Without a doubt, food is definitely a high point for many river cruise enthusiasts when it comes to things they enjoy most about their vacations. Sampling different cuisines gives you a taste of many different cultures – literally. Whether cruising the Rhine in Europe, the Volga in Russia, or Asia’s magnificent Mekong River, travelers can enjoy local flavors both on land and on board their ship.
If you’ve ever sailed (or one day dream of sailing) along the Mekong River to experience the sights, sounds and flavors of Cambodia and Vietnam, then there’s one dish certain to make your mouth water – and that dish, is Pho.
One of our favorite Vietnamese recipes, Pho, was originally sold on the street of Hanoi, but quickly made its way into restaurants throughout northern Vietnam. Now, this aromatic and delectable soup can be found in restaurants all around the world.
The soup base consists of a light and fragrant broth, which surrounds a wealth of beef, chicken, shrimp, mushrooms or tofu, and a variety of vegetables. A selection of garnishes can be provided tableside, including cilantro, limes, sweet Thai basil, sriracha and mung bean sprouts.
If you’d like to bring a taste of the Mekong River into your home, it’s possible to recreate Vietnam’s national dish in your own kitchen. In fact, we’ve made Pho at home ourselves following Viking’s recipe with a couple of modifications – and it turns out marvelous every time. See their pho recipe below!
Recipe: Beef Pho
2 1/2 beef bones with meat
1 pound oxtail (or add a pound of beef bones)
1 chopped onion
2 pieces star anise
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon peppercorn
1 slice fresh ginger root
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
Remaining soup ingredients
1 pound flat rice noodles
1/4 pound frozen sirloin
Garnishes to serve on the side:
Sriracha (Vietnamese hot chili pepper sauce)
Hoisin sauce (Chinese dipping sauce)
Thinly sliced onion
Chopped fresh cilantro
Bean sprouts (mung beans)
Sweet Thai basil
Thinly sliced green onion
- Place the beef knuckle in a large (four-quart) pot.
- Season with salt.
- Add one gallon of water.
- Bring to a boil.
- Simmer for approximately two hours. You’ll notice the fat floating on surface. Skim it out of the soup.
- Add the oxtail and onion.
- Place in a small cloth drawstring or a tea infuser star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves, peppercorns and ginger and add to the soup.
- Add sugar, salt and fish sauce. Simmer over medium-low heat for four more hours.
- Strain broth, and return to the pot to keep at a simmer. Remove the spices and bones.
This method yields a very tasty and authentic result, but it takes approximately six hours. The broth tastes even better the next day!
When the broth is almost ready:
- To cook the noodles, boil a large pot of noodles.
- The Viking recipe directs you to soak the rice noodles in water for about 20 minutes then cooking in boiling water for about five minutes. We found what best for us is soaking the noodles in room temperature water for about an hour then cooking it in boiling water for about a minute. Either way, you’ll want to cook the noodles until their soft, not mushy.
- Drain the noodles.
When the broth is ready:
- Slice the frozen beef as thin as possible. Paper-thin is ideal as it’ll cook instantly when broth is poured over it.
- Place some noodles into each bowl, and top with a few raw beef slices.
- Ladle boiling broth over the beef and noodles in the bowl.
- Serve with optional sriracha hot sauce, hoisin sauce, and garlic chili oil on the side.
- Set onion, cilantro, bean sprouts, basil, green onions and lime out at the table as condiments.
Makes 10 servings.
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