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Smoky Summer Pho

Smoky Summer Pho Recipe - Cooking an eggplant over the open flame of a gas burner is a revelation, producing a silky, succulent texture and a bold, smoky flavor. It can make a small mess, sure—it helps to line the drip pan under your burner with aluminum foil—but the cooking time is less than 10 minutes. In this simple bowl of pho, the eggplant is cut into long strips that integrate into the noodles, and it fully infuses the broth. At the farmers’ market, I often find sweet, baby bell peppers, and I like to julienne those and add them raw to this bowl for crunch. A similarly sweet, ripe bell pepper of any color will work much the same way.

SERVES 4
Smoky Summer Pho Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups Vegetarian Pho Broth or Shortcut Pho Broth
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 small, thin eggplants, such as Japanese or Chinese (about 8 ounces total)
  • 8 ounces medium-width rice noodles
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 baby bell peppers or 1 medium bell pepper, any color, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 serrano chilies, seeded and finely minced
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil, mint, and/or cilantro leaves, for serving
  • Chili Oil, for serving
  • Pounded Ginger Pulp, for serving
  • Lime wedges, for serving

How to make Smoky Summer Pho

  1. Place the pho broth in a pot and heat to a simmer. Stir in the sugar and salt and taste, adjusting the seasonings as necessary. Keep covered off the heat, then bring back to a bare simmer just before serving.
  2. Cook the eggplants over the flame of a gas burner: It works best to set a metal cooling rack—one that can bear a few blemishes—directly on top of the grate, then turn the flame to high and set the eggplants directly in the flame. Use heat-safe tongs to turn them periodically, cooking until blistered all over and limp, 4 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the eggplants. (Alternatively, preheat a broiler to high. Arrange the eggplants on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place close to the heat source and broil for 15 to 20 minutes, carefully turning with tongs periodically, until blistered all over and limp.) Transfer to a colander to drain as you proceed with the rest of the recipe.
  3. Bring a saucepan of salted water to boil. Add the noodles in a strainer basket or the strainer insert that comes with your stockpot, if you have one, and cook until tender, usually 4 to 7 minutes, or according to the package instructions. Lift out the noodles and thoroughly rinse under cold running water in order to remove excess starch. Quickly dunk them back into the hot water to reheat. Divide among four bowls.
  4. Gently peel the skin off the eggplants—it should come off easily, in patches and strips—then tear or cut the flesh into long, thin, noodle-like pieces. Divide the eggplant over the noodles, then top each serving with the tomatoes and bell peppers.
  5. Ladle the pho broth over the noodles and vegetables in each bowl. Sprinkle each serving with the minced chili and serve immediately, passing the herbs, chili oil, ginger, and lime wedges as accompaniments at the table.
VARIATION If your cherry tomatoes are subpar, you can quickly blister them in a skillet to concentrate their flavor and make them sweeter. Place a skillet over medium-high heat. Add a splash of oil and, once hot, add the tomatoes, spreading them out in a single layer. Cook, shaking the pan periodically, until they blister and start to pop, which will take 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside until ready to use.