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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Linner with Saleno

   For those of you wondering what in the hell Linner is, it's a late lunch or early dinner.  I was down south  in the Springs today and knew I would be finishing up work around 2, so I checked in with my friend Saleno to see if he could meet me for Linner, and after stopping off for a moment so that he could get married, off we went. (Long story, that, for another time.)
   We were going to try a Sri Lanken place, but they weren't open at 2:30 in the afternoon, so he suggested Vietnamese instead.  Pho Viet was our choice, it's in an old Pizza Hut and still has the door handles and wall paper to prove it.

   The use of fresh herbs like cilantro, mint and Thai basil, the ubiquitous fish sauce and some care taken in the cooking are all hallmarks of Vietnamese cuisine.  The French/Chinese and native influences can all be felt, or better yet, tasted.

   We started with Vegetarian Vietnamese Egg Rolls and they even brought us "vegetarian sauce".  Not sure what it was, but tres fantastique.  If a place can fry correctly, they are bound to do well at other things.  Crispy, fresh, fabulous.

   Sal went with the combination Pho, which had all sorts of meat, including "bible tripe".

That is another name for omasum tripe, which is the third compartment of the stomach in ruminants. Beautiful to look at, and Sal said it tasted different than other tripe that he had eaten, more delicate.

  I went with the Tofu noodle bowl,  which was just lovely.  Again they know how to fry some things, as the tofu on top was fried so that it had texture and flavor, often missing when folks don't know how to work with it.
  Here is a simple Pho recipe, that will make it easy for anyone to make at home.  I suggest using both ox tail and shin bone, but whatever works for you. Tận hưởng! Ăn! (Enjoy! Eat!)

Pho with Sliced Beef
Serves 6

3 lbs.             Oxtail, cut into pieces or Beef Shin or Neck bones
½ cup           Fish Sauce
1 piece          Ginger, 3 inches
1 medium     Onion
6 whole        Star Anise
1 ½ stick       Cinnamon
4 whole        Cloves
1 each           Rock Sugar, 1 inch
2 tsp.            Fennel Seeds
1 lb.              Rice Vermicelli
1 lb.              Beef, eye of round, cut into paper-thin slices
3 each           Limes, cut into wedges
1 cup            Bean Sprouts
1 bunch        Cilantro
1 cup            Basil
2 each           Fresh Chiles, chopped
                     Black Pepper, freshly ground
                     Fish Sauce
                     Fried Shallots

1.      Smash the ginger with a mallet and hold over a low gas burner or medium high electric burner with tongs until charred.  Do the same to the onion.  Remove all ash from both.  Set aside.
2.      Put the oxtails or bones in to a stockpot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil. 
3.      Heat the star anise, cinnamon, cloves and fennel seeds in a small fry pan until fragrant. 
4.      Pour off the water from the stock and add 5 quarts of fresh water. 
5.      Add the fish sauce, ginger, onion, star anise, cinnamon , cloves and fennel seeds and bring to a boil again.  Turn to a simmer and skim the scum from the surface occasionally.  Cook for 2 ½ hours. Strain when done (Can be kept in a refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months.)
6.      Place the pound of rice vermicelli in a large bowl of cold water until softened, about 30 minutes.  Drain well and set aside.
7.      Bring the stained stock back to a boil.  Put the noodles into a large strainer and lower in to the stock and cook for about 20 seconds, or until tender.  Drain and place equal portions into 6 bowls.  Portion the beef into the bowls.  Ladle the boiling stock over the top and serve.
8.      Serve the rest of the ingredients as garnishes on the side.