Classic Vietnamese Beef Pho has been on our blog to-do list for a year or more. Every time we thought about making it we saw the ‘beef knuckles’ in the ingredient list and the amount of time the broth takes to make and we would decide to put it off for another week. It’s also not something that we felt like making on a summer weekend afternoon. Once the cooler Autumn temperatures started rolling in, however, we decided to finally make a trip to our local Asian market and tackle Pho. This recipe, like many intimidating-looking recipes, wasn’t as hard or time-consuming as it initially looked. It does take a few hours and some more unusual ingredients but the result was so worth it.
I actually just tried pho for the first time about a month ago at a local vietnamese restaurant. My first pho experience was pretty good but left me somewhat indifferent to the dish. When we made our own pho I LOVED it. The ginger, clove, and star anise were more pronounced and all the flavors and condiments worked together to create an intriguing combination of flavors and textures that are truly unique and delicious. I’m a condiment fiend so I love the fact that each bowl is customizable with bean sprouts, basil, onion, sriracha, lime juice and scallions. Even though it took us a year to work up to making this recipe I have a feeling it won’t be long before we try it again.
I chose a Chilean wine to accompany our Pho because I felt that some of the flavors in Chilean cooking mirror some of the flavors in our Vietnamese soup. This wine has tropical fruit aromas and a fresh and citrusy flavor that contrasted well with the salty flavor of the pho. The acidity of the wine cut through the rich flavors in the beef while complimenting the fresh flavors (especially the lime!) of all our condiments. Overall an affordable and successful pairing!
No doubt I have committed some sort of offense by pairing a Chinese beer with a Vietnamese dish but I swear it wasn’t by choice! There are no good beer/wine stores withing a 20 minute drive of the Asian market that we went to get the ingredients for our Pho. We had to settle for a whole-in-the-wall beer/wine/deli/lotto market that I felt blessed even had an Asian beer! All this being said, most Asian beers are very similar… an adjunct lager with very light body, little hop aroma or flavor, and a slight malty sweetness. Tsingtao is no exception and isn’t even a stellar example of this type of beer. However, while eating (slurping?) dishes like the Pho we made you can’t beat a nice light beer to wash it all down with and you would do well to stick with something similar!
Homemade Beef Pho
Adapted from Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham (epicurious recipe Here)
5 pounds beef marrow or knuckle bones
2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2 pieces
1/3 pound beef sirloin, slightly frozen, then sliced paper-thin across the grain
2 (3-inch) pieces ginger, cut in half lengthwise and lightly bruised with the flat side of a knife, lightly charred
2 yellow onions, peeled and charred
1/2 cup fish sauce
3 ounces rock sugar, or 3 tablespoons sugar
10 whole star anise, lightly toasted in a dry pan
6 whole cloves, lightly toasted in a dry pan
3 tablespoons sea salt, or to taste (we like our Pho Salty!)
1 pound dried 1/16-inch-wide rice sticks, soaked, cooked and drained
1/2 yellow onion, sliced paper-thin
3 scallions, cut into thin rings
1 pound bean sprouts
10 sprigs Asian basil
6 Thai bird chilies or 1 serrano chili, cut into thin rings
1 lime, cut into 6 thin wedges
Freshly ground black pepper
1. In a large stockpot, bring 6 quarts water to a boil. Place the bones and beef chuck in a second pot, add water to cover, and boil vigorously for 5 minutes.
2. Using tongs, carefully transfer the bones and beef to the first pot of boiling water and discard the water that the meat cooked in. (This cleans the bones and meat and reduces the impurities that can cloud the broth.)
3. When the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and add the charred ginger and onions, fish sauce and sugar. Simmer until the beef chuck is tender, about 40 minutes. Skim the surface often to remove any foam and fat.
4. Remove one piece of beef chuck and submerge in cool water for 10 minutes to prevent the meat from darkening and drying out. Drain, then cut into thin slices and set aside. Let the other piece of beef chuck continue to cook in the simmering broth.
5. When the broth has been simmering for about 1 1/2 hours total, wrap the star anise and cloves in a spice bag, or piece of cheesecloth and add to the broth. Let infuse until the broth is fragrant, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard both the spice bag and onions. Add the salt and continue to simmer, skimming as necessary, until you’re ready to assemble the dish. The broth needs to cook for at least 2 hours. (The broth will taste salty but will be balanced once the noodles and accompaniments are added.) Leave the remaining chuck and bones to simmer in the pot while you assemble the bowls.
6. To serve, place the cooked noodles in bowls. Place a few slices of the beef chuck and the raw sirloin on the noodles. Bring the broth to a rolling boil and then ladle about 2 to 3 cups into each bowl. The broth will cook the raw beef instantly. Add your preferred garnishes and serve immediately.
Charred Ginger and Onions:
To char ginger, hold the piece with tongs directly over an open flame or place it on a hot skillet. While turning, char until the edges are slightly blackened and the ginger is fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Char the onions in the same way. (We don’t have a gas stove so we used our cast iron skillet to char the ginger and onion.)
1. Soak noodles in cold water for 30 minutes and drain. Then bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
2. When you’re ready to serve (not before), place the noodles, one portion at a time, into a sieve and lower it into the boiling water. Using chopsticks or a long spoon, stir so the noodles untangle and cook evenly. Blanch just until they’re soft but still chewy, about 10 to 20 seconds.
3. Drain completely, then transfer to a preheated bowl. Cook the remaining noodles the same way. If you’re cooking for several people, you may also cook the noodles all at once by adding them directly to the pot of boiling water. Just make sure to serve them immediately