It was on my visit to Vietnam that I properly discovered Pho. Each region seems to have it’s own variety, but it was in Hanoi where I found my love – a meaty broth, with slices of rare beef and crisped garlic.
I’m not a noodles fan, so I eat this without the pho worms – stacking up on meats and vegetables and the broth itself.
It’s not difficult to make – but it’s a slow cook so good for a weekend or to prepare the day before. And you can pimp it however you wish, so I pop on a podcast and listen while I’m pulling together little bowls of freshness with which each guest can pimp their pho.
Prepare the meat:
- 1 kg Oxtail
In a large pot, place the meat and cover with around 2 litres of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
What you will find is an alarming amount of grey-ish foam comes to the surface of the water – this is denatured proteins which are harmless and tasteless, but looks horrible and will make your final broth cloudy and grey-ish in colour. So we are going to get rid …
After 15 minutes, empty the water from the pot through a colander. Rinse the meat under cold running water to get rid of the remaining bits attached to the meat. Clean the pot, then pop the meat back into the pot and cover with another 2 litres of fresh, cold water.
Creating the broth:
- 1 onion, quartered
- thumb of ginger, sliced
While the meat is boiling, char the onion and ginger in a dry, hot pan until they are blackened on the outside. Remove from the pan and add to the pot with the cleaned meat & water.
- 3 Star Anise
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 1 tsp Fennel Seeds
- Coriander Seeds
Add the spices to the dried pan and toast lightly. Add these to the pot.
- 50ml Fish Sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp salt
Add the fish sauce & sugar & salt – give the pot a good stir.
Simmer gently, and skim for 2 hours. At this stage, remove the brisket and set aside. When the brisket is cooled, slice.
Continue simmering for a further 2 hours, topping up with water as necessary to ensure the meat is always covered.
Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a clean pot. Pick meat from oxtails and set aside along with the brisket – discard everything else. Top up the broth with water – or reduce – to reach 2 litres.
Taste and if necessarily, season broth with additional fish sauce and/or sugar. It should be highly seasoned.
- Coriander Leaves
- Mint Leaves
- Fresh Red Chillies, sliced
- Limes, quartered
Put the coriander leaves & mint leaves & bean sprouts & sliced fresh chillies & limes into individual bowls – place these in the centre of the table so guests can help themselves.
- Beansprouts / Baby Corn / sliced Mangetout / sliced Spring Onions
Take a selection of vegetables, slice them up and blanch them in boiling water for 2 minutes. Set aside.
- 4 garlic cloves
Thinly slice 4 garlic cloves. Fry in a little oil until crispy, but not burnt. Remove from the oil and leave to dry on a paper towel.
- 200g sirloin steak
Slice up the sirloin steak into very thin strips (freeze the steak beforehand to firm up if this makes slicing easier – but bring to room temperature before serving).
- Pho Noodles, cooked and cooled
Warm up the broth until hot. Divide the noodles into individual bowls, then top with equal quantities of the oxtail & brisket & sirloin & vegetables & crispy garlic.
Pour hot broth over noodles and meat to reheat. Serve immediately, allowing guests to top the broth as they wish.