Legit Vietnamese Pho


Date Published: August 3rd, 2020 | Last Updated: August 3rd, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: asian, mains, soup
Serves: 4-6 | Prep time: 20 mins | Cook time: 4-8 hours

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Pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) is a traditional Vietnamese dish. It’s a delicious flavourful beef (or chicken) broth stewed for hours and served with rice vermicelli, bean sprouts, Thai basil, and beef slices. It’s not super traditional, but I always eat pho with a HEALTHY amount of hoisin sauce. I had a friend put hoisin directly into the broth, but I like to make a perfect spoonful of broth, noodles and then dip a slice of beef in hoisin sauce and eat it all in one delicious bite. The beef slices are usually served raw and the hot broth cooks it when ladled into the bowl. [Side story: Every time I order pho, my mother would always immediately tell me to quickly dunk the beef slices and bean sprouts to the bottom of the bowl so it can cook right away before the broth cools. We’ve ordered this dish for years and she’ll still say it every time without fail – now I hear this every time I eat pho.] You can order other versions of pho served with chicken, pork balls, brisket, tripe…etc, but raw beef pho will always be my go-to.

Side story: Pho is very nostalgic for me. When my family immigrated to Canada, my parents made my siblings and I go to “Chinese school” every Saturday morning continue our Asian studies. I hated going. The school was nearly an hour drive away and we had to get up crazy early every Saturday morning for 3 hours of lessons. Class finished at 12pm and I was always SO hungry counting down the hours until lunch. The only good thing about driving so far was the food afterwards. In our hometown there wasn’t a very big Asian population, which translates to not a lot of good Asian food – but in Mississauga (the city where the classes were), the majority of the population was Asian which meant legit good Asian food EVERYWHERE. We’d most often go to this Vietnamese restaurant in a shopping mall where my mom would pick up some groceries and a free weekly Chinese newspaper. Their pho was insanely good and they had melt-in-your-mouth brisket. I’d always forget to ask for no coriander so I would spend 15 minutes picking out every little piece of finely chopped coriander before I would start eating – but it was worth it even if my soup was a little cold. A few years later a Vietnamese restaurant opened up near our home and we pretty much went there all the time – what’s even better was that there as also an Asian grocer in the mall where my mom could continue to do her shopping and get her weekly Chinese newspaper. Now that we’ve all gone our separate ways, every time I eat pho it transports me back to those days with my family.

Strap in, because this soup takes a long time to make. The majority of the work is waiting to let the soup simmer but the actual process is really quite easy. The longer you cook the soup, the stronger the flavours will be. I’d recommend even starting this recipe the evening before and let it simmer overnight so it’ll be ready for lunch the next day (warning: make this on a full stomach because the amazing aromas of this soup will make you hangry). There are lots of quick shortcut versions of this soup out there, but I feel like I won’t do this dish justice if I don’t put in the extra effort and make it legit for maximum flavour. I’ve adapted this recipe from RecipeTinEats and made some changes in regards to ingredients and cooking times, but the gist of it is similar.

Anyways, without further ado, here’s the recipe! If you have any comments or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section! You can follow me on instagram, youtube and facebook to see all the recipes I post!

Happy cooking!

Ingredients you’ll need:

Beef Mix: You’ll need a good mix of beef meat and bones to create the wonderful flavours of the broth. Each type of beef has their role:

  • 2kg beef brisket – the most important player which adds the most beef flavour to the broth (top left in the photo)
  • 1kg meaty beef bones (ie vertebrae, ox tail) – you can use any bones that have a decent amount of meat attached to them. This adds additional beefy flavours and richness (bottom left in the photo)
  • 750g marrow bones (ie femur/leg, knuckle) cut into fist-sized pieces to reveal the marrow (your butcher can do this for you) – the marrow cooks out into the broth and gives it a fatty richness (too many marrow bones will result in a greasy broth) (right side of the photo)
    • Note: the marrow bones in the top right corner of the photo are too big. I forgot to ask the butcher to cut them smaller and didn’t realize until I got home, heh. You want pieces similar to the bottom right corner with marrow exposed.

Spices, Aromatics & Seasoning: these give the broth the signature pho aroma and flavour.

  • 10 star anise
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 cardamon pods
  • 3 cloves
  • 1.5 Tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 large onions, halved and peeled
  • 150g ginger, sliced and unpeeled
  • 2 Tbsp white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp fish sauce (or more, to taste)

  • The Rest:
    • 375g (1 package) of rice sticks/vermicelli
    • 300g beef tenderloin, raw, very thinly sliced – or any steak cut will do since it can be pricey
      • This will be plated raw in the bowl with the rest of the toppings and the heat of the soup will cook the tenderloin to a perfect med-rare to medium, therefore it’s very important to slice it as thin as you can, otherwise it won’t cook enough. Keeping it in the freezer for 30 mins before slicing will make it easier to slice. Alternatively if you’re struggling to slice it thin or prefer not the serve raw beef, you can slice it thicker and cook it in the broth for 10-20 seconds before serving it in the bowl.
    • Beansprouts, handful per bowl
    • Thai basil, 3 – 5 sprigs per bowl
    • Lime wedges
    • Hoisin sauce
    • Sriracha chilli sauce (or any chilli sauce)
    • Optional: finely sliced red chilli (for garnish)
    • Optional: chopped cilantro/coriander (for garnish) – confession: I hate coriander with such a passion that I debated whether or not I should mention it in this recipe. I decided to include it for the sake of authenticity. It’s nasty AF so every time I make this for people, I never include coriander 😜.

Directions:

Clean the meat: (two methods) Cleaning the beef and bones gives you a clear broth and rids the impurities.

You’ll be amazed how much scum comes off in just 5 minutes! Strain and wash all of this away for a clear broth.

Method 1: Place the brisket and bones in a large pot and boil them in water for 5 minutes then drain to remove all the scum/impurities. Rinse each piece of meat and bone with tap water before replacing back in a clean pot.

Method 2: Turn your oven to 220 (usually the highest it’ll go) and bake your bones for 10 minutes, then rinse each piece under running water before putting it in a clean pot.

Toast the spices: In a dry skillet over HIGH heat (no oil needed), toast your spices (cinnamon stick, coriander stick, star anise, fennel seeds, and cardamom pods) for a few minutes until lightly brown and fragrant. Remove from pan and set aside.

Char the onion & ginger: Then in the same pan on HIGH heat (still no oil needed), char the onion and ginger for a few minutes until you get black charred bits on both sides (see photo). Remove from the pan and set aside. If your char is excessively black, scrape it off so it doesn’t discolour your broth.

Make the broth: in a large clean pot, add the cleaned bones and brisket, toasted spices, charred onion and ginger, sugar and salt. Add enough water to just cover all the ingredients. With a lid on, bring the soup to a boil then let it simmer for 3 hours until the brisket is tender, flakey and falls apart easily (see video below).

When the brisket is tender, remove it from the soup and set it aside (you can slice up the brisket to be served in the pho later on or refrigerate and use it for another recipe later).

Add the sugar, salt and fish sauce and stir. Continue to simmer the broth with the lid on for another 2-6 hours (the longer you simmer the broth, the richer the flavour – you can even simmer it overnight on low heat). Skim away any scum as they float to the top.

Slice the tenderloin: While the soup simmers, you can thinly slice your raw tenderloin. Remember, this will be plated raw in the bowl with the rest of the toppings and the heat of the soup will cook the tenderloin to a perfect med-rare to medium, therefore it’s very important to slice it as thin as you can, otherwise it won’t cook enough. Keeping it in the freezer for 30 mins before slicing will make it easier to slice. Alternatively if you’re struggling to slice it thin or prefer not the serve raw beef, you can slice it thicker and cook it in the broth for 10-20 seconds before serving it in the bowl. After slicing, keep it covered in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

Cook the rice noodles: cook the rice noodles according to package instructions half an hour before you’re ready to serve then strain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

Reduce the broth: After simmering, taste the broth. If you’re happy with the flavours, you can turn off the heat now and skim off any excess oil and scum floating on top. Don’t remove too much oil because this also adds richness to the broth. If you want it more concentrated, remove the lid and continue to simmer the soup until it reduces by 1/3 (~ another 45mins).

Strain the broth: strain the soup in a mesh strainer to remove all the bones, ginger, garlic, spices…etc. You should be left with a beautiful broth. Taste and add extra fish sauce (or salt) or sugar to taste. Put the broth back in a clean pot and bring it to a boil before you serve it. You want the broth to be really hot so that it cooks the raw beef when ladled over it.

Assemble the pho bowl: in a bowl, put in one serving of rice noodles, a few slices of the beef brisket, a few slices of the raw tenderloin, small handful of raw bean sprouts and a sprig of Thai basil (6-is 8 leaves). Make sure your soup is hot (if not, then bring to a boil over the stove) before you put it in the bowl over the ingredients. You can alternatively cook the tenderloin for 10-20 seconds in the broth first then place it in the bowl instead of serving it raw.

Serve it with a lime wedge, hoisin sauce and sriracha sauce on the side.

Summarized Recipe:

Legit Vietnamese Pho

Date Published: August 3rd, 2020 | Last Updated: August 3rd, 2020
Author: Abby |Category: asian, mains, soup
Serves: 4-6 | Prep time: 20 mins | Cook time: 4-8 hours

Ingredients:

  • Beef Mix:
    • 2kg beef brisket
    • 1kg meaty beef bones (ie vertebrae, ox tail)
    • 750g marrow bones (ie femur/leg, knuckle) cut into fist-sized pieces to reveal the marrow (your butcher can do this for you)
  • Spices, Aromatics & Seasoning:
    • 10 star anise
    • 4 cinnamon sticks
    • 4 cardamon pods
    • 3 cloves
    • 1.5 Tbsp coriander seeds
    • 2 tsp fennel seeds
    • 2 large onions, halved and peeled
    • 150g ginger, sliced and unpeeled
    • 2 Tbsp white sugar
    • 1 Tbsp salt
    • 2 Tbsp fish sauce (or more, to taste)
  • The Rest:
    • 375g (1 package) of rice sticks/vermicelli
    • 300g beef tenderloin, raw, very thinly sliced – or any steak cut will do since it can be pricey
    • Beansprouts, handful per bowl
    • Thai basil, 3 – 5 sprigs per bowl
    • Lime wedges
    • Hoisin sauce
    • Sriracha chilli sauce (or any chilli sauce)
    • Optional: finely sliced red chilli (for garnish)
    • Optional: chopped cilantro/coriander (for garnish)

Directions:

  1. Clean the meat: (two methods) Cleaning the beef and bones gives you a clear broth and rids the impurities.
    • Method 1: Place the brisket and bones in a large pot and boil them in water for 5 minutes then drain to remove all the scum/impurities. Rinse each piece of meat and bone with tap water before replacing back in a clean pot.
    • Method 2: Turn your oven to 220 (usually the highest it’ll go) and bake your bones for 10 minutes, then rinse each piece under running water before putting it in a clean pot.
  2. Toast the spices: In a dry skillet over HIGH heat (no oil needed), toast your spices (cinnamon stick, coriander stick, star anise, fennel seeds, and cardamom pods) for a few minutes until lightly brown and fragrant. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Char the onion & ginger: Then in the same pan on HIGH heat (still no oil needed), char the onion and ginger for a few minutes until you get black charred bits on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. If your char is excessively black, scrape it off so it doesn’t discolour your broth.
  4. Make the broth: in a large clean pot, add the cleaned bones and brisket, toasted spices, charred onion and ginger, sugar and salt. Add enough water to just cover all the ingredients. With a lid on, bring the soup to a boil then let it simmer for 3 hours until the brisket is tender, flakey and falls apart easily.
  5. When the brisket is tender, remove it from the soup and set it aside (you can slice up the brisket to be served in the pho later on or refrigerate and use it for another recipe later).
  6. Add the sugar, salt and fish sauce and stir. Continue to simmer the broth with the lid on for another 2-6 hours (the longer you simmer the broth, the richer the flavour – you can even simmer it overnight on low heat). Skim away any scum as they float to the top.
  7. Slice the tenderloin: While the soup simmers, you can thinly slice your raw tenderloin (tip: freeze it for 30 mins will make it easier to slice). Alternatively, you can slice it thicker and cook it in the broth for 10-20 seconds before serving it in the bowl. After slicing, keep it covered in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
  8. Cook the rice noodles: cook the rice noodles according to package instructions half an hour before you’re ready to serve then strain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
  9. Reduce the broth: After simmering, taste the broth. If you’re happy with the flavours, you can turn off the heat now and skim off any excess oil and scum floating on top. Don’t remove too much oil because this also adds richness to the broth. If you want it more concentrated, remove the lid and continue to simmer the soup until it reduces by 1/3 (~ another 45mins).
  10. Strain the broth: strain the soup in a mesh strainer to remove all the bones, ginger, garlic, spices…etc. You should be left with a beautiful broth. Taste and add extra fish sauce (or salt) or sugar to taste. Put the broth back in a clean pot and bring it to a boil before you serve it. You want the broth to be really hot so that it cooks the raw beef when ladled over it.
  11. Assemble the pho bowl: in a bowl, put in one serving of rice noodles, a few slices of the beef brisket, a few slices of the raw tenderloin, small handful of raw bean sprouts and a sprig of Thai basil (6-is 8 leaves). Make sure your soup is hot (if not, then bring to a boil over the stove) before you put it in the bowl over the ingredients. You can alternatively cook the tenderloin for 10-20 seconds in the broth first then place it in the bowl instead of serving it raw. Serve it with a lime wedge, hoisin sauce and sriracha sauce on the side.

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