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?
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
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.