19 Jan 2011 Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

Depending on where you live, you may or may not have a proliferation of “Pho” restaurants in your community.  If you do have a Pho restaurant nearby, I encourage you to try it out.  You’ll be rewarded with a huge bowl of broth and noodles, to which you add fresh basil, cilantro, mint, bean sprouts, peppers, chili sauce, and freshly squeezed lime.  The broth is quite tasty, and with the addition of all the toppings, the Pho has a very fresh taste.   On your first visit to a Pho restaurant, stick to Beef Pho or Chicken Pho, with the parts of beef and chicken that you are familiar with.  There are some other types of Pho which might be a bit challenging to an uninitiated American palate.

Having fond memories of Pho, I wanted to make it for myself.  I wanted to have a clear, rich, fat-free broth. I thought it would be great to have some of the broth on hand, and be able to boil it up and stir in some fresh ingredients whenever I wanted to.  I also think Pho would be a great dish to make ahead and then take to share with friends and family at a snow condo or beach house.   I found this recipe adapted from the cookbook Into the Vietnamese Kitchen at Steamy Kitchen.  It’s great!  I served it to seven friends, and three family members, and they all though it was great, too.  SCORE!

Before you make this dish, you should know how to pronounce it, “pho”  is pronounced “fuh” and not “foo” or “foe” or “poe” or  “puh” — that’s fuh-sho’!

If you have made your own chicken soup before, Pho is no more bother.  Follow the recipe below and make sure you buy good bones, start the day before, rinse and blanch the bones, have three hours to let the bones simmer. Then you can let the broth sit in the refrigerator overnight so that the hardened fat can be removed before finishing the pho.

Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

The broth

  • 2 onions, peeled, sliced across into 4 slices
  • 4″  of fresh ginger, peeled, halved lengthwise
  • 5-6 lbs of good beef  knuckle bones (beef shanks/knuckles $1.99/lb)
  • 6 quarts of water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 5 whole star anise
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • ¼ cup fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

In the soup bowls

  • 1 rice noodles (dried or fresh)
  • cooked beef from the broth
  • ½ lb flank, london broil, sirloin or eye of round, sliced as thinly as possible.

On the side

  • fresh mint leaves
  • fresh cilantro
  • sliced fresh basil
  • limes wedges (2)
  • 2-3 chili peppers, sliced
  • bean sprouts (about 1 lb)
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sriracha hot sauce

Char:

Turn broiler on high and move rack to the highest spot. Place ginger and onions on baking sheet. Brush just a bit of cooking oil on the cut side of each. Broil on high until ginger and onions begin to char. Turn over and continue to char. This should take a total of 10-15 minutes.

Parboil the bones:

Don’t skip this part! Fill your biggest pot (12-qt capacity would be ideal) with cool water. Boil water first, and then add the bones, keeping the heat on high. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse the bones and rinse out the pot. Refill pot with bones and 6 qts of cool water. Bring to boil over high heat and lower to simmer. Using a ladle or a fine mesh strainer, remove any scum that rises to the top.

Boil broth:

Add ginger, onion, spices, sugar, fish sauce, salt and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the beef meat and set aside. Continue simmering broth for another 1 1/2 hours. Strain broth and return the to the pot. Taste broth and adjust seasoning – this is a crucial step. If the broth’s flavor doesn’t quite shine yet, add 2 teaspoons more of fish sauce and 1 teaspoon of regular sugar–and another pinch of salt, if needed (I over-salted my broth, so be careful). Keep doing this until the broth tastes perfect refrigerate broth overnight and remove hardened fat the next morning.

Prepare noodles & meat:

Slice your flank/london broil/sirloin as thin as possible – try freezing for 15-30 minutes prior to slicing to make it easier. Cut or shred the cooked meat from broth and set aside. Arrange all other ingredients on a platter for the table. Guests will garnish their own bowls. Follow the directions on your package of noodles – for some fresh rice noodles, just a quick 5 – 45 second blanch in hot water is all that’s needed.

Serving:

Bring your broth back to a boil. Line up your soup bowls next to the stove. Fill each bowl with rice noodles, bean sprouts, shredded cooked beef and raw meat slices. As soon as the broth comes back to a boil, ladle into each bowl. The hot broth will cook your raw beef slices. Serve immediately. Guests garnish their own bowls with the mint, basil, cilantro, peppers, lime, and sauces.

I hope you enjoy this soup as much as I do. It’s a chin dribbling, big bowl of healthy, comfort food with a fresh & crunchy twist.  One of my favorite foods I believe. I have my fingers crossed that I will taste the real thing in Vietnam next year.  I hope this measures up. Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

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