Category Archives: Soups

Pho-tastic Pho

I have been on the hunt for the BEST Pho recipe ever for at least 5 years now. I have asked so many Vietnamese for a recipe but they often dodge the question or simply shrug and say, ‘It’s just beef soup!’ If only it were that easy…

Yesterday I embarked on a 5 hour cooking bonanza and I tried a new recipe I found on the SBS website and Inside Cuisine (the recipes are exactly the same!). Apparently it is Luke Nguyen’s recipe but the SBS site doesn’t give him credit for it… who ever made this recipe, they deserve a thousand Pho-kisses because I will love them long time for it. 🙂

I now realise the difference between all the crappy recipes and this awesome one lies in using Cassia Bark NOT Cinnamon (Same, same but different? I think not!) AND char-grilling the garlic, ginger and onion prior to roughly chopping it and adding it to the stock. The char-grilled onion was an immediate reminder of the Pho I tasted in Vietnam and the traditional Vietnamese restaurants I visit every time I go to Melbourne or Sydney. I’m salivating just thinking about it… mmm.

So what do you do with your Pho that isn’t in this recipe? Have you got a better recipe?

The condiments

The condiments

The Pho-king Pho-tastic Pho!

The Pho-king Pho-tastic Pho!

2kg (4 lb 8 oz) oxtail (ask your butcher to chop it into 3cm/11/4 inch pieces)
4 tbsp salt
1 unpeeled garlic bulb
4 large unpeeled onions
150g (51/2 oz) unpeeled ginger
2kg (4 lb 8 oz) beef brisket
185ml (6 fl oz/3/4 cup) fish sauce
80g (23/4 oz) rock sugar
1.6kg (3 lb 8 oz) fresh rice noodle (you will need about 200g/7 oz per person)
400g (14 oz) trimmed sirloin, thinly sliced
4 spring onions (scallions), sliced freshly ground black pepper
Coriander (cilantro) sprigs
2 birdseye chillies, sliced
1 lime, cut into wedges

Spice pouch
8 cloves
5 star anise
2 cassia bark, about 10cm (4 inch) in length
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
40cm (16 inch) square piece muslin cloth

In a large pot, submerge the oxtail in cold water, add 3 tablespoons of the salt and soak for 1 hour, then drain.

To make the spice pouch, dry roast each ingredient separately in a frying pan over medium heat until fragrant.

Cool, then coarsely grind using a mortar and pestle or small spice grinder. Add the ground spices to the muslin square and tie up tightly in a knot. Set aside.

Heat a barbecue grill or chargrill pan over medium-high heat and grill the unpeeled garlic, onions and ginger evenly for 15 minutes in total until all sides are blackened.

Now peel the blackened skins and discard them, and then roughly chop. (By doing this, the garlic, onion and ginger becomes sweet and fragrant, releasing more flavour into the stock.)

Put the oxtail, brisket and 6 litres (200 fl oz) of cold water in a stockpot and bring to the boil. While the stock is boiling, constantly skim any impurities off the surface for 15 minutes (this will ensure a clean, clear broth), then reduce the heat to a low simmer.

Add the fish sauce, remaining 1 tablespoon of salt, rock sugar, garlic, onions, ginger and spice pouch.

Cover and simmer for 3 hours, or until the stock has reduced to almost half.
Strain the stock through a muslin cloth. Remove the brisket, set aside to cool, then thinly slice.

Blanch each portion of noodles in boiling water for 20 seconds.

Drain, then transfer to a serving bowl.

Place three or four slices of brisket on top of the noodles, followed by three or four pieces of raw sirloin. Pour over the hot stock to cover the noodles and beef.

Garnish each bowl with 1 tablespoon of spring onion, a pinch of black pepper and a coriander sprig.

At the table, add chilli and a squeeze of lime.

Southwestern Chicken Soup

As you all know (well the regular readers anyhow), I recently went on a last minute trip to Los Angeles (and Toronto) to see my sister (and brother). While I was there I enjoyed all the liberties that come with not living in a compound and country where going for a leisurely stroll is out of the question. It was great 🙂 One of the liberties I enjoyed was great food and my sister did not disappoint when she made this soup for me.

I have always thought that one of the best things about getting out of PNG for a bit is the fact that I could roll around in the aisles of the grocery stores if I wanted – and believe me I have wanted to just out of sheer delight at the selections. BUT the funny thing is that since my trip, I have started to notice all the things that I can get in a supermarket over here that aren’t part of the standard stock in Australia.

We have a new supermarket in town – yes peoples that is BIG NEWS! Many of us made a special trip down there just to check it out and be amazed at what we believe will be temporary cleanliness (but I must comment on how they are obviously taking great pride in their new supermarket… I have NEVER seen cans of baked beans lined up so perfectly on a shelf- I will attempt a sly photograph on my next shopping excursion). Anyhow, back to the point… I tried to get Black Beans in Australia and had to go to a specialty store if I were to find any but they had some in the supermarket here (PNG) AND I wanted powdered sugar and found it easily here! I guess there will be some conveniences I will miss…

So the Southwestern Chicken Soup…


2 Chicken Breasts (cut into stirfry strips)
1 Litre Chicken stock
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can Pinto Beans
1 can Black Beans
1 cup frozen corn
1 green capsicum (pepper)
1 red capsicum (pepper)
1 tin small green chillis, chopped (I used 5 fresh small green chillis)
1 medium onion cut into wedges (I then halved those wedges)
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garlic powder
salt to taste
Fresh coriander to taste
2 tbsp Lime juice

1. Sear the chicken in a fry pan and just before removing from the pan, pour lime juice over it and then place it in the slowcooker.
2. Place the rest of the ingredients into slowcooker, except coriander. Stir to mix.
3. Turn slowcooker on for 6 hours.
4. At the 5 hour mark, add the coriander (as much as you prefer) then leave for the remaining hour
5. Serve or freeze.

Potato and Leek Soup

My husband has been sick with the flu the last few days so it has been soup all round every night. I tried out this new recipe inspired by Margaret Fulton the other day. I’ve had to make some more to get a picture of it because we enjoyed it so much we devoured it right away.

I made changes to the original recipe to suit my own tastes so the recipe as I made it is below:

Potato and Leek Soup

60g butter
2 onions, finely sliced
3 leeks, trimmed, washed, then cut into thin slices
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cups Chicken stock
3/4 cup white wine
4 tbsp thickened cream
salt and pepper
flat-leaf parsley to garnish

1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium to low heat
2. Add the onions, leek and potatoes. Cover and continue to cook gently until soft and pale golden
3. Add the stock and wine and simmer for 10 minutes
4. Put mixture in blender and puree
5. Place puree back in medium saucepan and simmer
6. Add cream and stir
7. Serve and season with salt and pepper; garnish with parsley.

1. If using home made chicken stock, add 6 cups of chicken stock
2. When I don’t have home made chicken stock on hand, I use the Massel brand of chicken stock cubes as it is my most favourite for flavour and for all those vegans out there, there is no animal content.