the cut side down), the garlic, and the ginger. Cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic begins to brown, about three minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups water, beef broth, star anise, and cinnamon, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, about ten minutes. Add mushrooms, simmer two minutes more. Add scallion, and check seasoning. Add salt, as needed.
  2. In another pot, boil ramen until tender, but still firm, about a minute less than package directions. Drain, and divide among bowls. Add beef slices, and simmer until just barely cooked through, about 15-20 seconds. Use tongs to transfer beef to bowls.
  3. Discard the onion, ginger, garlic, star anise, and cinnamon; ladle broth into bowls on top of noodles and beef. Garnish as desired with sprouts, basil, and chiles.
Notes
  1. Looking for something to do with that discarded ramen noodle flavor pack? Save it to sprinkle on popcorn, and you can combine "light snacking" with "getting heart disease" in one convenient bowl!
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Spork & Barrel http://sporkandbarrel.com/

 

Written by Malcolm Bedell

Malcolm is the author of "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road," as well as a frequent contributor to Serious Eats, Down East Magazine, The L.A. Weekly, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and more. When not poisoning his body with garbage and then posting sardonic commentary about it on the Internet, he also owns and operates the 'Wich, Please food truck, named Eater.com's "Hottest Restaurant in Maine" for 2015.

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