Pennsylvania Kitchen: Simple Jerky Pho with Marcos Espinoza of Side Project Jerky

Your average beef jerky — you know, the kind you grab from the gas station when you want something healthier than potato chips — is “just okay” at best. Usually, it tastes vaguely like beef and salt, and sometimes another anonymous seasoning is thrown into the mix to liven things up a bit. But where does that beef come from? And what’s with the texture: Does it have to feel like you’re chewing a shoe?

Side Project Jerky, a Philadelphia-based artisan brand that sources its animal proteins from Lancaster and Adams Counties, is the antidote to mediocre jerky. Every one of its products is made with craftsmanship and care, with high-quality ingredients and creative flavors made from real herbs and spices, not strange chemical compounds. Its texture is also pretty darn perfect: a satisfying balance between chewy and tender.

We welcomed Side Project’s founder, Marcos Espinoza into the Pennsylvania Kitchen to teach us some other ways to enjoy his awesome beef and pork jerky besides eating it from the bag (which we still do plenty of). It was a cool experience to rethink something we’ve been familiar with as a snack food for so long, and start to see it as cooking ingredient. One such application is using Side Project’s Pho Flavored Jerky, made with a seasoning mixture that is truly reminiscent of the Vietnamese noodle soup, as the protein in homemade beef jerky. Instead of visiting the butcher (and shelling out) for sirloin or flank steak, swap in a few pieces of Side Project Pho beef jerky, along with familiar pho fixings like bean sprouts, fresh herbs and a jammy-yolked egg, and you can have pho on demand any time the craving strikes.

Watch our video for the technique, then head here to check out the full recipe!