Sunday, March 21, 2010

#46 Vietnamese Beef Pho

Vietnamese Pho

Since we discovered how wonderful the Vietnamese restaurant in our neighbourhood is, it’s become a tradition for us to go there for lunch almost every Saturday. And we follow a general rule never to go to the same place twice – so breaking our own principles says something about their Pho soup. It is THAT GOOD!!!
I tried a few times to recreate this soup at home with more or less good results. This last attempt I think was the most successful (so much so that my husband pronounced me the “Pho-master” :).
If you decide to cook it, make sure you have a nice piece of beef – leg or other cut on the bone!, ideally with the marrow still attached; and do not rush it – long cooking time is important for achieving the deep flavour of the stock.

To serve 2, as s very generous main meal

For the stock:
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
2 star anise
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 green cardamom
1 tsp coriander seeds
10 black peppercorns
2 medium onions, halved
3 cm ginger, sliced lengthwise
3 l water
300 g beef shank
2 lemon grass sticks
¼ cup fish sauce
20 g palm sugar
juice of ½ lime

To finish the soup:
100 g Vietnamese flat Pho noodles
1 handful bean sprouts
1 red chilli, sliced
fresh Thai basil leaves (or ordinary Italian, if Thai is not available)
fresh Vietnamese mint leaves
fresh coriander leaves
1 lime, quartered

Heat a deep stock pot and dry roast the spices. After 3 minutes take them out and set aside.
Lower the heat and put the onion and ginger halves in the pot, dry roast for 5 minutes, or until the onion surface caramelises. Take out.
Pour the water in the pot and when it comes to the boil add the beef. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes and skim off the impurities.
Add the spices, roasted onion, ginger, lemon grass, fish sauce and sugar to the pot and simmer on very low heat for at least 3 hours.
Check the meat – it should be falling off the bone at this point, and take out if it’s cooked. Continue boiling the stock until it’s reduced to 500 ml.
Strain the stock through a fine mesh. Put it back in the pot and reheat.
Slice the meat and put it into the stock. Check the seasoning, adding salt if needed. Squeeze the lime juice in.
Cook the noodles according to packet instructions. Divide between two big bowls.
Top with the meat and stock.

In a side dish, serve lots of fresh herbs, chilli, lime and bean sprouts for each diner to add as much as they like.

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