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Pho Bo`: Beef noodle Soup

Pho Bo`: Beef noodle Soup

Last winter I started trying to teach myself how to make Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup. I first made a Chicken Pho and found it not to be very tasty, humdrum, in fact.

This fall, when Charlie Phan, Chef of the Slanted Door in San Francisco, published his new cookbook Vietnamese Home Cooking, I  downloaded it to my Kindle  and went straight to the index for his  version of  Pho. Because his Ginger Kaffir Limeade ranks as one of the best, I knew his Pho recipe would be worth the effort.

The recipe is time consuming, but not hard. Of course, I didn’t follow the recipe without a bit of “mingling.” I enhanced the broth with a spice bag, an idea from the food blogger gas.tron.o.my ‘s  recipe for Pho. I knew from my experience with last year’s bland Chicken Pho recipe I wanted it to have a more richly seasoned broth.

Making Pho seems ceremonial: the blanching of bones, pouring boiling fragrant broth over raw thin strips of sirloin into a bowl of glass noodles and watching the meat immediately transform from raw to cooked.  I found the process fascinating.  While by no means a dish you would cook every day, Pho truly creates a fun day in the kitchen.

The garnishes used to dress Pho really bring out the flavor. Take the meat out of your soup and drag it through a squirt of Hoisin and Sirachi dipping sauces. These flavors make you feel like you’re sitting on little red stools eating street food in ________________(?).

Serves 6

Vietnamese Home Cooking /Charles Phan

  • 1 lb. beef brisket
  • 3 quarts of Beef Stock
  • 1- 14 or 16 ounce package of rice noodles cooked according to package directions.
  • 12 ounces of beef top round, thinly sliced and pounded out
  • 1 bunch of scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • Garnishes:
  • Thai basil sprigs 
  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Lime wedges
  • Jalapeno chilies, stemmed and thinly sliced into rings 
  • Sriracha sauce
  • Hoisin sauce

Place the brisket in a large pot and add the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat until the liquid is at a vigorous simmer. Cook the brisket for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until cooked through. Cool brisket and thinly slice against the grain. Set aside.

Return stock to a boil over high heat. Taste for seasoning and add the 2 ounces of fish sauce. More to your taste. Add back the brisket slices.

Get garnishes ready on platter. Arrange basil, bean sprouts, lime wedges, green onions and chilies on platter. Place on the table the Sriracha and Hoisin sauce along side.

Divide cooked rice noodles evenly among warmed soup bowls.

Top with raw beef slices. Ladle the hot stock over the top.

Ladle some brisket slices into bowl and serve with garnishes and sauces.

Beef Stock

The bones get blanched before cooking so the stock will be clearer. 

The bones are then cooked long and slow to ensure flavorful broth. 

The marrow bones don’t get blanched because the hot water would melt the marrow.

  • 1 large yellow onion, unpeeled
  • 3`inch piece fresh ginger
  • 2 pounds oxtails
  • 2 pounds neck bones
  • 2 pounds beef shanks
  • 2 pounds beef marrowbones
  • 2 tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. of white pepper
  • Spice pouch;
  • 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin seed
  • 1/2 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise1 cinnamon bark, 
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
  • 5 inch square piece muslin cloth and cotton string

Makes 6 quarts

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Place the onion and ginger on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until the onion is soft and beginning to ooze, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let the onion and ginger cool until they can be handled. Peel the onion and cut in half. Slice the ginger into ¼ - inch coin pieces.

While the onion and ginger are roasting, blanch bones: Fill a large pot  with water large enough to hold the bones, and bring to a boil. Put in the bones and blanch for 3 minutes and drain In to colander. Rinse bones with cold water and rinse out the pot. Return bones back into the pot along with the marrowbones.

Add the onion halves, ginger slices, sugar, salt, and 8 quarts fresh water to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any scum that forms on the surface. Lower the heat so the liquid is at a gentle simmer and simmer for 4 hours, skimming as needed to remove any scum that forms on the surface.

Add the spice pouch and cook for another hour.

Remove from the heat and with a slotted spoon remove the large solids. Strain stock and let sit and either skim off fat or refrigerate overnight and skim off fat. Use immediately. It can be refrigerated for 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.