Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Pho - Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

Since visiting the Viet Wah grocery store, I got excited about making Vietnamese food at home and one of my favorite dishes is Pho. This is one of the national dishes of Vietnam. Some people think that it was influenced by the French Pot au Feu, but the Northern Vietnamese swear they were making this before the French arrived. 

If you've been following me for a while, you know how much I love soup and Pho is the equivalent of a Beef Bone Broth with delightful Asian flavors. I go to Vietnamese restaurants quite regularly to order this wonderful soup as it is so nourishing and so delicious! This soup builds blood and it turns out that it is a lot easier to make than you think. I got to talking with one of the cashiers at the market and she told me how she makes it, so this is the recipe you are getting today. It took a total of 3 hours to make the broth, which can be done ahead. The Beef Broth is cooked with charred Onion and Ginger first and then with Star Anise, Cinnamon and Clove. These lovely spices make the house smell wonderful and give the broth it's exotic flavor! 

I used a combination of Beef Neck Bones along with Beef Shank with the bone in. Shank is one of those meats that can be cooked for a really long time and then still tastes good. Oxtails, Beef Brisket and Beef Marrow Bones are also recommended. If you want to be like the Vietnamese restaurants, you can add some very thinly sliced Beef Round to the Rice Noodles and pour the broth over, which cooks the meat. This version is called Pho Tai. You can also make Vietnamese Meatballs, which can be bought frozen at Vietnamese Markets. I'll post a recipe for these soon. The garnishes for Pho include Thai Basil, Cilantro, Green Onions, Thinly sliced Red Onion, Fresh Bean Sprouts and Sliced Jalapeños as well as slices of Lime to squeeze on top. Seasoned to taste with Sriracha and Hoisin sauce, it is a wonderful meal that is eaten as breakfast in Vietnam, but is so good any time of the day

Pho - Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

2 pound Beef Neck Bones
2 pounds Beef Shank, bone in
Optional:  Beef Brisket or Oxtails in equal amounts
Water to cover and blanch
16 cups Water to make broth
1 large Onion, unpeeled
1 3-inch piece of Ginger, skin on
1 Cinnamon Stick (about 1 1/2 - 2 inches long)
1 large Star Anise or 2-3 smaller ones
1 whole Clove
3 - 4 teaspoons Salt
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon White Pepper

1 pound package of dried Rice Noodles

For Garnish:  
Fresh Beansprouts, one handful per serving (about 1/2 cup)
3 Green Onions, trimmed and sliced
1/4 cup thinly sliced Red Onion
1/2 cup Cilantro Leaves
Thai Basil - about 6 - 8 leaves per bowl
Two Limes, cut into 6 slices each
2 Jalapeño Peppers, cut into thin rings

Optional:  1 pound thinly sliced Beef Top Round or Vietnamese Beef Meatballs

For Serving:  Sriracha and Hoisin Sauce

Heat oven to Broil. Put in Onion and Ginger on a baking sheet and cook until the skin is charred, turning once. Remove from oven when done and peel onion and cut into quarter.  Cut Ginger into thin slices.

Meanwhile, in a large Soup Pot, put in the Beef Neck Bones and Beef Shanks. Cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat for 3 minutes.  Drain and add in fresh water and put in the Onion and Garlic. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Skim any foam that comes to the surface. Cook for 2 hours.  

Then add in the Star Anise, Cinnamon, Clove, Salt, Sugar and Pepper.Add a little extra water if the level has gone down a lot. Simmer for an additional one hour. Then cool down the soup and remove the bones and meat. Cut the meat up into small pieces, discarding fat and gristle. Strain the broth to remove the Onions, Ginger and Spices. The broth can then be put into the refrigerator or freezer for later use. 

Once you are ready to make the Noodle Soup, cook the Rice Noodles in boiling water or 3 - 5 minutes (or as package instructions suggest). Drain and rinse with cold water.  Put into individual bowls about 1/3 of the bowl. Add in the sliced Beef or Meatballs. Reheat the Broth until boiling and ladle over the noodles and meat, being sure to scoop up some of the chopped Beef Shank. Serve with Garnishes and Sauces and add to individual taste.

Five Element Analysis

Soup is always considered part of the Water Element and this soups is made with Bones, which makes it even more Watery. But it is made of Beef Shank and that kind of meat belongs to the Earth Element. The Ginger, Spices, Cilantro, Thai Basil along with the Green and Red Onion contribute the Metal Element and the Rice Noodles add even more Metal. The Bean Sprouts and Lime Juice bring in the Wood Element. The Fire Element is seen in the Sriracha and Jalapeños, making this a perfectly balanced bowl of soup!

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