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Vietnamese Phở Bò

10 Jul

Phở bò, or Vietnamese beef noodle soup, is Zak’s absolute favorite meal ever.  He says he ate it every day for a year in college and I don’t doubt it for a second.  About three out of every four times we go out to dinner, it’s to our favorite Vietnamese joint for big, steaming bowls of rich, flavorful, delicious, and filling phở bò.

Honestly, I can’t believe that I’ve waited this long to try my hand at homemade phở.  I guess I figured it was hard to make and wouldn’t live up to Zak’s high expectations.  It has a lot of ingredients and a lot of steps, but it really isn’t hard to make and doesn’t require a lot of time in the kitchen.  In fact, most of the recipe is hands off and the most difficult part is assembling the garnish.  We both really, really enjoyed this and were pleasantly surprised by how authentic it tasted.  The broth was fragrant and delicious and the real backbone of this soup, so taste early and often and make adjustments as necessary.  Zak ate this again today for breakfast, so it must have passed the mustard in his eyes, which is all I could have hoped for.

Vietnamese Phở Bò

Adapted from Epicurious


2 lbs. beef knuckle bones

2 lbs. beef marrow bones

2 lbs. beef stew pieces

2 3″ pieces of ginger

1 very large sweet onions, greens attached if possible

1/4 cup fish sauce

10 whole star anise

6 cloves

3″ cinnamon stick

1 tbs. sugar

1 tbs. salt

Hold ginger and onion over an open flame on a gas grill with tongs or place on a gas or charcoal grill, turning occasionally, until edges are slightly blackened and ginger and onion are fragrant.  I would estimate it would take 5-6 minutes over an open flame per side.  It took 10-12 minutes per side on a charcoal grill with the coals banked to one side.  Alternatively, you can roast under a preheated broiler for 10-15 minutes, turning halfway through, until slightly blackened and fragrant.  Let cool and peel ginger and onions.  Set aside.

In a large stock pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil.  Meanwhile, place the bones and beef chuck in a separate container and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and boil vigorously for 5 minutes to remove impurities and prevent cloudiness in the broth.  Carefully strain the bones and meat from the boiling water and rinse with warm water.  [See Note 1 after the jump for a picture of why this is imperative.]

Transfer bones and meat to the 6 qts. of boiling water.  When water returns to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and skim the surface of any foam and fat.  Add charred ginger and onion, fish sauce, and sugar.

As broth simmers, add star anise, cloves, and cinnamon stick to a small hot skillet over medium heat.  Toast 2-3 minutes until fragrant.  Transfer to a piece of cheese cloth or spice packet and tie shut.

Add spice packet, sugar, fish sauce, and salt and let broth simmer, skimming froth and fat occasionally, 2-4 hours, tasting frequently.  If the beef flavor becomes overwhelming, remove beef pieces from the broth.  If the spice becomes too overwhelming, remove spice packet from the broth.  If necessary, add extra fish sauce, salt, or sugar.  I simmered the broth for about 4 hours.

Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to a rolling boil.  Add noodles and cook 4-5 minutes until al dente.

Place noodles and thinly sliced sirloin in the bottom of two bowls.  Spoon broth over and serve with remaining bowl ingredients for garnish.

The Bowls:

1 16 oz. package bahn pho noodles (see above)

3/4 lb. top sirloin, frozen for about 15 minutes and sliced as thinly as possible

1/2 large sweet onion, sliced paper thin on a mandolin

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

2 limes, cut into wedges

1 jalapeño, thinly sliced

2 cups bean sprouts

Sriracha, to taste

Hoisin, to taste

Serve with bowls and customize to taste.

[See Note 2 below for a picture of our garnish tray.]

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