Pho Bo Recipe (Vietnamese Beef Rice Noodle Soup)


You know the reason why I love Phở Bò. It’s very much like Bakso or Baso (Indonesian Beefball Soup).  Again bakso is varies between each region in Indonesia. Just like bakso, to make a good pho bo, you will need a good broth.  I enjoy broth soup very much on the other hand my husband loves creamy and thick soup.

Let’s start with how to pronounce the word Phở. The dish is pronounced “fuh” or will be pronounced “fah” in Indonesian and not “foo” or “foe” or “puh”

Back to the history of Phở that I know all you can read on wikipedia. It is originated in the early 20th century in northern Vietnam. The specific place of origin appears to be southwest of Hanoi in Nam Dinh province, then a substantial textile market, where cooks sought to please both Vietnamese (with local rice noodles, of Chinese origin) and French tastes (cattle were beasts of burden before the French arrived, not usually a source of beef). It was first sold by vendors from large boxes, until the first phở restaurant opened in the 1920s in Hanoi.

Phở is served in a bowl with a specific cut of white rice noodles (called bánh phở’) in clear beef broth, with slim cuts of boiled beef (steak, fatty flank, lean flank, brisket). Variations feature tendon, tripe, meatballs in southern Vietnam. While Phở Gà (Chicken pho) is made using the same spices as beef pho but the broth is made using only chicken bones and meat as well as some internal organs of the chicken such as the heart, the undeveloped eggs and the gizzard.

For this recipe, I followed Wandering Chopstick (who has been my favourite resources for Vietnamese recipes) and Steamy Kitchen guidances with a bit changing after several times browsing on the internet what spices that can include to make a good broth for Phở. Some Asian stores sell spices for Phở in a mesh (spice) bag for your convenient. I myself have all the spices in my pantry and a reusable spice bag. This reusable spice bag is very useful to make broths. You will need beef bones with some marrows inside too. But too much marrow will make your broth too fatty. About 20% bones with marrow will be ok.

This recipe goes for the first challenge of idfb (Indonesian Foodie Bloggers) with a theme “Food by Its Country“.

Phở Bò
Vietnamese Beef Rice Noodle Soup

Ingredients:
THE BROTH
1 onion (454 grams or 1 lb)
6 cloves garlic
8-centimeter (3-inches) knob of ginger, halved lengthwise
2.3 kilograms (5 lbs) of good beef bones, preferably leg and knuckle
10 cloves
3 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 tablespoon fennel seed
5 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 carrot, cut into several sections
1 Chinese daikon (lo bak), cut into several sections
celery, cut into several sections
20-centimeter (8-inches) sugarcane stick, cut into 5 centimeter (2-inches) long
7-liter (7.4-quarts) water -> If you don’t use tendons, you can add the amount of beef bones
2 tablespoon Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese fish sauce), or more according to taste
2 teaspoon salt, or more according to taste

SERVINGS
2 packages of fresh banh pho (rice noodles)=> you can always use dried banh pho
cooked sliced beef*, beef tendon*, tripes*, beefballs (mostly Vietnamese restaurants in North America serve only with cooked sliced beef and beefballs)
cilantro, finely chopped
green onions, finely chopped
half an onion, thinly sliced
bean sprouts
Thai basil
limes, sliced in quarters
bird’s eye chilies
culantro (sawtooth coriander or ngo gai)

Methods:
Char Your Spices
Stud the cloves into the onion. Then, halve the onion. Turn your broiler on high and move rack to the highest spot. Place ginger and onion on baking sheet. Broil on high until ginger and onions begin to char. Turn over and continue to char. Smash your garlic and char with your spices (cinnamon, star anise, cardamom pods, coriander seeds and fennel seeds) as well. The charring brings out the aroma in the spices. This should take a total of 10-15 minutes.

Parboil The Bones and Tendon:
Fill your large pot with cool water. Boil water, and add the bones and tendon (if you use tendon), keeping the heat on high. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse the bones and rinse out the pot. Refill pot with bones and 6 Liter (6.34-quarts) of cool water. Bring to boil over high heat and lower to simmer. Using a ladle or a fine mesh strainer, remove any scum that rises to the top.

Boil Broth:
Remove studded cloves off from the onion. Put cloves, garlic and other char spices into a spice bag except ginger and onion. Toss the spice bag, ginger, onion, garlic, carrot, sugarcane, daikon, and celery, into the pot.

Once the broth starts to boil, turn the heat to medium-low and allow it to simmer for 2 hours or longer. To make a good broth, it will take longer hours. The more time you are simmering it, the more flavour you’ll get. It’s important to keep the heat low to remain the broth clear.

After the broth has simmered for several hours, turn the pot off and let it cool down. To separate the fats that you get from the goodness of marrow, you need to refrigerate overnight. The fat will be a solid layer that you can just remove with a spoon.

Once the fat is removed, turn the heat on high. When the broth re-boils, turn the heat down to medium-low and let it simmer for several more hours. Add salt and fish sauce to taste. It’s important to check the broth periodically and season it if you have to. Remove from the heat.

Serving preparation:
For the broth

  • A few hours before you’re ready to eat, remove the beef bones and any fats that are left on the surface of your broth. With a tong, remove your spice bag and other spices.  Or use a colander to strain your broth. .
  • Trim any meat that’s still on the beef bones and add it to the broth. Add beef meatballs. Season again with salt or fish sauce to taste if you need.

For Noodle, Meat and Other Complements:

  • When you’re ready to eat, turn the heat to high to get the broth boiling.  Slice your beef tendon and tripes if you use them.
  • Make a garnish platter for the table of the bean sprouts, basil, culantro (sawtooth coriander), slice onions,  lime quarters, chopped green onions and cilantro.
  • For some fresh rice noodles, just a quick 5 second blanch in hot water.  If you use dried rice noodles, follow the directions on your package of noodles. There are many different sizes and widths of rice noodles, so make sure you read the directions.
  • Turn the heat back on high so the broth is boiling.  Assemble your bowl with the noodles on the bottom, then raw beef slices on top.  When you pour the boiling broth over the meat, the hot broth will cook the meat.

Enjoy your bowl of pho while it’s still hot.  Squeeze over some limes to your likeness, add bean sprouts, basil, and culantro. Sprinkle over cilantro and green onion. Adjust the heat and sweetness  by adding chopped chilies chilies or  chili sauce and hoisin sauce.

About the Author

An Indonesian born who lives in Winnipeg, Canada for more than a decade and decided to move a bit west. Edmonton is now where she is based on. Indonesia Eats is a memoir of her homeland.