As a child I can remember the fragrant smell of Phở cooking in the kitchen. The aroma of all of the spices is something that brings back lot of good childhood memories. Phở is a common meal found throughout Vietnam. The flavors differ slightly from different regions, but the base ingredients are the same.
Phở became wildly popular about ten years ago with shops popping up like mushrooms everywhere. I was surprised to see how popular it became because it was something I had been eating forever. Though we did make this at home, occasionally we would go out for it. I always followed the suggestions of my mom and her friends as they were the "Vietnamese Food Critics" and were so picky about everything they ate. I knew that if they gave the restaurant their approval then it must be amazing!
Making Phở at home is a lengthy process, but well worth the effort. You can make a double batch and freeze the extra broth to use at a later time. We always make a double batch and freeze the broth in quart size bags for single serve portions. Freezing the broth will not change the amazing flavor!
Okay, so once you get together all of your ingredients, it is time to begin. You will need to have a large dutch oven, stock pot, cheesecloth, baking string, and all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go. Ready, set, go!
2 3-inch pieces unpeeled ginger (cut in half lengthwise) 2 onions (peeled) 5 pounds beef marrow or knuckle bones (usually these are in your frozen section in the meat department) 2 pounds beef chuck (cut into 2 pieces) 2 scallions(cut into 4-inch lengths) 1/3 cup fish sauce (some grocery store have this or visit your local Asian grocery store) 2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar 8 star anise* 6 whole cloves* 1 cinnamon stick* 2 teaspoons fennel seeds* 2 teaspoons coriander seeds* 1 tablespoon salt 1 pound dried or fresh pho noodles (your local Asian grocery store will have a ton of different varieties) 1/3 pound beef sirloin (slightly frozen, then sliced paper-thin against the grain)
Beef meatballs (you can find these in the freezer section of your local Asian market)
*You can toast these spices ahead of time (see step 6 below)to save time
Garnish: Hoisin sauce Sriracha sauce Chopped scallions Chopped cilantro Bean sprouts Fresh basil-torn into rough pieces Lime-sliced into 8 wedges Finely ground black or white pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place rack in the middle of your oven. Place all of your beef marrow and knuckle bones and two sliced onions in a roasting pan or dutch oven. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook for approximately 45 minutes.
2. Place the roasted bones, roasted onions, and beef chuck in large stockpot and add 5 quarts of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low.
3. Add the ginger, scallions, fish sauce and sugar. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the beef chuck is tender, about 40 minutes. Skim the surface often to remove any foam and fat.
4. Remove one piece of the chuck and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Then transfer this piece of beef to a container and refrigerate (you will slice this to serve with your pho later. If you were to leave it in the pot, it would be too dry to eat). Leave the other piece of chuck in the pot to flavor the broth.
5. Now toast the spices (star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, and coriander seeds) in a pan over medium low heat for about 3 minutes, until fragrant. Use kitchen string to tie up the spices in a piece of cheesecloth, and add it to the broth. Make sure you tie this tightly so none of the spice pieces escape.
6. Cover the pot and continue simmering for another 4 hours. Add the salt and continue to simmer, skimming as necessary, until you're ready to assemble the rest of the dish. Taste the broth and adjust seasoning by adding more salt, sugar, and/or fish sauce as needed.
7. To serve, boil the noodles according to package instructions. Add to a bowl. Place a few slices of the beef chuck and the raw sirloin on the noodles. Bring the broth to a rolling boil and ladle it into each bowl. The hot broth will cook the beef. Garnish with your toppings, add 1-2 tbsp of Hoisin sauce and Sriracha to taste. Mix in the Hoisin, Sriracha, and the juice of one lime slice a bit before eating. Sprinkle with finely ground pepper and enjoy!