I’m positive that most all of you food lovers out there in the blogosphere have enjoyed pho, that quintessentially Vietnamese soup that’s equally messy and delicious. Especially those of you who live in larger cities, where there tend to be a delicious variety of ethnic restaurants.
Myself, I never indulged in pho until just recently, when my daughter took me to a well known Vietnamese restaurant that she and her husband frequent in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And I was thoroughly satisfied after my very long and patient wait.
The soup is a flavorful broth with noodles, beef slices, and bean sprouts, although there are other versions, including a vegetarian pho, available at this restaurant as well. But then here comes the fun part. You get to add Sriracha, hoisin sauce, cilantro, basil, lime juice and sliced jalapenos.
It would be so fun to have a pho party some time, just set up a bar of fun pho ingredients. But the only negative is how messy it is to eat. So maybe I won’t do it. Scratch that idea.
However, I did want to make pho at home from scratch, since I can’t go to any restaurant where I live and order it. I based my recipe that I’m posting here on one I found online from Food and Wine.
Beef short ribs* and pork neck bones, about 6 pounds total
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
4″ piece fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
Rock sugar – I used a few brown sugar cubes
First place all of the meat and bones in a large pot. Add water to cover by at least 1″.
Bring the meat and bones to a boil.
Meanwhile, add a little oil to a skillet, and sauté the onion and ginger until there’s a little color on them.
Place the cloves, allspice, cinnamon, fennel seeds and bay leaves in a muslin bag, or a piece of tied up cheesecloth and set aside.
After the meat and bones have reached a boil, pour the water off. You may have to wait until things cool down a bit so you don’t get a meat and bone facial over your sink. They will look like this.
Then cover the meat and bones with water again, add the onion and ginger, the bag of spices, and the sugar cubes.
Bring the pot to a boil again, then cover and simmer for at least 2 1/2 hours. Let cool.
Place a colander over a large bowl and pour the whole thing into the colander. Place the bowl of broth in the refrigerator overnight.
You will be left with a lot of bones.
Remove any good meat from the beef short ribs, place the meat in a sealable plastic bag, and refrigerate overnight.
The next thing to do is make a spicy oil to add to the pho:
Heat 1/4 cup of plain, tasteless oil in a small pan on the stove over low heat. Add 4 cloves of chopped garlic, 2 tablespoons of crushed red pepper flakes, a tablespoon of sesame seeds, and a pinch of salt. Just let the ingredients “warm” in the oil for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, and store the pan in the refrigerator.
The next day, remove the fat from the broth, and then pour it back into a pot to heat on the stove. Taste the broth and add salt if you think it needs it.
Get the spicy sesame oil out of the refrigerator and strain it into a small bowl. Save the goodies to throw into a stir fry.
Meanwhile, get out your other ingredients:
Meat from short ribs
To serve the pho, start by ladling the hot broth into a large bowl. Add some noodles and bean sprouts. Add some beef, and then sprinkle on the jalapenos, cilantro, and basil. Squeeze some lime into the pho as well. And then season everything by adding Sriracha and hoisin sauce, to taste. But you’re not done. Then add some of the spicy sesame oil on the top.
Pho is typically eaten with a porcelain spoon in combination with chop sticks, but I don’t own one of those spoons.
verdict: I’m glad I made this once. This pho was really remarkable. The broth was fabulous and flavorful. But I think the spicy sesame oil was the biggest hit of all. Making pho from scratch isn’t much work – it’s just time consuming. And then I found this:
* The recipe called for oxtails, which I can’t get here.