This soup is wonderful!
Pho Bo, aka Pho Beef Noodle Soup is the national meal of Vietnam. Cooked in gigantic pots and served in huge family gatherings; this soup is full of character and nutrition. It does take hours to prepare the soup, but the broth is the only long lasting part. Aromatic meat broth can be cooked in large quantities then freezed, which makes it possible to prepare practical mini Pho Bo’s later in the week.
I tasted Pho first time several years ago in one of the tiny Vietnamese restaurants, which appeared all over the night like mushrooms. Soup comes in huge bowls; it’s thinly sliced meat, rice noodles fresh coriander and spring onion is served with an aromatic meat broth and lemon juice. The harmony of well-cooked and raw was so perfectly thought, I wanted everyone to taste it. Until I found out the whole town is already hooked in Vietnamese cuisine, I was the last one to discover.
Since then Pho-Bo became an important part of our lives which must be eaten once – twice a week. This is why I was a bit surprised when Richard said he wanted to cook his own homemade Pho over the weekend. To me Pho is to be eaten in a tiny stinky restaurant for almost no money, it comes so huge you can’t even finish it. Why to cook at home? Plus, we would need to shop so many Asian spices, which we never use normally.
Then he said why; he tasted in a specific restaurant a perfect Pho, better than any other he ever tasted before. And a friend told him that Pho is best when it’s home made. She wrote down a recipe from a Vietnamese family friend, with all necessary tips and tricks.
Richard talked about Pho the whole night. It’s so rare to see someone as excited as myself to taste a new recipe. The next day we visited a newly opened Asian shop, farmers market and two different butchers (we couldn’t find the high-quality flank steak in the first one) and collected all ingredients.
Actually Pho really isn’t so complicated to prepare. Broth is similar to our usual European meat broth; meat with marrow is boiled with vegetable and spices. Then served with rice noodles, fresh vegetables and thinly sliced beef. Of course every climate has its own veggies, spices. So the food culture is shaped around it accordingly. While we boil the meat with carrots, celery and potatoes, Asians use charred onion and ginger. We use spices like black pepper, new spice, bay leave; they use star anise, clove and cinnamon.
In detail for Pho broth, onion and ginger is burned ‘aka charred’ on fire. Black parts are taken away and boiled with meat, bones and spices for about 3 hours. Then strained and fat is removed. Remaining clear brown broth is to be used for the soup. Boiled meat and fat is not used, we spared it aside to cook rice later on.
Soup is served in huge bowls. Half an hour before serving, rice noodles are soaked in hot water; sirloin or flank steak beef is kept in freezer for 30min for perfect slicing. On the side, paper-thin sliced onion, coriander, spring onion, chili peppers and thin fresh ginger is prepared.
All dry ingredients; noodles, raw meat & vegetables are located in the bowl and then during serving, re-boiled hot broth is poured on them. Paper-thin beef is immediately cooked with the shock. Noodles, vegetables and meat are to be eaten with chopsticks but the broth with a spoon.
If you haven’t tasted Pho-Bo, I have to underline that it is a wonderful harmony of unexpected tastes; it’s different but clever and nutritious. If you tried it already, now it’s approved that homemade Pho is the best!
For The Broth
- two onions
- 150 gr ginger
- half a kilo bone with marrow
- half a kilo soup beef
- 6-7 star anise
- 6-7 cloves
- two cinnamon sticks
For The Bowls
- rice noodles
- 300gr flank steak or sirloin
- spring onion
- soy bean sprouts
- Peel the onions. Char the onions and ginger on stove fire until black. Scrape the black parts away.
- In a large pot, add all soup ingredients including charred onion and ginger with enough water. Bring to boil.
- Boil on lower fire for about 3-4 hours. Remove the scum on top.
- Turn off the fire and strain all ingredients including meat, marrow and fat. You can use them later on for cooking aromatic rice. For the soup, only the clear brown broth will be used.
- Put the rice noodles in boiling water, wait 15 seconds and remove. Place them in the bowls; they should occupy 1/4 to 1/3 of the bowl
- Freeze the beef for soup half an hour before serving, and then cut paper-thin slices across the grain It’s normally used raw, but we fried them on hot pan without oil for 3 seconds each side
- Place the meat slices on noodles. Then add spring onions, paper-thin sliced onions, soy bean sprouts, sliced fresh ginger, coriander and chili
- Bring the broth to boil before serving. Pour the boiling broth in the bowls directly on the table
- Serve with lemon and more chili