Wilfred Wong’s Pho
A few months ago, a friend from Sweden sent me a recipe for cardamom buns. He’d come across my review of Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs 2005, where I wrote, “My ex-mother-in-law made Swedish bread every year at Christmas. This brought all of it back; the yeast, cardamom, and toasted almonds.”
Having used Vivino since its launch in the late fall of 2011, I’ve watched the evolution of the app, and more importantly, have seen the social aspect of it flourish. Being a part of a global community has its advantages: We’re united in our mutual love of wine, but we talk about other things, too.
Food is a common topic, and I often see pairing notes layered into tasting notes. For me, Vivino provides a window into what people are drinking and eating worldwide, hence the inspiration behind this series. I’d like to start by sharing recipes and wine pairings in articles here, much like recipes are shared between wine lovers in the app.
This recipe to share comes from Wilfred Wong. His formal title, Chief Storyteller at Wine.com only hints at the scope of his life. He’s also an accomplished photographer and writer, a dog lover, a world traveler, and is something of a whiz in the kitchen. When asked to contribute to this project, he sent me his recipe for pho.
Since pho is all about the broth, I’ve included a handy recipe I used from Epicurious for beef bone broth here to start. If you have time to make the broth from scratch, do. Broth can simmer away for hours, and it only gets better and more complex with time. I like to make broth on weekends. It can be frozen and thawed out later in a pinch.
The Wine Pairing
I did quite a bit of research on wine pairings for beef pho; it’s a slightly tricky dish. The heat from the Jalapeños and the fresh herbs used to garnish pho would typically work best with a white wine, like a snappy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. And yet, this dish also has as its base a rich beef broth and a rare steak component, flavors that align best with red wines. We opened at least six bottles before settling on the right one: A Merlot from Tuscany.
The key to finding the right pairing for this dish lies in the tannins found in red wines. Tannins cause a drying sensation in the mouth and sometimes bitterness – think of a strong cup of black tea. Wines high in tannin amplify the burning sensation of capsaicin, the compound in peppers that makes them oh-so-hot. Old World Merlot is usually lower in tannin and lighter in body compared with their New World siblings. At the same time, it isn’t too fruit forward, and has a subtle earthiness that further complements the richness of the broth. If you can find an Italian Merlot with some age to it, so much the better, since the tannins will have had time to soften and smooth out.
- 8 Cups organic beef broth or bone beef broth
- 1 Teaspoon coriander
- 2 Whole star anise
- 2 Tablespoons Red Boat fish sauce
- 1 Package Banh Pho flat rice noodles
- 1 Jalapeño, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 - 2 Pounds organic beef flap steak, thinly sliced
- 2 Cups Mung bean sprouts
- Fresh cilantro and basil leaves for garnish
- A few drops of sesame oil to taste
- If you are making the broth from scratch, add the star anise, coriander, and fish sauce to the broth while simmering. If not, add them to the organic broth, bring it to a rapid boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes.
- Bring the broth back to a boil, add the fresh noodles, jalapeño, thinly sliced beef flap steak, and bean sprouts. Turn off the heat, the beef will be adequately cooked in about 90 seconds; it should be rare in the center. Adjust seasonings.
- Garnish with cilantro, basil and sesame oil. Hot chili oil and scallions are excellent garnishes too! Serve immediately.