During these cold times, a lovely steaming dish of Pho is always welcome.
Pho is a very easy yet complicated and personal dish, especially in a restaurant (unless you go to a place that specialises in Pho).
The easy part is making the Stock (broth), the complicated part is seasoning it, (in Pho restaurants this is normally done by the individual customer when it gets to the table). It seems that everyone has a preferred way to season their bowls.
At our restaurant we like to serve it as an Amuse Bouche. Shredded Oxtail is placed in small bowls, which are then topped with blanched rice noodles.
The Stock is then added, which has already been seasoned, not spicy or sour though, we have to realise that some clients may not like it overly seasoned.
We don´t want to serve too much, after all, its is meant to be a small appetiser to get the taste buds flowing before the actual dinner.
Before it is sent out, more shredded Oxtail is added. The whole dish can be eaten in about three mouthfuls. Lovely. 😉 .
We have served “Mini Pho” on various occasions and customers have really taken a shine to it, so we must be doing something right… 🙂 .
One dish that has always been on the menu is our Satay´s. We have always used pork for our marinated skewers, but you can find them at many Asian restaurants, sometimes with Beef, Chicken and even Seafood.
The basic recipe remains the same, the meat is marinated then grilled and served with either a relish or a peanut based sauce, or both.
Our Satay´s have gone through three presentation changes, but the recipe has always remained the same.
Pork Satay 2005-6.
Our first presentation was simple. The Satay´s were grilled then served on top of the Peanut Sauce. However, we realised that customers would end up having “messy fingers” after eating the Satay, or worse still they would have a “yellow streak” at the both corners of their mouths as they tried to take the final morsel from the skewer.
Therefore we decided to change the presentation and our second version involved removing the skewers to make it easier and tidier to eat.
Pork Satay 2007-8.
On the menu the dish was firstly known as New Style Satay. In order to serve it without the skewers, it was decided to mince the meat before cooking it on metal skewers which would then be removed before the dish was served. (Hoping to make it easier to eat…).
It was served with some pickled Carrot “Noodles” and Shallots, and the Peanut Sauce was passed through a blender, making it more “creamy”.
However, there seemed to be some confusion amongst customers who were used to having the dish served on wooden skewers with a chunky sauce. On one review it said that “the satay was minced and too small“.
This got us thinking that we had to change the name of the dish. Seeing as it resembled a Vietnamese “Nem Nuong” we decided to call it just “Nem”.
“Nem Nuong” is basically grilled seasoned meat (usually pork), either rounded like meatballs or squeezed on to the skewer. The marinade is quite different to a Satay mix.
I was determined that we would not change the recipe for our Satay, even though it now went by a different name, (the description of the dish still refers to it as “New Style Satay”).
The third change came about when it was alluded to that we used pre-made Creamy Peanut Butter in our sauce. That was when I decided to return to our original Peanut Sauce, using crushed Peanuts that hadn’t been blended. However, I no longer liked the presentation of the dish without the “creamy sauce”.
Hence the entire dish went through another transformation.
Pork Satay 2009.
This time the Pork remained minced, but it is now served “meatball” style.
The relish has now been changed to Pickled Baby Carrots and Cauliflower Florets.
The sauce has returned to our original chunky version.
No doubt this dish will be updated throughout the year. Right now we are working on making Carrot “Snaps” instead of using the Pickled Baby Carrots.
Something else we are currently working on are Steamed Buns.
At the moment the Buns are rather too big to be served as an Amuse Bouche.
We don’t want to fill up our diners before the actual meal!
Because the dough uses live yeast, it expands to more than three times its size whilst it is “resting”, even after “knocking it back”.
The colour of the Buns, an almost “yellowy” hue is due to the steaming. There are chemicals that we can add to the flour to make the Buns whiter, but we want to avoid using those. The addition of these chemicals are one of the reasons why the Buns appear pale white in shops and Asian bakeries.
Chinese in origin, the original Buns were also the same colour as ours, but were “peeled” before being eaten (it is said that the Buns were “handled by too many people and flies” at the market food stalls, hence they had to be peeled before consumption)(makes sense really). Once the outer layer is peeled away, what you are left with is the pale white Bun.