Pho (pronounced Fah) is my go-to meal when hubby or I come down with a cold. Yes, I’m a good Jewish girl, but the magical combination of aromatic spices and peppery heat have the edge over a pot of chicken soup in my galley. I can make chicken soup with my eyes closed (figuratively!), yet every attempt at the signatory pho broth has eluded me until this recent creation during a particularly rotten bout of snuffy noses and sore throats. O.M.G!!! It is beyond delish!
I took a shortcut by using beef bouillon instead of making my own stock as I didn’t have the extra three hours necessary to roast and simmer the beef bones. The real secret in this broth comes from toasting the spices and roasting the veggies, and the chuck roast adds a definite depth of beef flavor.
Variations: I wouldn’t stray too far from this broth recipe. In my humble opinion (and hubby agrees), it is absolute perfection. You could change up the toppings a bit: if you aren’t fond of mung bean sprouts, try thinly sliced Napa cabbage for the crunch … substitute thai or other pepper varieties for jalapenos … offer torn or julienned mint or cilantro instead of basil. The sauces can also be changed up. Hoison and chili are traditional, but straight up siracha or plum sauces would also be tasty.
- 1 large yellow onion, halved with skin removed
- 1 large garlic head, halved with skin left on
- 1 ginger hand (approximately 6 inches), halved with skin left on
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons peppercorns (I used Phu Quoc peppercorns from Vietnam, which have a slightly bold, tobacco flavor)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 4 pods star of anise
- 3 heaping tablespoons beef bouillon (I’m super-fond of the Better Than Bouillon brand in the reduced sodium variety)
- 12 cups (3 quarts) warm water
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1 pound boneless chuck top blade roast
- 14 ounces flat rice noodles
- 1/4 pound thinly sliced rare deli roast beef
- 3 cups mung bean sprouts
- 1 jalapeno pepper sliced thin (If you don’t like heat, remove the seeds; if you like heat, add the top and bottom of the pepper to the broth when simmering)
- 1 large lime, quartered
- Hoison and chili sauces
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Brush the onion, garlic and ginger halves with olive oil, place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt.
- Roast for approximately 15 minutes and turn pieces over with tongs. Roast another 15 minutes until slightly charred on both sides. (If necessary, turn up the heat to broil and place directly under heat for a few minutes to get the char.)
- While the veggies are roasting, place the peppercorns, cinnamon sticks and star anise pods in a small skillet. Over medium high heat, toast until the peppercorns start to pop and the star anise and cinnamon sticks are just browned, shaking the skillet often; for about five minutes.
- In a large pot, combine the roasted veggies and toasted spices. (Note: we like our soup spicy, so I also threw in the top and bottom of the jalapeno pepper after slicing.)
- Combine the bouillon and fish sauce with the warmed water until thoroughly mixed. Pour into the pot.
- Cut the roast in half and add to pot.
- Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover.
- Gently simmer for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes and skimming off any foam.
- Turn off heat and remove meat from broth. Allow broth to sit for 30-60 minutes then remove veggies and spices with a slotted spoon and discard. Pour broth through a fine sieve into a large container.
- You can refrigerate broth and meat for up to two days. If you refrigerate, let both sit on counter for 15 minutes to bring to room temp before preparing to serve.
- Cook the noodles according to directions, erring on the side of al dente as you don’t want mushy noodles. You can do this in advance and refrigerate. The hot broth will warm them.
- Slice cooked roast as thinly as possible. Slice deli roast beef into two inch strips.
- Prepare individual or group plates with basil leaves (I like to julienne them; others prefer to tear), sprouts, jalapenos and limes. Serve with hoison and chili sauce on the side.
- Bring broth to a boil.
- Divide noodles into large soup bowls and ladle broth on top.
- Serve immediately with toppings and sauces for folks to create their very own perfectly flavored soup!
Serves 4. If I had a freezer, I’d double this recipe and freeze it to make a quick future meal!