I LOVE PHO, pho bo tai more specifically which is pho with thinly sliced rare beef that cooks perfectly in the hot broth, but I’ll take any I can get my hands on.
Really I love all asian noodle soups, ramen also has a special place in my heart (and my weekly meal planning) but there’s just something about the lightness of pho. It’s beautifully spiced, satisfying but also doesn’t leave you feeling heavy afterward. The perfect meal, really.
Unfortunately, I moved away from a west coast city with a large asian population to the South. North Carolina hasn’t had any pho that I’ve enjoyed as much as back home, so I have to make a lot of this type of stuff myself.
A few things before we get started:
- There are many variants and you can really do whatever you want, even vegetarian! The spices and vegetables remain the same, it’s just the stock that changes.
- You don’t have to make your own broth from scratch, although it will be 192830132 times better, you can use a good store bought broth and flavour it and it’ll be just as enjoyable.
- Leftovers actually work really well in pho. One restaurant put grilled lemongrass chicken in one of their’s and I’ll never forget it. Feel free to use up leftover bbq, brisket, roast chicken etc.
- The fresh herbs really make this dish, if you don’t like cilantro I understand but try not to omit them.
- Try to get fresh flat rice noodles if you can, they take 10 seconds to cook (literally you just pour boiling water on them) and are the best texture.
- The more bones the better. It’ll make the richest stock, so pile em up!
The first few times I tried to make pho I went a little overboard with trying to replicate a proper authentic recipe. Galangal, rock sugar, the best fish sauce, etc. But what I really boils down to (ha!) is the broth. You need a good beef broth, take the time to get that right, and make sure it’s properly spiced, and you’ll enjoy it. Don’t stress, don’t spend a ton of money on the fanciest, most authentic ingredients, just use patience and your taste buds.
This recipe is pretty basic and rough, and can be adjusted to your tastes/amount needed. I generally only make around 1L of liquid, as there’s only two of us and we like to eat something different each day.
- 1-1.5 lb beef bones with meat (shank, oxtail, knuckle etc)
- 2 inch piece ginger, skin on
- 1 small onion
- 3 star anise
- 1-2 cinnamon sticks depending on size
- 2-3 whole cloves
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar (rock sugar if you can get it)
If you are making beef broth, and have a good amount of bones/marrow to deal with, you have to par boil them first. This removes the scum/impurities that can cloud up a soup, and we want a beautifully clear broth.
- Place bones/meat into a large pot and just cover with cold water.
- Place on stove and bring to a boil.
- Allow to boil for about 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat. You’ll notice a lot of scum and beefy bits have come out of the bones. Discard this water and rinse the beef/bones.
- Set aside, and clean that pot if you wish to use it for broth.
The ginger and onion need to be charred, this adds a lot of depth to the broth, and gives it a nice colour. You can do this by carefully broiling them in the oven (keep an eye!), grilling or even cooking at high heat in a dry pan.
If you have worries about fire alarms going off you can omit this step, or just lightly brown them.
Last step before we assemble, is that the spices also need to be toasted. Place the star anise, cinnamon and cloves into a dry pan and toast until they become fragrant.
- Place beef into a large pot of your choice, along with charred onion, ginger, toasted spices, fish sauce and sugar.
- Add cold water until it just reaches the top of the ingredients. This is a basic rule for stock, that way it’ll be concentrated and have a good flavour.
- Bring stock to a gentle simmer but do not heavy boil. If you boil a stock too hard it’ll be cloudy and we want a nice clear broth
- Leave to simmer for a few hours or until broth is golden and any meat is tender and falling off the bones.
- Use some tongs to remove beef and bones and set aside. Strain broth through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth.
- Taste broth and adjust, adding more fish sauce or sugar if needed.
What you need:
- rice stick noodles, fresh or dried, cooked as per package instructions, rinsed in cold water and set aside (Do not do this too early ahead of time or the noodles will be clumpy)
- beef from the stock, rare beef, brisket, any meat you’d like to top this soup with
- fresh herbs: 1-2 chopped green onions, 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro, small handful of thai basil
- small handful of bean sprouts
- sriracha and hoisin
- lime wedges
Place a serving of noodles into a large bowl (about a cup of noodles), top with beef, herbs and sprouts. Gently ladle a spoonful of very hot broth over top. Season to taste with siracha, hoisin and lime and enjoy!