One of my obsessions is pho - I heart it ever so dearly. Something about the rich flavors of the broth, the fresh beef slices, and the rice noodles just make my mouth happy.
veggies, oxtail and a chunk of eye of round boiling with spices
I've had amazing pho (Le Bambou in Paris) and not so amazing pho, but I never thought about making it because the whole process seemed so daunting and long. Now that I live in the burbs of Connecticut I don't have easy access to good pho anymore, which makes me sad. So I decided that I would make pho at home and get over my fear of unexplored culinary adventures.
What I discovered is that pho is very easy to make! I mean like really easy. I found a great recipe from my culinary blogger ecrush Jaden (Steamy Kitchen) and thought that all the ingredients sounded spot on for the pho of my much romanticized dreams (Le Bambou) so I resolved to make it before the new year - and I did!
There were a couple of missteps on my part, namely that I did not note the amount of beef bones she used and only bought 1/3 of the amount. I realized it before I really got going on making the soup, but I don't think my off the cuff halving of the recipe was accurate, which resulted in a bit of a diluted flavor. However, I didn't decrease the amount of spices used and I was really in love with the fragrant broth - even if it didn't have that satisfying rich flavor that the proper amount of beef bones would have given. When attempting this recipe again - and I will - I'll probably increase the spices just a tad and use a little less rock sugar. I found that the end product was just a tad too sweet for me - again that could have been because of my attempt at correcting the recipe for the amount of oxtail I had on hand.
Overall I really liked the recipe - I think it could be "The One" with a little bit of tweaking for my personal taste. Did it take a long time to cook - yes. It was about 4 hours all in all, but I honestly spent about a half hour of that time actually preparing food - the rest of the time was sitting on the couch catching up on Lost episodes.
This is a fantastic dish for moms (who have kids with adventurous palates), or anyone short on time, but craving something big on flavor. Plus, the entire dish is gluten free! You can't beat that.
Vietnamese Pho: Beef Noodle Soup Recipe (Steamy Kitchen)
2 onions, halved
4″ nub of ginger, halved lengthwise
5-6 lbs of good beef bones, preferably leg and knuckle (I used oxtail - but recommend using a mix of oxtail and leg/knuckle)
1 lb of beef meat – chuck, brisket, rump, cut into large slices [optional] (I left this out because I'm a Pho Tai purest)
6 quarts of water
1 package of Pho Spices [1 cinnamon stick, 1 tbl coriander seeds, 1 tbl fennel seeds, 5 star anise, 1 cardamom pod, 6 whole cloves - in mesh bag]
1 1/2 tbl salt
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 inch chunk of yellow rock sugar (about 1 oz) – or 1oz of regular sugar (you can find yellow rock sugar in an asian market - near the palm sugar)
2 lbs rice noodles (dried or fresh) cooked beef from the broth
1/2 lb flank, london broil, sirloin or eye of round, sliced as thin as possible.
big handful of each: mint, cilantro, basil
2 limes, cut into wedges
2-3 chili peppers, sliced
2 big handfuls of bean sprouts
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. 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 – if you want a little more flavor, add a few dashes more of fish sauce, large pinch of salt and a small nugget of rock sugar (or large pinch of regular sugar).
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 (above) – 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.