Pho'kin Good Pho

It's called Pho, as in fucking, not your faux bowl of Pho, Vietnamese noodle soup.

 

When you've had good pho, your belly will whisper to you about it yearly as the weather temps drop outside, and surely anytime your own spikes.

 

I won't claim this recipe to be authentic- because I simply don't have the chops to label it so. However, I have had countless bowls of pho, good and bad, and I can promise you this one will deliver tasty tasty flavors to your mouth. And hopefully, as it did for me, it will bring you back to the taste of pho that seems to warm your very marrow.

 

So, call your local butcher, tell your loved ones you're making an irresponsible amount of noodles, and gather some bellies to slurp noods and drip broth down your smiling faces.

Cheers!

 

Pho'kin Good Pho

The broth of this recipe was made for a 12 qt stockpot. Make the noodles in as large of a pot as you own. Serves 8-10 people to uncomfortably full levels. The recipe can take anywhere from 1-4 days to complete.

Things to Measure:

  • 2 onions, halved

  • 1 hand-sized knob of ginger (if you've got enormous paws, maybe not quite hand-sized), halved

  • 8 star anise pods

  • 4 cinnamon sticks

  • 1 1/2 Tbs coriander seeds

  • 1 1/2 Tbs fennel seeds

  • 1 Tbs peppercorns, white preferred- I just used black ones.

  • 6 cloves

  • 5 cardamom pods

Use What You Got:

  • Beef bones — marrow bones, oxtails, short ribs, neck bones, knuckle bones, etc. I found various neck, ribs, and other bones at a chain grocery store. I made a stop at my local butcher shop and found a few large marrow bones that I feel are necessary for some real oomph.

  • Beef.. meat! — You can have a meat you slow cook in the broth and serve, you can have a meat that you thin slice raw and place in your bowl before hot broth, you can have both of these simultaneously — choose your own meat adventure! I got a piece of meat for each preparation, both about 1 1/2lbs: a chuck roast and a rump roast. Many people use brisket for the cooked meat option.

  • Sugar — Rock sugar is traditional, but white sugar will work. I ended up using piloncillo. A couple of Tbs seems to be right, but start small and taste as you season.

  • Salt — I've read some recipes that use all fish sauce and no salt. Some that use all salt and no fish sauce. I went pretty heavy on the fish sauce and then finished with sea salt. (Please don't be afraid of fish sauce! Now's the perfect time, put it on your grocery list!)

  • Noodles — The optimal noodle here is a flat rice noodle, sometimes called rice stick noodle. Of course, if you can get your hands on fresh, use those. I couldn't, I didn't, it was still amazing. Use the noods you have.

Throw it On:

  • Lime wedges for squeezing

  • Bean sprouts

  • Cilantro

  • Thai basil if you can find it (or grow it!), regular basil will work

  • Mint

  • Sliced jalapeños

  • Sriracha hot sauce

  • Hoisin sauce

  • Sliced onions- green, yellow, red; it's your bowl, build it.

Make It:

  1. Place all of your beef bones in a large stockpot, cover with water and bring to a full boil. Allow to boil for about 5 minutes. You will see a lot of gunk form on the surface- this is what we're looking for in this step. This is impurities and gross stuff we're cleaning from the bones.

  2. Carefully drain the bones along with all of their gunk. Give all of the bones a good rinsing to clean any lingering gunk from any crevices. If you are using the same pot to continue cooking your broth in be sure to wash that pot completely.

  3. Place all of your newly cleaned bones into a clean pot, cover with water, and bring it up to a low simmer. You're not looking for aggressive bubbles here; lazy bubbles are the goal.

  4. Using the flame from a gas burner, a torch, or a hot cast iron skillet, char the onion and ginger halves until blackened. Allow to cool enough so that you can wipe away the charred parts, and then add to the stockpot along with the bones.

  5. Add your sugar and salt to the broth- you can also keep tasting as the broth simmers and add these along the way to taste. You want the broth to be almost too salty and lightly sweet.

  6. Let this pot simmer for... as long as you want! I wouldn't go any time under a good 4-6 hours, but I think the longer the better. I ended up letting my broth simmer for almost 4 days! As your broth simmers, skim off any white bubbly foam that appears on the surface. Don't forget to keep an eye on the broth and refill with water to keep the bones covered at all times.

  7. I also skimmed the fat from the top of the broth as it simmered- because I like to hoard little jars of fat in my fridge, and you should, too! Alternatively, you could refrigerate your broth after straining, remove the cold fat cap that solidifies at the top, and then reheat for the spices.

  8. If you are going to have a cooked meat served in your broth, start it the day you plan to serve your pho. I cooked a small chuck roast for this. Using a smaller pot, I ladled and strained enough broth over the chuck to cover it halfway (the separate pot is to keep the meat for serving separate from all of the bone chunks and other inedibles in the broth pot). I kept the chuck covered at a very low simmer until fall-apart-tender, about 4 and a half hours. Set this meat aside for serving, you can add its juices to the broth pot.

  9. When you're about 2-3 hours from serving time strain your broth. I think it's easiest to first strain into a regular ol' pasta colander with the big holes- just don't forget the bowl underneath! This catches the large bone chunks first. Then I strained through a fine-mesh strainer, and then once more through the fine-mesh strainer lined with cheesecloth to ensure I had a very smooth broth. Put your strained broth into a clean pot and return to a low simmer.

  10. Spice time! I learned the hard way that adding these spices at the beginning just doesn't work; the long simmer time obliterates all of their flavors. And these are not cheap spices; it hurts my heart and my wallet to abuse them. So, instead, I opted to throw these spices in after straining my broth, just a couple of hours before serving time.

  11. Toast all of the spices in a pan until fragrant, or you can use a torch to singe them all. Once toasted, wrap up the spices in a cheesecloth and tie shut with twine, or use something like this. Slip your spice package into the slowly simmering broth, and let steep at least an hour and a half, but no more than about 3, before serving. Remove the spice packet before serving.

  12. Cook your noodles! Unlike some other types of noodles, pho noodles benefit from being cooked and then sitting to dry out for a bit- this supposedly helps them soak up flavor from the broth. This is a real plus if you're cooking for a crowd. You can cook all of your servings of noodles at one time, portion them out into bowls, and then let them hang out until serving time. Depending on the thickness of your rice noodle, they generally cook for about 1-3 minutes in boiling water. Check your package instructions for your particular noodle. And remember, you'll be ladling hot broth over them, so an undercooked noodle is preferred as it will further cook in your soup.

  13. Prep your garnishes. I left the herbs as whole leaves but stripped them individually from the stems. Slice onions, limes, and jalapeños. Don't forget your bean sprouts like I did for all of these photos.

  14. If you're using raw meat to add to your soup place it in the freezer for about 15-20 minutes before slicing. This will ensure that you can get the thinnest slices possible. These thin slices will cook when the hot broth is added. I used a small rump roast for this.

  15. Time to eat! To your bowls of noodles add chunks of cooked meat, slices of raw meat, and as much of any of your garnishes as you want. I prefer to go light on any sriracha and hoisin sauce initially, you can always add more. Ladle hot broth over everything and try not to immediately submerge your entire face in there.

So, this meal looks intimidating. It might take four days to make?!

But, I promise, it's not difficult. Most of the cooking of this meal is passive, with very little active time going on at all. If you can boil, burn, and slice things, you've pretty much got the entire skill set necessary to get this amazing bowl of pho on your table.

 

If you try your hand at making your own bowl of pho, I would love to see how it turned out!

 

I'm super stoked with how my pho came out, as I haven't found a decent bowl of it for sale in this city yet. And, I'm even more glad I made SO much of it, so I can freeze some broth for a future rainy day. This was a really fun project for me, and I got to feed a few bellies of those I love along the way.