We all have sore throats, so we've been eating a lot of soup lately (to the point that one of the counter people at Panera knows me by name). Dinner tonight was Pho, a Vietnamese beef soup and it was a definite hit.
I used the recipe here (I highly recommend this blog, btw - it has tons of great crockpot recipes), with a few modifications. The biggest one is that I omitted the fish sauce because the beef I got at Trader Joe's was marinating in a sauce for Korean bulgogi. I looked at the ingredients and none of them conflicted with the flavor profile of pho, so I decided to give it a try. I omitted the anise because I don't like it and used ginger powder instead of fresh ginger because that's what I had. I added approximately two cups of fresh bean sprouts at the very end of cooking, so they would be warm and somewhat cooked, but not stewed and gross.
As it turned out, the bulgogi marinade was a fantastic gamble. The long slow cooking in the crockpot made the beef tender and delicious and the entire meal was just divine.
I threw up my hands in despair a while ago and decided that I just wasn't meant for Southeast Asian cooking, Thai in particular. I can never get ingredients as good as they have in restaurants, and they're often not quite right, like having to use Italian basil instead of Thai. I have to buy a bunch of large bottles of stuff that I don't use often enough to use them up before they go bad, which means it doesn't wind up being cheaper to cook that sort of thing at home, so I might as well just go to a restaurant where it's cooked by an expert. But pho is going to become part of my regular repertoire, so maybe I can conquer some of the cuisine of Southeast Asia after all.
(Ack! Internet service is extremely bipolar tonight, so I doubt I'm going to get all of my comments in.)