The essence of good Pho pronounced “fuh”, is the broth. Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup and if you’ve seen the movies Tampopo (1985) or Ramen Girl (2008) you know its a hard fought journey to achieve brothy perfection. These movies featured Japanese ramen soup but it’s the same premise.
Curt says that what follows is not a proper pho; it is probably more related to a Vietnamese duck and bamboo shoot soup called Bún măng vịt. But it is what it is.
So when Curt came home with two ducks last week and said he was planning confit for the legs, the breasts for pan-roasting and everything else for noodle soup, I knew he was in for a kitchen marathon. When huge projects like this get started I usually find things to do in other rooms of the house, preferably on the second floor.
About an hour into the Duckfest I checked back. Stainless steel bowls of duck parts and towels with bloody splotches were sitting on the counter. Back I went to my studio. On my second visit a pan of duck parts (frame, wings, necks and gizzards) were roasting in the oven soon to join the water, onions, ginger, fish sauce, sugar and other aromatics simmering in a big pot on the stove. Everything seemed under control so I figured it was time to hit the reading room.
I am not sure what happened after that, but the duck fat from the top of the broth was in a small bowl, the rest of the broth was covered and the the duck parts were picked clean. For dinner that night we had one of the duck breasts, roasted.
The next day, Sunday, was soup day. Once again, I made myself scarce but I can tell you for certain at dinner that evening I experienced a great bowl of Vietnamese Noodle Soup (pho or not) made by a Midwestern guy from North Tonawanda, New York. Maybe it was his chowder heritage, because the broth was wonderful. A master noodle chef probably would disagree but I loved it.
Want to know what happened in the kitchen? Below is the recipe from Curt.
VIETNAMESE DUCK SOUP
Frames, wings, necks and gizzards from 2 ducks
8 C. water
I medium onion, peeled, halved
6 T finely sliced, peeled ginger
1 star anise
1 green cardamom pod, crushed
2 T fish sauce
1 T sugar
Roast the duck parts in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until colored a rich brown. This is not traditional for pho, which typically has a quiet light base but I like the richness a roasted bone broth brings – call me an iconoclast.
Combine the roasted duck parts with the other ingredients for the stock and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for 2 hours. Add additional water to keep the bones submerged. Allow to cool sufficiently to pick the meat from the bones (you should have around 2 cups of meat). Strain the broth and reserve for the soup. You’ll have more meat and stock than you need for the recipe so plan to freeze the extra for another day or invite to guests to share the pho.
Soup Ingredients (for 2 servings):
1 C duck meat, picked from frame, neck, wings
2.25 oz. rice vermicelli (also called maifun or rice sticks)
1/2 C scallion, sliced – green tops included
2 C thinly sliced Napa cabbage
1/4 C chopped fresh mint
1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro
Hot chili sauce (such as Sriracha)
Soak rice vermicelli in large pan of the hottest tap water you can manage until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and reserve.
Divide noodles and cabbage into bowls. Ladle in hot broth. Divide duck meat, scallions, mint and cilantro between the two bowls.
Pass Sriracha and lime wedges for each diner to add to the pho to their taste.
Fresh bean sprouts would also be at home in this recipe (added with the cabbage) but we didn’t have any in the pantry that day. I haven’t tried it, but I think a little chopped kimchi could partially replace the Sriracha (again, not traditional, but I think it would work fabulously).