The Cultural Fair Presents – Vietnamese Pho

My daughter comes out of school one day and as she is buckling her seat belt says, “I told Ms. Megan that you would make all the food for the cultural fair because you are such a good cook.  We need to make Pho.” I think I replied something along the lines of “OK.  I’ll have to talk to her about that.”, but was thinking – I have no idea how to make that!

That evening, I did receive an e-mail regarding the Cultural Fair from Ms. Megan. It was not a thank you note for handling everything, because most smart teachers do not take a 12 year old girl’s declaration as fact.  Instead it was a call for help addressed to all parents about all things Cultural Fair, and the need for Pho was on the list.

So I spent the next few days on Google researching Pho recipes. I rarely look at a recipe and think, “This is too hard.  I can’t do this.”, so I started compiling information to see what I could come up with.  The biggest challenge in this situation was making between 200-300 portions that could be easily passed out during the event and made for less than a million dollars. After a few days of research and thought, I e-mailed Ms. Megan and told her to cross Pho off her list, I had it handled.

The broth for Pho needs to be kept hot, so my first challenge was to figure out the best way to accomplish this for the entire 2 hours of the Cultural Fair.  My solution, make it in the crock pot.  I could have made the broth on the stove top and then transferred to the crock pot, but I was going for a set it and forget it option.  I wanted to leave myself plenty of time to prep and prepare the individual servings.

Step two was to chop and cook the mushrooms and chop all the garnishes. Then I prepared the rice noodles and drained the beans sprouts, making myself a Pho assembly line.

The previous day I bought 300, 4 oz Styrofoam containers at Gordon’s Food Service. I set the first 50 on my kitchen island and set to work. I started with the noodles, then bean sprouts, then scallions, peppers, and lime. I placed the containers in foil pans and covered with aluminum foil. I ran out of ingredients at 199 servings.  Not bad for a day’s work.

The Cultural Fair was a huge success.  It is a bi-annual event and is always a very enjoyable celebration of cultures from around the world.  I was happy that I was able to play a small part in the success of the evening.

The recipe for Vietnamese Pho listed below is a scaled down version of what I prepared for the fair.  It should make 8-10 servings, depending on the size of your bowls. When I make it again, I plan to add shrimp and bok choy to the mix and make the broth, again, in the crock pot.  I am a huge fan of allowing flavors to combine for longer periods of time.  I believe it gives soups a deeper, richer flavor.


Leave a Reply