Tag Archives: soup

Pho-tastic Pho

I have been on the hunt for the BEST Pho recipe ever for at least 5 years now. I have asked so many Vietnamese for a recipe but they often dodge the question or simply shrug and say, ‘It’s just beef soup!’ If only it were that easy…

Yesterday I embarked on a 5 hour cooking bonanza and I tried a new recipe I found on the SBS website and Inside Cuisine (the recipes are exactly the same!). Apparently it is Luke Nguyen’s recipe but the SBS site doesn’t give him credit for it… who ever made this recipe, they deserve a thousand Pho-kisses because I will love them long time for it. 🙂

I now realise the difference between all the crappy recipes and this awesome one lies in using Cassia Bark NOT Cinnamon (Same, same but different? I think not!) AND char-grilling the garlic, ginger and onion prior to roughly chopping it and adding it to the stock. The char-grilled onion was an immediate reminder of the Pho I tasted in Vietnam and the traditional Vietnamese restaurants I visit every time I go to Melbourne or Sydney. I’m salivating just thinking about it… mmm.

So what do you do with your Pho that isn’t in this recipe? Have you got a better recipe?

The condiments

The condiments

The Pho-king Pho-tastic Pho!

The Pho-king Pho-tastic Pho!

2kg (4 lb 8 oz) oxtail (ask your butcher to chop it into 3cm/11/4 inch pieces)
4 tbsp salt
1 unpeeled garlic bulb
4 large unpeeled onions
150g (51/2 oz) unpeeled ginger
2kg (4 lb 8 oz) beef brisket
185ml (6 fl oz/3/4 cup) fish sauce
80g (23/4 oz) rock sugar
1.6kg (3 lb 8 oz) fresh rice noodle (you will need about 200g/7 oz per person)
400g (14 oz) trimmed sirloin, thinly sliced
4 spring onions (scallions), sliced freshly ground black pepper
Coriander (cilantro) sprigs
2 birdseye chillies, sliced
1 lime, cut into wedges

Spice pouch
8 cloves
5 star anise
2 cassia bark, about 10cm (4 inch) in length
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
40cm (16 inch) square piece muslin cloth

In a large pot, submerge the oxtail in cold water, add 3 tablespoons of the salt and soak for 1 hour, then drain.

To make the spice pouch, dry roast each ingredient separately in a frying pan over medium heat until fragrant.

Cool, then coarsely grind using a mortar and pestle or small spice grinder. Add the ground spices to the muslin square and tie up tightly in a knot. Set aside.

Heat a barbecue grill or chargrill pan over medium-high heat and grill the unpeeled garlic, onions and ginger evenly for 15 minutes in total until all sides are blackened.

Now peel the blackened skins and discard them, and then roughly chop. (By doing this, the garlic, onion and ginger becomes sweet and fragrant, releasing more flavour into the stock.)

Put the oxtail, brisket and 6 litres (200 fl oz) of cold water in a stockpot and bring to the boil. While the stock is boiling, constantly skim any impurities off the surface for 15 minutes (this will ensure a clean, clear broth), then reduce the heat to a low simmer.

Add the fish sauce, remaining 1 tablespoon of salt, rock sugar, garlic, onions, ginger and spice pouch.

Cover and simmer for 3 hours, or until the stock has reduced to almost half.
Strain the stock through a muslin cloth. Remove the brisket, set aside to cool, then thinly slice.

Blanch each portion of noodles in boiling water for 20 seconds.

Drain, then transfer to a serving bowl.

Place three or four slices of brisket on top of the noodles, followed by three or four pieces of raw sirloin. Pour over the hot stock to cover the noodles and beef.

Garnish each bowl with 1 tablespoon of spring onion, a pinch of black pepper and a coriander sprig.

At the table, add chilli and a squeeze of lime.

Southwestern Chicken Soup

As you all know (well the regular readers anyhow), I recently went on a last minute trip to Los Angeles (and Toronto) to see my sister (and brother). While I was there I enjoyed all the liberties that come with not living in a compound and country where going for a leisurely stroll is out of the question. It was great 🙂 One of the liberties I enjoyed was great food and my sister did not disappoint when she made this soup for me.

I have always thought that one of the best things about getting out of PNG for a bit is the fact that I could roll around in the aisles of the grocery stores if I wanted – and believe me I have wanted to just out of sheer delight at the selections. BUT the funny thing is that since my trip, I have started to notice all the things that I can get in a supermarket over here that aren’t part of the standard stock in Australia.

We have a new supermarket in town – yes peoples that is BIG NEWS! Many of us made a special trip down there just to check it out and be amazed at what we believe will be temporary cleanliness (but I must comment on how they are obviously taking great pride in their new supermarket… I have NEVER seen cans of baked beans lined up so perfectly on a shelf- I will attempt a sly photograph on my next shopping excursion). Anyhow, back to the point… I tried to get Black Beans in Australia and had to go to a specialty store if I were to find any but they had some in the supermarket here (PNG) AND I wanted powdered sugar and found it easily here! I guess there will be some conveniences I will miss…

So the Southwestern Chicken Soup…


2 Chicken Breasts (cut into stirfry strips)
1 Litre Chicken stock
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can Pinto Beans
1 can Black Beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 green capsicum (pepper)
1 red capsicum (pepper)
1 tin small green chillis, chopped (I used 5 fresh small green chillis)
1 medium onion cut into wedges (I then halved those wedges)
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garlic powder
salt to taste
Fresh coriander to taste
2 tbsp Lime juice

1. Sear the chicken in a fry pan and just before removing from the pan, pour lime juice over it and then place it in the slowcooker.
2. Place the rest of the ingredients into slowcooker, except coriander. Stir to mix.
3. Turn slowcooker on for 6 hours.
4. At the 5 hour mark, add the coriander (as much as you prefer) then leave for the remaining hour
5. Serve or freeze.

Is that soup supposed to be cold?

Last night Daryl surprised me with a dinner for two at a new 5 star hotel in Port Moresby. I’ve eaten at the restaurant for lunch before and it was pretty nice. It is the nicest looking restaurant in Port Moresby other than another one I know of however we never expect 5 star service or cooking even though they are 5 star.

Five star over here is not the same as 5 star in Australia. An example of what I mean is that this hotel was built last year and only opened in November. We had some friends posting out in December who stayed there for a few nights before leaving the country. Everyone was looking forward to hearing about what it was like. The verdict? ‘It’s not quite the 5 star we were hoping for.’ They had a whole list of reasons with one of them being that when they checked into the room there was a rolled up towel at the door to the bathroom. Worried someone would trip on it, my friend removed it but when they had their first shower, all their soapy water was running off out the door and down the hall because of a design flaw in the bathroom. When they told concierge, their answer was to roll a towel up and put it on the floor. I suppose it is a cheaper option than fixing the bathroom, 5 star or not, right?

What’s with the soup? I hear you say? Well last night we were in our lovely restaurant and we ordered our glasses of wine first. Then we browsed the menu for our entrees and mains. We both wanted the Squid but decided we would swap half way through our entree so we could try 2 different ones so our other option was Tiger Prawns. As we ordered, the waitress told us, ‘Mmmm… no prawns… it’s finished, sorry.’ So we asked her if there was any Baby Octopus left to which she replied, ‘Yes.’ We double checked to be sure as culturally they do not like to say ‘no’ so you always have to double check. A few minutes later she came back and said, ‘Mmmm… sorry no Baby Octopus or Squid, it’s finished, sorry.’ So we were back to square one. Nothing else really appealed to us but we were hungry so we needed an entree and we had already devoured a dip and bread plate. I told Daryl to just order 2 random ones and we will see what we get as we weren’t really sure what ‘Tomato Gazpacho’ was (although having studied Spanish I vaguely remember hearing about it) and we knew we liked Duck but were none the wiser on how it would be cooked by their description on the menu but we launched in anyhow.

Our entrees arrived not long later- this is a feat in itself over here as it is not uncommon to wait for extended periods for your food… no one is in a hurry here and I suppose the logic is that your hunger isn’t going anywhere so it’s not like they’ll miss it- and I was served the Tomato Gazpacho and Daryl, the Duck thingy. I took my first mouthful of what looked like a nice Tomato & Vegetable Soup. The edges of the bowl were warm so the soup would be too right? Well no… it was stone cold and I wasn’t really sure if it was supposed to be. It’s a bit of a shock to the system as your brain sends alarm signals down to your throat saying, ‘Gag! Gag! Gag! This is not right!!!’ and then quickly follows up with, ‘Be a lady! You’re in a nice restaurant! No one wants to hear or see you choke for goodness sake!’ I now know, thanks to Googling ‘Is Tomato Gazpacho supposed to be cold?’ that it is traditionally served cold BUT last night I wasn’t sure!

Daryl and I began to laugh at the situation as we both sat there wondering if my soup and his Duck thingy were meant to be cold! The funniest thing was the shear fact we doubted the 5 star restaurant had got it right purely because we lack trust in the restaurants to ever get it right over here. Turns out we were wrong… at least with the soup in this case.

Oh and I was also surprised by a little present I was given… some locally crafted earrings in the shape of a bilum (a PNG woven bag) with green detail on them. I love them! So much for sticking to our traditional wedding anniversary presents! haha! It’s cotton this year and I got Daryl a hammock 🙂

Potato and Leek Soup

My husband has been sick with the flu the last few days so it has been soup all round every night. I tried out this new recipe inspired by Margaret Fulton the other day. I’ve had to make some more to get a picture of it because we enjoyed it so much we devoured it right away.

I made changes to the original recipe to suit my own tastes so the recipe as I made it is below:

Potato and Leek Soup

60g butter
2 onions, finely sliced
3 leeks, trimmed, washed, then cut into thin slices
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cups Chicken stock
3/4 cup white wine
4 tbsp thickened cream
salt and pepper
flat-leaf parsley to garnish

1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium to low heat
2. Add the onions, leek and potatoes. Cover and continue to cook gently until soft and pale golden
3. Add the stock and wine and simmer for 10 minutes
4. Put mixture in blender and puree
5. Place puree back in medium saucepan and simmer
6. Add cream and stir
7. Serve and season with salt and pepper; garnish with parsley.

1. If using home made chicken stock, add 6 cups of chicken stock
2. When I don’t have home made chicken stock on hand, I use the Massel brand of chicken stock cubes as it is my most favourite for flavour and for all those vegans out there, there is no animal content.