I traveled to Vietnam a couple of years ago, and was delighted to sample the local cuisine. I drifted toward foods with French influences, like their Vietnamese pancake: extremely similar to a French crepe, but with thinly sliced green onions and small pieces of shrimp. I also loved their eggplant stew, slowly cooked in a clay pot with lemongrass, turmeric, tomatoes and basil; this dish is going into my new cookbook, CANVAS & CUISINE – the progress of which, you can follow via Scrumptious Possibilities on Facebook. “Like” my page @jorjmorgancooking and I’ll sign you up!
But back to Pho…
You can find all sorts of variations of this popular Vietnamese dish. Pho appears on menus in trendy restaurants, in street fairs and food halls all over the world – it’s as good as it is ubiquitous. Some serve Pho with chicken or shrimp, some leave out the broth entirely! But, if you want to experience the real thing, you need to find a Vietnamese restaurant, or work your way around an authentic recipe. I gave it a try and found that my Pho recipe was VERY SIMILAR to my Grammy’s beef and veggie soup recipe. She too, roasted beef bones and veggies in the oven to intensify the flavors in her broth.
You can find recipes all over the internet for Pho. I particularly like this one on JenReviews.com. It takes advantage of a couple of shortcuts that work well for busy cooks, and better yet, it can be enjoyed any time of day. In Vietnam, they eat it for breakfast. Try Pho soon, and let me know what you think!
Vietnamese Broth with Beef and Noodles
serves 4 to 6
30 minute prep plus 1 ½ to 2 hours to simmer the broth
4 meaty beef shanks (plus any beef bones you have hanging around)
2 large onions, cut in half
1 large palm-size piece of ginger, cut into pieces
1 large palm-size piece of turmeric, cut into pieces
2 whole heads of garlic, cut in half
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 quart homemade beef stock, or prepared low-sodium beef broth
1 cinnamon stick
2 to 3 star anise
1 teaspoon peppercorns
½ teaspoon whole cloves
⅓ cup fish sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces uncooked flat rice noodles
Chopped, fresh cilantro
Thinly sliced jalapeno pepper
Thinly sliced red onion
Dark sesame sauce
Preheat the oven to 450°. Place the beef shanks and (any other bones), onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric and garlic onto a baking sheet. You don’t have to peel the veggies! Drizzle with olive oil. Roast until the veggies and beef begin to char, about 30 minutes. Transfer everything into a large soup pot. Add the beef broth and 3 quarts of water to the pot. Dunk in the cinnamon stick, star anise, peppercorns and cloves. Stir in ⅓ cup fish sauce. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer the broth for 1 ½ to 2 hours. The liquid will reduce by half and absorb all of these lovely flavors. If the broth reduces too quickly, add more water and reduce the heat as low as you can.
Pour the broth through a colander, and into a large bowl. Return the broth to the pot. Taste and season with salt. Reserve the meat from the beef shanks and discard everything else. Use two forks to shred the meat into very thin pieces.
Bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Cook the noodles in the broth according to the directions on the package. Remove the noodles from the pot. Reduce the heat to keep the broth warm.
To serve Pho, place some of the beef into a shallow bowl. Lay some of the noodles beside the beef. Ladle the broth over the top. Garnish with any or all of the bean sprouts, cilantro, jalapeno slices, red onion, lime wedges, and a drizzle of either hoisin sauce or dark sesame oil.