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Faux Pho Ga (in a crockpot)

Indio, California: Before I delve into what should have been a lovely Vietnamese soup recipe, I must show you what I did with the leftover polenta from last night's osso buco. Last evening, I placed the spare polenta in a small round oiled dish and set it in the fridge. It firms-up and can be sliced, fried in olive oil and served as a lovely appetizer or luncheon main course. Fried polenta is also awesome served under any meaty sauce.

I put the crispy fried wedges over a bed of arugula and topped them with a little marinara and grated parmesan. Sliced green olives served as the garnish. Perfect lunch - especially after riding my bicycle for an hour this morning. Hungry.

Or hungery, if you are an Oregon State football fan:

This photo is from the Oregon v Oregon State game the Saturday
after Thanksgiving. Oregon won. You just can't make this stuff up.

Today's Lesson: On this little website, I have a goal of providing recipes that can be easily prepared in a RV kitchen. And the ingredients must be familiar and procurable in Boise and Minneapolis and San Antonio. Tasteful nutrition, with few pots to wash. Recipes in this mode are also welcome in a home kitchen. Real food for real people with real lives.

So this post was supposed to be about the amazing Pho Ga - Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup - I have been making in my crockpot. But sadly, I am just having a very tough time procuring the proper rice noodles - Banh Pho - in the Coachella Valley, so this post is about a delicious broth I made that should have gone over fresh Banh Pho rice noodles, but couldn't. And you probably can't either, unless you live in a community with a great Asian grocer, which I hope you do. The girls working at the nail salon I patronize in La Quinta are Vietnamese, so I asked them where they buy Banh Pho noodles. 

Los Angeles.

Living in Portland, Oregon has spoiled me quite a bit, and I forget we are spoiled until I am away from home and need something like fresh rice noodles. There is a decent Asian grocer practically on every corner in Portland, and the Portland Metro area also has several Wal-Mart-sized Asian "chain" grocery stores. Not the same story in Palm Springs. Here you will find massive Mexican grocers. If you want fresh dates, amazing chilies, tree-ripe citrus and perfect street tacos, this is the place. You all know this is why we RV - we are eating (and jogging) our way around America.

This morning I put the ingredients for Pho Ga (pronounced fuh gah), in the crockpot: 2 inch piece of peeled and chopped ginger, 3 cloves minced garlic, 3 peeled and sliced shallots, 1 chopped Serrano or Thai chili, 2 pieces of star anise, one tablespoon coriander seed, large handful of fresh cilantro, a quart of organic chicken stock and two (boneless, skinless) organic chicken breasts.

I left the soup to stew all day on low. The aroma was outstanding - with wafts of anise and coriander filling the air. When it was time for dinner, all I had to do was strain the stock, shred the chicken and pour the stock over soup bowls filled with noodles. I feel this is "do-able" in a RV kitchen.

If you can find fresh rice noodles...

In a perfect world, fresh pho noodles would be boiled for a few seconds, drained and placed in the bottom of a soup bowl. Today, I used Pad Thai rice noodles as a reasonable substitute.

Next, steaming hot broth and shredded chicken are poured over the noodles.

At the table, diners can add mung bean sprouts, fresh cilantro, basil leaves, green onion and lime wedges to their soup - according to their individual taste.

Platter with Pho Ga topping and Sriracha Sauce

And copious amounts of super spicy chili sauce is a must!

Will I ever learn my lesson? No. Sometimes I just want to make Pho Ga in Indio.

Until my next update, I remain, your "I've lost my noodle" correspondent.

A few links on this subject:
Loving Pho: All you ever need to know about banh pho (noodles).
Viet World Kitchen: History of Pho.
Uwajimaya: A NW Japanese grocer, that covers the world of food.
H-Mart: Nation-wide Asian supermarket chain; emphasis on Korean foods.