Everything great and wonderful about pho aside, it is a LOT of work to make. Still, the dearth of good pho in NYC spurred me to just invite a few friends over and attempt to make it. Luckily the hard work paid off! I was happy enough with the results that I thought I’d share the recipe. I adapted a recipe from steamy kitchen and made the pho with my 2 favorite meats: well done brisket and rare steak. I also like tripe, and my cousins certainly like fatty flank, but I just didn’t get around to making those this time. Every Vietnamese mother has her own recipe that they boast as the best, so feel free to be creative with your own variations and substitutions. Comments on how to improve my recipe are welcome!
Ingredients (makes 5 servings):
- 5 pounds of beef bones – I got mostly leg bones, you can use other bones. The more marrow there is, the more rich and fattier your broth becomes – but too much can make your broth overly greasy
- 1 pound of brisket – you can use chuck too.
- 1/2 pound of Eye of Round (for thit tai aka rare steak), thinly sliced – you can use london broil or sirloin, I know my mom likes to use Costco Filet Mignon but she’s fancy.
- 1 packet of frozen Bo Vien (beef meatballs)
- 1 piece of ginger, mine was about 4 inches long. If you really like gingery broth, get a bigger piece
- 2 Onions
- 2 Green Onions
- 1 large Daikon – this is for making the broth sweet, you could use MSG instead but I didn’t
- 1 stalk of lemongrass chopped into 2 inch chunks – if you really love lemongrass, add more why not
- 1 Packet of Pho spices – generally containing cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, cardamom, and cloves
- 1.5 pounds of pho noodles
- Fish sauce (concentrated version), salt, and sugar – to taste
- 1 bunch of cilantro
- 1 bunch of basil
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- 5 handfuls of bean sprouts
- Sliced thai chili peppers – quantity depends on how spicy you like it. Jalapenos work too.
- Sriracha and Hoisin sauce
- Put bones into a large stockpot, and cover with twice the volume of water.
- Bring the water to a low simmer and let the bones simmer for 10 minutes. This gets rid of a lot of the impurities in the bones that you won’t want in your stock. You’ll see a lot of nasty brown bits float up to the top as you let the bones simmer. I’ve heard that excessive stirring is not recommended since it might emulsify the dirty bits into the broth.
- While the bones simmer, chop the onions and ginger in half, and brush with a bit of oil. Toast the ginger and onion under the broiler for approximately six minutes, and then flip the onion and ginger over and toast the other side for another 6 minutes.
- Take the bones out when they’re done simmering, and then shock them in a tub of ice water. Rinse the bones.
- Put the bones back into cold water, and bring the water back to a simmer. Be careful about getting rolling boiling water, since it’ll coagulate the proteins and result in a cloudy broth. We generally want a smooth silky broth.
- Once the water is simmering, add the ginger, onion, spice packet (mine came with a fine cloth bag to put the spices in and dump into the pot), brisket and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours. Every half hour, take a fine strainer and skim off the impurities that float to the top.
- After 90 minutes of simmering, take out the brisket, and set aside to eat later.
- Continue simmering for another 1 1/2 hours, remembering to skim the top for the impurities.
- After simmering for 3 hours, strain the broth. I tossed the daikon, onions, ginger, etc. but kept the bones and picked the meat off the bones. The meat on the bones is still pretty tasty, and there’s a lot of it! No sense in wasting it.
- Taste the broth, and add fish sauce/salt/sugar as to your taste. My broth was pretty sweet from the daikon, so I didn’t add any sugar. I also didn’t add extra fish sauce, but put the bottle at the table for my friends to add as they liked.
- (Optional) My own broth was not greasy at all, but if you had used different bones with more marrow or used a fattier brisket/chuck, you can get rid of the excess fat (if you want) by refrigerating the broth for a few hours and then skimming off the solid fat buildup.
- Each packet of noodles will have instructions, but mine basically said boil for 5 minutes and then shock in ice cold water.
- For the frozen bo vien meatballs, just boil them in water until they start floating up and are warm.
- If you didn’t buy your eye of round/sirloin/filet presliced, slice as thinly as possible
- The brisket will have been cooked in the broth.
- On a large platter, pile up the bean sprouts, basil, lime wedges, peppers, and cilantro.
- Reheat the broth, cut the green onions and some cilantro, and add the greens to the broth at the last minute before you serve.
- Put the cooked noodles in a bowl, add as much meat as you’d like (including the eye of round), and then just pour hot broth into the bowl.
- Serving the pho with vinegared onions are also pretty great but I didn’t make any this time around.
- ENJOY! Excessive slurping recommended.
Charred onions and ginger:
Making the broth:
The silky soup after straining:
The plates of meat: thinly sliced eye of round, brisket, beef balls, and the bits of beef that were attached to the bones used for the soup.
Condiment platter. Those thai chilis are pretty hot, you can probably punk a friend by adding some secret chilis into their pho. Should probably be a close friend who either eats spicy food or has a strong forgiving nature.