One of my favourite soups of all time is the Vietnamese beef broth that is made for pho noodles, or specifically, Vietnamese Pho Beef Noodle Soup. I first truly learned it while travelling to Vietnam and took a cooking course given by locals, and my life has never been the same! After learning the original base, you can pretty much tweak it as you like. The good thing is that I live in Asia, and all the ingredients are readily available. The challenge is that to make a good beef soup base, you need to boil it for quite some time – we’re looking at a solid 3 hours or more (like all broths). Even if you can’t find all the ingredients, no worries – just improvise!
Soup Name: Vietnamese Pho – Beef Noodle Soup
Traditional Chinese Name: 越南牛肉河粉 (Yuè nán niú ròu hé fěn)
If you want to skip my running commentary, just go to the bottom for the full, quick-read recipe.
First, you need FRESH ingredients. I’m talking about fresh beef bones, fresh vegetables, and fresh beef slices. For this round, I used beef ribs. They are giant bones, so you’ll need a giant pot! I use a thermal pot to save electricity and it does the boiling for me so I can go out! The recipe usually calls for fresh beef knuckles or leg bones (with plenty of marrow goodness) – but these tend to be more fatty in nature, so just be sure to skim off the oil (and scum) when it surfaces.
Start by blanching all the bones in a separate pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes. This will remove impurities, scum and oil off the bones in preparation for your soup.
You can also begin to char the fresh ginger and fresh onions – usually done with an oven or on an open flame. This will bring out the wonderfully natural flavours of these ingredients. I can already smell the onions as they broil in the oven and I’m not even on to making the soup yet!
Next are the spices. In Asian supermarkets, you can usually buy them pre-packaged as a bundle, but if not, you’ll need a handle of each for the flavouring. Pick up some star anise, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon sticks, fennel, and coriander. You’ll also need a soup mesh bag to keep all the spices together because at some point, you’ll need to remove them and it’s way easier this way!
For the soup base, you’ll also need fish sauce, salt, and rock sugar. In the meantime, just throw in the blanched beef bones, charred ginger and onions, spices, salt, fish sauce and rock sugar into a large pot of boiling water and boil uncovered for at least 2 – 2.5 hours.
I was taught that at around this point, you should remove all the floating ingredients of the broth and taste test the soup for saltiness or flavour. You can adjust the taste by adding either more fish sauce, more salt or more sugar depending on what fits your taste. Do this in small amounts so that you never go overboard because it’s pretty darn hard to remove dissolved salt – or at least correct without adding more water, which will then dilute the beef stock. I personally don’t even take out the ingredients and taste it like that and serve. Whatever tickles your fancy as a chef.
Also start to soak your dried Vietnamese pho noodles. Soak in a large pot of cool water for at least 15 minutes – or whatever the instructions of the noodles are. You can even use Thai noodles, Chinese rice noodles, or whatever noodles you like. Actually, it doesn’t really matter because you’re eating it!
At this point, I lay out the bowls – layering first the bottom with thinly sliced fresh white onion rings and bean sprouts. Or you can leave it up to your guest to lay their own, kind of like a buffet.
Put in noodles to the bowl, as much as you’ll eat. I then blanch the fresh beef slices quickly in the broth and lay them on top as well and then ladle out that heavenly soup goodness so that it covers the beef completely. Be sure the soup is still boiling at this time. Top with fresh mint, cilantro, parsley, basil, more bean sprouts, chilli peppers and lime to finish it off. And ta-da! Yummy Vietnamese Pho, made from scratch!
- 4-5 pieces of [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/fresh-beef-bones/”]fresh beef bones[/url]
- 2 [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/onions-fresh/”]fresh onions[/url], halved
- 2 [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/ginger-fresh/”]fresh ginger[/url] pieces (2″ long each), halved
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tbsp of coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp of fennel seeds
- 5 whole [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/star-anise/”]star anise[/url]
- 1 cardamom pod
- 6 whole cloves
- 1/4 cup of fish sauce
- 1 inch chunk of [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/rock-sugar/”]rock sugar[/url]
- 1/2 tbsp of salt
- additional salt to taste
- 3 L of water
- 1 pack of dried Vietnamese noodles
- 1 pound of [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/beef-slices/”]fresh beef slices[/url]
- fresh limes
- fresh [url href=”http://www.thechinesesouplady.com/chinese-parsley-or-cilantro/”]cilantro[/url]
- fresh mint leaves
- fresh basil leaves
- fresh bean sprouts
- 2-3 fresh chilli peppers, chopped small
- In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the beef bones to remove impurities, scum and fat
- Using an oven, char the halved onions and ginger in a pan until nicely browned, remove from oven and let cool
- Start to boil your soup water in a separate large pot
- Once your soup water boils, add in the beef bones, onions, ginger and spices (put into a mesh bag), fish sauce, rock sugar and salt
- Boil on medium heat for at least 3 hours
- Prepare the noodles by soaking them or following the instructions on the package
- Taste the soup at this point on whether you need to add more sugar, fish sauce or salt and add accordingly
- In a serving bowl, lay the bottom with sliced fresh onions, bean sprouts and noodles
- Blanch the freshly sliced beef quickly in the soup and lay on top of the noodles
- Ladle enough soup to cover the sliced beef and noodles
- Add as desired, fresh mint leaves, cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, parsley, chilli peppers and lime
- Serve and enjoy!