I’m so excited to introduce one of our most well-known dishes – Pho (Phở) or Vietnamese noodles. Most of my foreign friends know about Vietnamese cuisine as Pho and they love it. It’s not easy to cook a delicious bowl of Pho but it’s not that hard, I guess. So I thought you might want to try to make it at home one day and please try this following recipe and don’t hesitate to give me any comments.
There’s a lot of ways to cook Pho. You can buy the instant mixture to make the broth, but I would guess you know the instant flavor is never as good as the “real” flavor from bones, herbs etc. When I were in Singapore, I used to cook Pho’s broth using five spice powder. It makes sense to use five-spice powder because the herbs that Vietnamese people use to cook Pho’s broth are star anise, coriander seeds, cinnamon, cloves and black cardamom. However, it’s really important that the broth should be so clear that when you eat Pho, you don’t know what made the broth flavor.
In the US, I think it’s easy to get the herbs to make Pho. In Asian market, you can easily find a small package which includes the five main herbs and a small cheese cloth bag to make your life easier while cooking Pho. If not, you can buy five different herbs and mix by yourself. Not a big problem!
In Vietnam, the two most popular kinds of Pho are: Pho Ga (Pho with chicken) and Pho Bo (Pho with beef). The basic technique to cook Pho is the same, but the main ingredients are somewhat different. Therefore, today I would like to introduce Pho Bo recipe first. Believe me, once you become an expert in cooking Pho Bo, Pho Ga is gonna be a very simple dish to make.
- Ingredients: For around 7 -8 small bowls
- Beef bones: 3 big pieces (If you can’t get beef bones, substitute with pork neck bones; though cooking with beef bones would give a better flavor of Pho’s broth)
- Beef round rump roast boneless: 1 lb ( 400 – 500 grams), sliced thinly (you can slice by yourself or have a butcher help you)
- Half of a package of herb mixture for Pho: 3 oz (85 grams)
- Shallot: 4 – 5
- Onion: 1
- 2 Tablespoons of sliced ginger
- 1 package of dried rice noodles (1lb) (I prefer to use size S)
- 5- 6 green onions
- ½ bundle of cilantro
- Salt, pepper and fish sauce
- Process: Most of the time we need is for the broth. So you can plan ahead to make the broth in at least 3 hours in advance
- Put the beef bones in a sauce pan, cover with cold water then bring it to boil. Sprinkle some salt and simmer for about 5-7 minutes. This step is to make the bones clean before simmering the bones to make the broth.
- Wash the beef bones at least 2 times with cold water to make sure they are clean then put them in another big pot or a pressure cooker. I use pressure cooker to reduce the time of simmering the bones. Cover the bones with cold water, sprinkle some salt and simmer the bones. If you are using a pressure cooker, simmer them in about 20 minutes; if you are using a sauce pan, it would take about 40 minutes.
- While the bones are simmered, continue working on other ingredients to make the broth:
- First, chop shallots, onion into big chunks, slice the ginger. Note: still leave the skins on.
- Put those directly to the stove to grill under med heat; about 1 min for each side ore until they are cooked. This step would make the kitchen smell amazing and so does the broth. Wash them after finishing grilling.
- Put all the herb mixture in to a pan, roast them under med heat for about 3 – 5 minutes or until you smell the herbs. This step helps enhancing the flavor of the herbs to the broth. After that, put the roasted herb mixture into the small bag which is provided when you buy the Pho herb mixture; except for the cinnamon because it is kind of too big.
- Make broth for Pho bo:
- Put all the prepared ingredients including: grilled shallots, onion, ginger; roasted herb mixture into a big pot.
- Add the beef stock that has been simmered (also the bones). To make sure the beef broth is gonna be clear, you can drain them.
- Add more water so that you would have about 5 liters (1.3 gallons) of broth. Bring the pot to boil and add 4 Tablespoons fish sauce, 1 Tablespoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, 1 Tablespoon sugar and 3 Tablespoons bouillon (optional).
- Simmer the broth for at least another 60 minutes. Taste the broth again and correct the seasoning.
- Prepare the beef for topping:
- If you slice the beef by yourself, put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour or until you see the beef firm; then slice the beef thinly.
- Boil 8 cups of water and then poach the thinly sliced beef in the boiling water for 7 – 10 seconds only. Don’t over-cook the beef because you will pour the hot Pho stock over them later and they would be cooked more.
- Prepare the rice noodle as directed (I’d like to share my way to cook the rice noodle perfectly but in the next entry. I don’t want you to feel over-whelmed with the Pho bo dish :D).
- Chop the green part of green onions and cilantro for garnish. Split the white part of green onions thinly.
- Put them all together: Now the preparation for everything is done. The final step is sampling the bowl.
- Put about 1 cup of noodles in to a bowl then microwave it for about 1 minutes to make sure the bowl and noodles are warm. This is an important step to make your Pho hot.
- Add some under-cooked sliced beef, green onions and cilantro. Sprinkle some black pepper then pour in the hot Pho broth.
In Vietnam, the way people eat Pho could be variable from area to area. In some parts, they eat Pho with some vegetables such bean sprout (gia), mint (hung que) and hoisin sauce etc. In some other parts, they only eat Pho as it is and add some pickled garlic with vinegar and fresh red pepper or hot sauce and some drops of fresh lime juice . Either way is good once your Pho’s broth is great ^^.
There you have it – Pho bo (Vietnamese beef noodles)! Eat it and you can feel Pho’s broth with a touch of a unique mixture of roasted herbs, grilled onion, ginger and more. Good luck!