What the Pho?!
I’ve been working hard perfecting the techniques and recipe for Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup, or Pho, just for you. I've usually had Pho while eating out, which means because I rarely eat out I rarely eat Pho. It's such a delicious meal but one of the more complicated and lengthy ones in my repertoire.
The dish is pronounced “fuh” and not “foo” or “foe” or “puh”
Yeah, Pho is cheap eat out…but to be able to make a home made version? Pretty Pho-king amazing, if you ask me.
Knuckle bones are the best to make the stock. The knobby knuckle bones, about the size of your fist, is full of gelatin – which gives body and richness to your broth. The knuckle bones make the biggest difference in your broth! You can find knuckle bones at Asian markets, but at regular supermarkets – you might have to ask your butcher. A good idea if you make this fish more often is to buy the bones in bulk when you are in a city where you have easy access to these types of bones and freeze until needed.
Bones are parboiled first for a good 10 minutes in rapidly boiling water – this gets rid of the yucky impurities like blood particles and extra fat. You’ll see gray foam float up to the surface as you boil. After 10 minutes, dump out all of the water, rinse out your pot, rinse the bones, and refill with clean, cool water. I know it’s an extra step, but this will give you the pure, clean-tasting broth.
If you have a lot of marrow bones, use a spoon or knife to scoop out and discard some of the marrow. Do this after the parboil, while the bones are still hot. The marrow can only be scooped out when the bones are hot, otherwise, it solidifies. Please wear oven mitts... I can't believe I felt the need to add that.
Fresh mint, cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, limees, sliced chili peppers are just some of my favorite accompaniments. Set a plate at the table and your guests can pick and choose what they like. Here’s a great Pho-tograph of fresh vegetables and herbs.
Sometimes, I omit the 1 pound of beef meat in the broth (you'll see I've made it optional) - as I've found that as long as I have good bones, the broth will have enough flavor to not need the extra beef meat.
2 onions, halved
4" nub of ginger, halved lengthwise
5-6 pounds of good beef bones, preferably leg and knuckle
1 pound of beef meat - chuck, brisket, rump, cut into large slices [optional]
6 quarts of water
1 package of Pho Spices [1 cinnamon stick, 1 tbl coriander seeds, 1 tbl fennel seeds, 5 whole star anise, 1 cardamom pod, 6 whole cloves - in mesh bag]
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (halve if using regular table salt)
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 inch chunk of yellow rock sugar (about 1 oz) - or 1oz of regular sugar
2 pounds rice noodles (dried or fresh)
Cooked beef from the broth (shredded or thinly sliced)
1/2 pound flank, london broil, sirloin or eye of round, sliced as thinly as possible.
big handful of each: mint, cilantro, basil
2 limes, cut into wedges
2-3 chili peppers, sliced
2 big handfuls of fresh bean sprouts
Sriracha hot sauce
Char: Turn your 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: Fill large pot (12-qt capacity) with cool water. Boil water, and then add the bones, keeping the heat on high. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse the bones and rinse out the pot. If you have a lot of marrow in the bones, use a small spoon to scoop out and discard some of the marrow. 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, spice packet, beef, sugar, fish sauce, salt and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the beef meat and set aside (you'll be eating this meat later in the bowls) Continue simmering for another 1 1/2 hours. Strain broth and return the broth 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, large pinch of salt and a small nugget of rock sugar (or 1 teaspoon of regular sugar). Keep doing this until the broth tastes perfect.
Prepare noodles & meat: Slice your flank/london broil/sirloin as thin as possible - try freezing for 15 minutes prior to slicing to make it easier.
Remember the cooked beef meat that was part of your broth? Cut or shred the meat and set aside. Arrange all other ingredients on a platter for the table. Your guests will "assemble" their own bowls. Follow the directions on your package of noodles - there are many different sizes and widths of rice noodles, so make sure you read the directions. For some fresh rice noodles, just a quick 5 second blanch in hot water is all that's needed. The package that I purchased needed about 45 seconds in boiling water.
Ladling: Bring your broth back to a boil. Line up your soup bowls next to the stove. Fill each bowl with rice noodles, 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 can garnish their own bowls as they wish.