Vietnamese Beef Pho

No matter the situation, if you look hard enough you’re bound to find a silver lining. Something that makes all the hell you’re going through worth it, or just something you want to take with you. I’ve posted several times about my experience with corporate cooking, how it wasn’t a good fit and how I felt completely and utterly stifled. Yet, I was able to find a food to fall in love with, Pho.

Pho is a beef and noodle soup that started in the north of Vietnam and made its way south until it became a country staple and is traditionally it is eaten as a breakfast food. Variations are numerous and you can add a myriad of ingredients that I haven’t used in this recipe. Other Pho might use, shrimp, chicken, peppers, offal or meatballs.

At the casino, there was a large contingent of Asian gamblers. This was one of the reasons that corporate decided to move the corporate Asian chef to Colorado. Specific dishes were added to the menu to appeal to these gamblers, Pho being one. For all the grief I give corporate America when it comes to food, once in a while, and I hate to admit it, they get something right.

The Pho was rich with a homemade veal stock, simmered for 24 hours, scented with ginger and spices. I could smell the stock cooking next to my kitchen; I couldn’t wait for the next fresh batch. It was prepared on the buffet a la minute. I would trade the little Asian cook great slabs of medium rare prime rib for a bowl of pho, brimming with tender beef, rice noodles and bean sprouts. I had a bowl on my last shift. Then I set to making my own at home. This is what I came up with this morning; I’ll be making it again…

Vietnamese Beef Pho
8 cups veal stock (you can substitute sodium free beef broth)
1 shallot, rough chopped
1 medium yellow onion
1 piece of ginger, approximately 3 oz.
3 green onions, rough chopped
1 lime
4 star anise
1 tsp whole peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seed
1 cinnamon stick, approximately 2 inches (you can substitute ¼ tsp ground)
3 Tbs. fish sauce
1 oz soy sauce

1. With a pan or the back of a knife, smash the unpeeled ginger to soften it up.
2. On a grill or in a cast iron pan, preferably in a grill to avoid the smoke in a kitchen, char half the onion (reserve the 2nd half for service) and the 3 oz. of ginger till it blackens on the outside lightly.
3. Place those onions and ginger in a large heavy bottom sauce pot.
4. Half the lime and squeeze one half into the pot, place the used lime in the pot as well.
5. Add the veal stock, shallots, half the green onions, star anise, peppercorns, coriander seed, cinnamon, fish sauce and soy sauce.
6. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.
7. Strain into a 2nd pot and reserve.

Assemble the Pho

1 lb beef top round, trimmed and shaved thin
1 lb rice noodles
2 Tbs. basil, chiffonade
¼ cup cilantro leaves
½ yellow onion, sliced thin (use the 2nd half from the recipe above)
3 scallions, sliced thin
2 oz crimini mushrooms, sliced
Sriracha (optional)

1. Soak the noodles in room temperature water until pliable.
2. Return the broth to the heat and bring to a hard boil.
3. In 4 bowls, divide the meat, noodles, basil, cilantro, onion, scallions and mushrooms.
4. Pour the broth into the four bowls and allow to sit for 2 minutes, garnish with a tsp. of sriracha and serve.

6 Responses

  1. chris says:

    So first you make a French style white veal stock with raw bones and raw mirepoix.

    Then you use that stock as a base to add your charred Pho aromatics.


  2. Quynh Anh says:

    The French onion soup looks nice but the Pho is not very correct. I’ve never since shrimp, meatballs added in Pho, being a Vietnamese living in Vietnam for almost 20 years.
    To make the stock, the correct way is to use beef bone and cook for along time. And there is no mushroom in the soup either.

  3. Helene says:

    Hard to beat a good bowl of Pho soup. Even when the weather gets hot, it still has a great cooling and satisfying effect.

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