Pho shizzle! It’s time to try your hand at making the dish that Vietnamese cuisine is likely most often associated with – Pho Bo. Pho, pronounced “fuh,” is the popular noodle soup dish popping up in Vietnamese restaurants everywhere. Pho Bo is the beef version, flavored by slowly simmering beef bones in a fragrant blend of spices. The actual process is surprisingly really easy – it just takes time. I recommend making this dish on a Sunday, when you have a few hours to wait (and salivate) while the cinnamon, anise, ginger, and other spices marry together to fill your home with the savory flavors of Vietnam. Mmmmmmm. Click here to jump to recipe.
Although finding Pho restaurants is no difficult task these days, their Pho just never come close to this recipe I grew up on. My mom makes a mean pot of Pho Bo, and I am so lucky that she let me observe and constantly interrupt her one day. I was the pesky amateur, jotting down notes as I kept asking her how many teaspoons of this and how many cups of that she was throwing together to cook us this traditional meal that comes as second nature to her. Since that day, I have made Pho Bo almost a dozen times, always on a Sunday, so we can enjoy it for dinner and then at least one weeknight thereafter. A steaming hot bowl of Pho Bo is a wonderful way to warm up your loved ones in the winter, but don’t let the heat of summer deter you from enjoying this dish. It’s just too tasty to save for a few cold months out of the year.
If you have easy access to an Asian market, look for this bag of Pho Spices in the spice aisle. It’s called “Gia Vi Nau Pho Bac” and is a combination of anise seeds, cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds, clove seeds, and coriander seeds. It’s not a spice packet with questionable ingredients or preservatives; it just contains most of the spices you need in one place, with the added convenience of a sachet to hold them in. If you can’t find this spice packet, no worries – just buy the spices separately and grab a piece of cheesecloth and string to make a sachet to keep your spices together.
Making this popular Vietnamese noodle soup is easier than you think.
- 1 (4" piece) ginger, cut in half lengthwise
- 2 extra large shallots, peeled
- 1 (1.5 oz.) packet "Gia Vi Nau Pho Bac" seasoning packet OR 1/4 C. TOTAL of anise seeds, cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds, clove seeds, coriander seeds, in even amounts
- 1 additional cinnamon stick
- 3 additional anise seeds
- 2.5 lbs. beef oxtails
- 2.5 lbs. beef chuck soup bones, preferably with some meat pieces attached
- 6 quarts water
- 2 Tbsp. salt
- 1/4 C. rock sugar
- 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1 lb. "bo vien" (Vietnamese meatballs)
- 1/4 C. fish sauce
- 2 (16 oz.) packages of "banh pho tuoi" (fresh pho noodles)
- fresh bean sprouts, cilantro, green onion, basil, mint, white onions, jalapenos, limes, hoisin sauce, sriracha hot sauce, for garnish
- 1 lb. beef ribeye or eye of round, thinly sliced
Set a toaster or conventional oven to 300 degrees. Place the ginger and shallots in the oven. Pour the remaining Pho Spices onto a piece of foil, and crumple the foil around the spices to make a ball. Place the foil ball into the oven. Toast for approximately 15 minutes while you start the next step.
Fill a large stockpot halfway with water. Bring to a boil.
Add the beef oxtails and soup bones to the boiling water and stir for one minute. Pour the stockpot contents into a colander over your sink to drain. Rinse the drained meat well to wash off any scum. Set aside. Rinse the pot well to use for the broth.
Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in the stockpot. Add the blanched beef oxtails and soup bones to the boiling water. Turn heat down to as low as possible.
Remove the toasted Pho Spices from the oven. Gently smash the ginger with the base of a frying pan. Place the ginger, cinnamon sticks, and shallots directly into the stockpot. Pour the small Pho Spices into the enclosed sachet or a cheesecloth, tie tightly, and add to the stockpot.
Add 2 Tbsp. salt, 1/4 C. rock sugar, and 1 Tbsp. sugar to the broth.
Cook broth for one hour at a very low heat level that maintains just below a simmer. During this time, skim any scum that rises to the surface, to keep your broth clear.
After the first hour of cooking time has passed, add 1 lb. of "bo vien" Vietnamese meatballs to the broth. Remove these meatballs after 30 minutes, and set aside.
After the meatballs have been removed, add to the broth 1/4 C. fish sauce. Cook the broth for another hour. (While waiting, cook your noodles and prepare your garnish.)
After a total cooking time of 2.5 hours, the Pho Bo broth is ready. Remove the tender soup bones from the broth and set aside to cool. Any chunks of meat from those bones can be pulled off and used as "well done" meat for your Pho Bo.
To assemble, place noodles in a bowl and top with choice of meats, chopped onions, green onions, and cilantro. Make sure to bring the broth to a boil before ladling over the noodles & meat. Top with hoisin sauce, sriracha, jalapenos, fresh lime juice, bean sprouts, and fresh mint. Enjoy!
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