Faster Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

My tummy is full of yummy, and my lips are tingling, and I am officially happy.

I’ve been fighting an irritating cold for the last day or so, and all day at work, I was thinking longingly about pho. Pho is one of the most ubiquitous Vietnamese dishes; in its classic form, it’s a wonderfully scented beef broth, with noodles and tender cooked beef and various vegetables swimming in it. When I have a cold, I pump up the spiciness as much as I can bear, and the steaming-hot soup combined with the kick of the chili pepper clears my sinuses until I feel sane again.

I’d never made pho before, and I knew that without planning ahead I couldn’t make the beef stock from scratch. However, the heart of this dish is the richly flavored stock, so I only took a partial shortcut. Pho is, as I said, made from beef stock, but I had some savory, deep brown turkey stock sitting in the freezer; that, plus chicken fat to sauté with, plus a couple of beef bouillon cubes gave a hearty, meaty flavor that wasn’t quite beef but was damn tasty. Here’s the recipe. Sorry for the lack of photos; I was too sick and hungry before the meal to bother. . .


Shortcut Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)
(serves 3-6)

Broth:
1 T cooking oil or chicken fat
2 medium knobs fresh ginger (3 T), julienned
1 medium onion, sliced into strips
12 cups of homemade beef stock (substitute a very hearty chicken or turkey stock if necessary)
2 cinnamon sticks
6-8 pieces whole star anise
1 Tbsp whole peppercorns
1 tsp whole cloves
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce (I realize that this is the most exotic ingredient, but it adds a lot of rich, salty flavor to almost every Vietnamese and Thai dish; the result won’t taste fishy, I promise. Substitute soy sauce in smaller quantities if necessary.)

Soup mix-ins:
8 oz. dry medium-size rice noodles (also called “rice sticks” or “bahn pho”)
8 oz. boneless beef sirloin
several jalapenos, serranos, or thai bird chilis, chopped into small rounds
4 green onions, chopped or julienned
a large handful of mung bean sprouts
1/2 bunch Thai purple basil (substitute Italian basil if necessary)
2 small limes, cut into wedges
Sriracha (red rooster chili sauce) to taste

Making the broth:

  1. In a large soup pot, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Add the ginger and onion and sauté until browned.
  2. Add the beef stock, cinnamon, star anise, peppercorns, and cloves to the stock pot. Stir, cover, and simmer for at least 15-30 minutes.
  3. Strain the broth and return to a pot. Add sugar and fish sauce, stir well, and taste for seasoning. Just before serving, return to a rolling boil.

Preparing the mix-ins:

  1. Just before you start cooking the broth, place the beef in the freezer.
  2. Heat plenty of unsalted water on high in another large pot.
  3. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add the rice noodles. Boil for 3-6 minutes, until the noodles are just tender. Remove from heat, drain, and rinse in cold running water until the noodles are completely cool. Cover the noodles and set aside.
  4. Rinse and prepare the vegetables, and set them all out attractively on a central platter.
  5. Remove the beef from the freezer; it should be firm and partly frozen. Trim off any excess fat. Cut the beef against the grain into paper-thin slices. Set on a separate plate.

Assembling the soup:

  1. In individual, large bowls, place a serving of noodles, a few slices of beef, and a sprinkling of chili peppers and green onions. Pour boiling broth on top to cover, and stir.
  2. Bring the bowls to the table while the heat cooks the beef. Let everyone add their own mix-ins: a wedge or two of lime juice, a few basil leaves and bean sprouts, and Sriracha to taste.
  3. Serve with a soup spoon and a fork or pair of chopsticks. Enjoy!
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This entry was posted in Food.

2 comments on “Faster Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

  1. teresaduncan says:

    Great recipe! I love pho – even in the hot summer.

  2. Julia says:

    Made this last night. It was fantastic!!! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

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