Vietnamese Pho – Beef Noodle Soup

Vietnamese Pho – Beef Noodle Soup

Vietnamese Pho – Beef Noodle Soup

Soup Name: Vietnamese Pho – Beef Noodle Soup

Traditional Chinese Name: 越南牛肉河粉 (yuè nán niú ròu hé fěn) with a direct translation of “Vietnamese Beef Rice Noodles”. This is the Cantonese way of saying in Hong Kong, and I tried very hard to follow a traditional recipe!

Nature:  Slightly warming

Taste: Savory, sweet, and bitter

(You can read this article on the impact on your body of different food tastes!)

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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!

    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!

      What’s involved?

      Prep time: 30 mins

      Cook time: 3 hours

      Total time: 3 hours 30 mins

      Serves: 8 bowls

      Ingredients
      • 4-5 pieces of fresh beef bones
      • 2 fresh onions, halved
      • 2 fresh ginger pieces (2″ long each), halved
      • 1 cinnamon stick
      • 1 tbsp of coriander seeds
      • 1 tbsp of fennel seeds
      • 5 whole star anise
      • 1 cardamom pod
      • 6 whole cloves
      • 1/4 cup of fish sauce
      • 1 inch chunk of rock sugar
      • 1/2 tbsp of salt
      • additional salt to taste
      • 3 L of water

       

      • 1 pack of dried Vietnamese noodles
      • 1 pound of fresh beef slices
      • fresh limes
      • fresh cilantro
      • fresh mint leaves
      • fresh basil leaves
      • fresh bean sprouts
      • 2-3 fresh chilli peppers, chopped small

        Equipment you’ll need

        Thermal pot cooker. I use this to keep the broth cooking while I stepped away for a few hours before dinner. It saves energy and cooks for me! 

        Soup bag.  This fine meshed recyclable, reusable bag is perfect for your dried ingredients. Minimal clean up and it keeps it altogether.

        Fine mesh scooper. Perfect for oil, foam, debris from your soap.

        Stainless Steel roasting pan (for your onions, bones, spices). One of my fave brands and perfect for all sorts of roasting needs. Love the handles and 

        My fave silicon heat resistant ladle. It’s got a huge volume, easy to clean, and perfect for soups!

        Cooking Instructions
        1. In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the beef bones to remove impurities, scum and fat
          2. Using an oven, char the halved onions and ginger in a pan until nicely browned, remove from oven and let cool
          3. Start to boil your soup water in a separate large pot
          4. 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
          5. Boil on medium heat for at least 3 hours (or use a thermal pot to keep the heat in and conserve energy)
          6. Prepare the noodles by soaking them or following the instructions on the package
          7. Taste the soup at this point on whether you need to add more sugar, fish sauce or salt and add accordingly
          8. In a serving bowl, lay the bottom with sliced fresh onions, bean sprouts and noodles
          9. Blanch the freshly sliced beef quickly in the soup and lay on top of the noodles
          10. Ladle enough soup to cover the sliced beef and noodles
          11. Add as desired, fresh mint leaves, cilantro, basil, bean sprouts, parsley, chilli peppers and lime
          12. Serve and enjoy!

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