There’s little I like more than settling in for a ginormous bowl of pho, the classic Vietnamese soup of long-simmered broth, rice noodles, thinly sliced meat and fresh herbs. It’s hydrating. It’s nourishing. It tastes delicious. And, like all really good traditional foods, it’s relatively simple to make.
Pho’s Secret is in its broth.
Pho’s broth is richly savory, deliciously silky owing to the large volume of gelatin beef bones give the broth, and wonderfully fragrant with spices like clove, cinnamon and star anise. Developing these flavor typically takes plenty of time. You need to simmer bones and spices together over a period of several hours and up to a day, but you can take a short cut and still dole out a gorgeous bowl of pho – only quickly.
The secret is to prepare (or purchase) a gelatin-rich, long-simmered bone broth in advance, and then drop in your spices and simmer them in the hot broth as you prepare your quick pho’s garnishes and other ingredients. It’s a technique I write about in this book on broth and stock making.
- 1 1 ⁄2 pounds top sirloin
- 1 yellow onion halved
- 1 3-inch knob fresh ginger, halved
- 2 pods star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick about 3 inches long
- 1 teaspoon coriander seed
- 1 ⁄2 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 whole cloves
- 2 quarts Long-Simmered Roasted Beef Bone Broth recipe here or purchase it here
- 1 ⁄4 cup fish sauce I recommend this additive-free version
- 8 ounces dried Vietnamese-style flat rice noodles Find them here.
- 4 green onions cut on the diagonal into 1-inch-wide slices
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 bunch Thai basil
- 1 bunch mint
- 2 limes quartered lengthwise
- 2 jalapeños thinly sliced
- 1 ⁄4 cup hoisin sauce
- 1 ⁄4 cup Sriracha sauce
- Place the meat in the freezer, this will make the meat easier to slice thinly.
- Drop the yellow onion and ginger along with the star anise, cinnamon, coriander, fennel seeds, and cloves into a 4-quart pot and then pour the broth over the vegetables and spices. Add the fish sauce and bring it all to a simmer over medium-high heat.
- While the broth simmers, set the rice noodles in a deep mixing bowl and cover them with boiling water. Leave them in the hot water until tender but not mushy, about 10 minutes. When tender, drain them in a colander.
- While the rice noodles soak in the hot water and the broth simmers, arrange the green onions on a serving platter. Separate the leaves of cilantro, Thai basil, and mint from their stems. Arrange the herbs and bean sprouts, as well as the limes and jalapeños, on the serving platter alongside the green onions.
- Take the meat from the freezer, and then slice it against the grain into wafer-thin pieces. Arrange the sliced meat in a small bowl. Spoon the hoisin sauce and Sriracha sauce into separate bowls.
- Arrange about one-quarter of the noodles into a nest in each of four individual bowls and then strain about 1 1⁄2 cups broth over the noodles into each bowl, taking care that no spices from the simmering broth make their way into the bowls.
- Serve the bowls of steaming-hot noodle soup. Encourage everyone at the table to add herbs, peppers, meat, and hoisin sauce, individualizing the seasonings and additions in their bowl as it suits them.
Good Broth is Good for You
Long-simmered bone broth is particularly rich in easy-to-absorb protein, and contains traces of minerals, too. If you’re making your own, use a variety of bones. Meaty bones, like neck bones and shanks, will give your broth its flavor while jointed bones, like oxtails or knuckle bones, will imbue your broth with gelatin which not only gives you a great source of easy-to-absorb protein, but also good broth’s characteristic silkiness.
Other Broths and Soups You’ll Love
A staple of traditional cuisines across the world, broths are rich in protein, as well as easy and economical to make. You can find plenty of broth-making tips and techniques, as well as recipes, in Broth and Stock or check out the plentiful soup recipes here, but I’ve included some of our favorites below.
This Thai-Style Chicken Soup is made by simmering fragrant herbs like lemongrass and lime leaf in chicken stock, before dropping in chicken and chiles and swirling it altogether with coconut milk.
Vietnamese Beef Stew is made with flavor-forward spices like star anise and clove, simmered together with inexpensive beef chuck and potatoes.
Korean-Style Seafood Soup is always a favorite, with plentiful vegetables, hot chiles, fish, clams and shrimp.