Since I’ve moved to St. Maarten, I find myself with an incessant craving for pho—a staple in my household and my mom’s favorite food. It’s one of those things that you don’t miss til it’s gone and boy, did I. I ALWAYS requested pho when I arrived back in Arkansas or when I was leaving. It is necessary.
Not only is pho one of every Southeast Asian kids favorite comfort food, but it’s a social food too. You ALWAYS have to make a huge pot to share with friends and family…there is no such thing as a single serving recipe for a pot of pho. I suppose that unconsciously, my request for my mom’s pho is an easy invitation to see my family when I get home and when I’m leaving. People trickle in and out throughout the day, but no one ever turns down pho.
So, after about 5 semesters on the island, I finally decided that I, a person nearing 30, should finally tackle making pho from scratch. Had I not grown up so Americanized, I might’ve had 10 years of experience by now…but, unfortunately, I don’t. My mom and I are similar, in that we firmly believe that if anything is to be done right, you must do it yourself. Hence, why I do not know how to cook anything Asian.
The first time I made pho on the island, it was just…really lackluster. First of all (and don’t judge me, I live on an island), I didn’t have any beef bones. Secondly, I enhanced the flavor with pho seasoning cubes. Blasphemy! I know… but I totally redeemed myself this time. I found oxtails and didn’t use ANY seasoning cubes. I cross-referenced various blogs with thorough recipes (here, here, and here) to determine what I needed to produce a genuine, aromatic, and flavorful broth. The result was a hit! Much better than the first go-around.
As you can see, I support the utilization of condiments. Generally, when it comes to pho, there are two camps: those who prefer a pure, unadulterated broth and those who like to spice things up with flavors! There is nothing wrong with either parties. I have had it both ways and each have their own attributes. I was just raised
the right way to spice up any and all of my food. My preferred additions include sugar, spicy ground chili in oil, beef paste flavoring, lime juice, green onions, thinly sliced onions, and copious amounts of cilantro. Other favorite accoutrements: Chinese long beans and Romaine lettuce. It is a special treat when my mom makes her famous Lao-style Sukiyaki sauce, I like to dip the long beans in it or even add it to my soup!