I generally don’t make soup at home unless it comes from a can. But when we moved away from Seattle, we couldn’t find a decent Vietnamese restaurant for our daughters’ favorite soup, Pho.
Pho is a Vietnamese soup made with a clear, highly seasoned beef bone marrow broth and rice noodles. Restaurants will often serve it with raw steak that cooks in the broth, or cooked brisket or meatballs. I will warn you, it is a lot of work. But it’s worth it. I usually make the broth a day in advance.
- 1-1/2 pounds yellow onions, peeled and quartered
- 1- 6” long ginger root, split in half lengthwise
- 3 pounds of beef bones
- 2 pounds oxtail
- 1 pound bone-in beef chuck
- 1 pound beef round
- 10 whole star anise pods
- 2- 4” cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 6 cloves
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1/4 cup fish sauce, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
Additions to broth:
- 6 to 8 servings pho rice noodles
- 1 pound beef flank steak, sliced thinly against the grain (optional)
- Cilantro, Basil and Mint, finely chopped (Any of these, or all)
- Bean Sprouts
- Sliced Scallions
- Sliced Chilis
- 2 Limes, each cut into 4 wedges
- Sriracha sauce
Place onions and ginger on a foil lined baking sheet. Place rack 3 to 4 inches from broiler element and broiler on high, turning occasionally, until charred. Check often.
Meanwhile place beef bones and oxtail into a large stock pot. Cover with water and bring to boil. Let boil on high for 15 minutes. Then dump all the water in the sink and rinse the bones and oxtail. This helps clean most of the grime off the bones before cooking. If using the same stock pot for the broth, rinse out the pot.
Place the bones, oxtail, chuck, and round in a large stockpot. Cover with cool water. Add the charred onions, ginger, anise, cinnamon, fennel, cloves, coriander, fish sauce, sugar, and salt. (If you’d like easier straining, you can place the onions, ginger and all spices into a cheesecloth tied with thread.) Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a steady low simmer, skimming occasionally, until round and chuck are tender but not falling apart, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer round and chuck to a small bowl and cover with cold water. Refrigerate until ready to serve. If serving the next day, wrap in aluminum foil and keep refrigerated.
Continue simmering broth for 4 hours, adding water when necessary. Continue skimming the top if necessary. After 4 hours, strain broth through a fine mesh strainer. I usually remove bones and spice bag with tongs. Discard bones and spices and take as much fat as possible off the top. (Since I make this a day ahead, I scrape the fat off when the broth has cooled and the fat congeals.) Your broth should be clear. There will be about 4 quarts of broth. Reduce by boiling if there is more than 4 quarts, or add a little water to make 4 quarts.
Feel free to add more fish sauce, sugar or salt to taste. Slice cooked beef into thin slices. You can also slice a flank steak thin, raw or slightly cooked if you prefer.
Prepare rice noodles according to directions on the package. Place cooked noodles in individual large noodle bowls. Bring broth back to a rolling boil before ladling into bowls. (It should be hot enough to cook the flank steak if you use that option.)
Serve immediately with cooked meat and thinly sliced raw flank steak. Have the herbs, bean sprouts, lime, and sauces for family to garnish as they wish.