"Beef pho is our national dish and so synonymous with Vietnamese cuisine that the quality of your broth goes a long way to defining you as a chef! Like many Vietnamese classics, the flavours will vary greatly depending on where in the country you are from. As I'm from the Mekong Delta, the recipe I've written here is the southern style, which is closest to my heart. Tweaked over generations to suit the tastebuds of loved ones, this is the recipe I have worked on since the launch of The Little Viet Kitchen and is one that I'm proud to share with you here." ~Thuy Diem Pham.
3 onions, skins on
200 g ginger, unpeeled
2 Tbs fish sauce
500 g dried pho noodles
150 g bean sprouts
500 g topside steak, thinly sliced
10 star anise
5 g cloves
3 tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed, pods discarded and seeds only
1 cinnamon stick
Cleaning the Meat:
2 lemons, halved
5 tablespoons salt
500 g oxtail
500 g beef marrow, chopped into 7cm pieces (ask the butcher to do this)
2 kg beef brisket on the bone
500 g beef flank
500 g beef ribs
1 daikon, peeled and halved
120 g salt
200 g yellow rock sugar or rock sugar, crushed
200 g coriander leaves
200 g spring onions, chopped
200 g Thai basil leaves
200 g sawtooth herb (optional)
4 limes, cut into wedges
5 bird's eye chillies, sliced
Sriracha sauce, for dipping
Hoisin sauce, for dipping
On an open gas flame, char the onions and ginger until the skins are blackened. If you don’t have a gas stovetop, then roast in an oven preheated to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas Mark 4 for 20–25 minutes. Remove, allow to cool enough to handle, then peel the skins off. Rinse in cold water and set aside.
Dry toast all the spices in a small frying pan for 3–5 minutes over a medium heat, until aromatic. Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool. Put the spices into a spice strainer (breaking up the cinnamon stick if necessary) and set aside.
Next, prepare the bones and meat. Squeeze the juice of the lemons into a stockpot, throw the lemon halves in and fill with plenty of cold water. Soak the oxtail, marrow, beef brisket, flank and ribs and bones in the water, then add the salt. Stir well and leave for 1 hour.
Discard the lemon halves and set the pot over a high heat and parboil the bones and meat for 5 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water and leave to dry.
Rinse the pot used for cleaning the bones and meat and fill with 8 litres of water. Add the par-boiled meat. Blast at extremely high heat for 3–4 minutes to force all the impurities to the surface, then skim off the scum until the water looks clear. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover with the lid and simmer for 3 hours.
Add the prepared onions and ginger along with the daikon to the broth along with 120g salt. Stir in the sugar, then continue to simmer for a further 2 hours. Carefully remove the daikon and onion from the broth, add the spice strainer along with the fish sauce. Cook for a further 3 hours.
Taste and adjust the seasoning to your preference. In the north of Vietnam pho is a little saltier, and in the south it is a little sweeter.
Take the pot off the heat, remove the bones and meat, and allow to cool. Skim off any fat that has risen to the surface, then carefully and slowly strain the broth through a large sieve into a clean stockpot. Don’t rush this process if you want to produce that signature clarity to the broth.
Soak the noodles in a bowl of cold water for 30–45 minutes. Drain and set aside.
For the meat, debone and tear the brisket meat into strips. Cut the flank into thin slices. If you like, tear the meat off the ribs, or serve it on the bones.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, then blanch the bean sprouts for 5–10 seconds and drain. Divide the bean sprouts between serving bowls.
Fill the pan with fresh water and cook the soaked noodles for 3–5 seconds, then drain and add to the bowls with the bean sprouts. Add the assortment of cooked meat, then arrange the slices of topside steak on top.
Bring the broth to the boil and ladle between bowls. Add the marrow to the bowls, or leave on the side for guests to help themselves. Finish with the herbs and serve with lime wedges and sriracha and hoisin sauces for dipping the meat.*
Finally, enjoy your first spoonful of broth… You deserve it Chef!
*Do not add the sauces into the broth. Think of the hours you have spent perfecting it.
Credits: The Little Viet Kitchen by Thuy Diem Pham is published by Absolute Press ($39.99) Out now!
Photo Credits: David Loftus.