I love pho. I love it so much, I actually know how to pronounce it (like phuh as in “what the fuuuu” as opposed to phoe as in “foe”). There’s just something about picking up pho takeout and getting home and all the pieces are arranged so nicely in that Styrofoam container…sigh…
As you can tell, I’m pretty into this stuff. I’m also very into using Buzzfeed for recipes. Take a look at my bookmarks right now – they’re about 90% just lists of food. Being a grad student means I bring lunch to campus most days, which translates to sandwich hell as the semester goes on and I get tired and poor. So, when I saw this Buzzfeed post, I immediately thought “Food plz thx.” Lo and behold, there was a recipe for Make-Ahead Southeast Asian Pho in a Jar (or, as I call it, Pho to Gho). I swear I saw stars and heard a chorus of angels singing.
The recipe isn’t all that complicated, but it took me a while to get to it. I used a microplane to grate the ginger and a red Fresno pepper, which worked quite nicely. Scallions got chopped with a knife, easy peasy. The problem came when I had to add the noodles. I bought rice vermicelli (it’s what the recipe calls for, I know it’s not the right kind of noodle for pho) from the Asian section of the grocery store, okay, so far so good. But then I had to add the noodles to a Mason jar.
The noodles came in a big brick which is obviously meant to all be cooked at once, but the recipe only calls for 2 oz of noodles. (The author clarifies these as uncooked in a comment, so I know I wasn’t being crazy.) I ended up having to break off chunks of noodles from the brick so I could weigh them and shove them into the jar. You know what happens when you do that? You get sad, tiny noodles. With every snap of the noodles my heart broke a little bit.
Since the noodles took up so much space, I could only fit in about half a handful of spinach leaves before there was just no more room left in the jar. I couldn’t fit in the cilantro, and I didn’t even have room for half a lime, let alone a whole one. Maybe I was supposed to use a 24-oz jar instead of a 12-oz one, but the one she uses in her picture looks so small…???
Anyway, fast-forward to lunchtime today. I boiled some water in my office’s electric kettle, poured it into my jar, and set a timer for 3 minutes because I have no self-restraint when it comes to food and I totally would have eaten the entire thing long before it was ready. Finally, the timer beeped, I shook that jar like a Polaroid picture, and I was SO READY to eat my pho that I swear Carmina Burana played while the fork was raised to my mouth in slow motion.
The broth tasted very ginger-y, which I didn’t care for too much because ginger isn’t my favorite flavor, and I definitely didn’t add enough salt. (It says a generous pinch, but I must have put in a teaspoon and it still wasn’t enough.) The chili pepper was nice, but the yellow pepper just made me go ????? I’m not sure I’ve ever had pho with yellow pepper in it, and I don’t think it added anything. Just as I suspected, the noodles turned into tiny 2-inch strips, which were extremely disappointing. I love the noodle slurp! There was no slurp! The people in my office might be grateful for that, but I wanted the slurp.
The spinach was fine, but I’m not sure what it was supposed to take the place of. Most importantly, THERE WAS NO MEAT. I get that it’s hard to slice up some rare beef and stick it in a Mason jar without a little bit of “um am I going to get food poisoning?” but seriously it’s a central component of the dish. I need to gnaw on some tenderloin with my sad noodles.
The recipe was fairly easy except for breaking the noodle brick, and it did have a lot of veggies in it (although yellow pepper = why), so I guess it’s healthy? I’ve read that eating spicy food makes you eat slower so you don’t overeat, but I was so hungry that I just inhaled the whole thing. Ease of making: 3/10
As far as taste, it just wasn’t up to scratch. It didn’t really taste like pho, and I know I had to leave out some ingredients, but I don’t think those would have miraculously saved the recipe. However, it wasn’t gross, and I ate the whole thing (arguably because I was very hungry, but still). It was just disappointing. Yum factor: 3/10
All of that being said, I would try it again. I think there’s probably a way to make this better, and I’m starting with removing the yellow peppers. (Seriously, are they supposed to be a meat substitute or something?) The other thing I would try adding is some thinly-sliced onions to give it more of the pho flavor, although maybe I only want to do that because I just bought a mandoline and it’s so slicey I can’t stop using it. I’m also going to try quickly cooking the noodles for a minute or two before lunchtime, so they get just malleable enough that I don’t have to break them to add them to the jar. Plus, then I can have my cilantro ❤