by Nicole Shoemake (POPSUGAR)
If you’re not familiar, pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup. I’d equate it to their version of chicken noodle soup, but funnily enough, it’s oftentimes eaten at breakfast as a hearty start to the day.
The base of the soup, made up of beef bones, cinnamon, star anise and a few other spices, is simmered well over 24 hours, creating a broth that’s so intoxicating, you almost lose your breath when you first catch a scent. Every cook has their own family recipe, each with its own tweaks and “special’ ingredients, making it difficult to find the perfect recipe that will taste just as you remember.
Once the broth is complete, thin rice noodles are simmered until soft, and then the meat is added in. What I love about pho is that instead of throwing the beef or chicken into the simmering soup, the meat is first put in the serving bowl and then the hot broth is poured over the raw meat, slowly cooking it and avoiding a rubbery end result. Each patron is then left to dress their soup as they see fit with fresh lime, bean sprouts, cilantro, jalapeños and in some cases, sriracha and hoisin sauce.
Three things that are a must, even in a cheater pho: bone marrow bones, cinnamon, and star anise. While bone marrow sounds kind of scary and exotic, I can bet my life that your butcher has plenty behind the counter. Even though the cooking time is reduced, the bones transfer an incredible amount of savoriness into the soup that can’t be replicated any other way. Cinnamon and star anise are the spices that play a leading role in the broth, while ginger and garlic give off a more subtle essence in the finished product.
Once the broth has simmered for about an hour (significantly less time than the original version), the rice noodles are added in and then the broth is gently poured into a bowl filled with very thinly sliced sirloin filet — my go-to cut of beef as of late. My grocery store didn’t have bean sprouts in stock, so I garnished my soup with lots of freshly squeezed lime juice, cilantro, and thinly sliced jalapeños for a kick of heat.
Cheater Vietnamese Pho (Pho Bo)
3 beef bone marrow bones
50 ounces beef stock (unsalted)
16 ounces water
1 medium onion, cut in half
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 3-inch piece of ginger, smashed
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce, plus more for garnish
3 star anise
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon salt
1 package thin rice noodles
16 ounces beef sirloin, cut into VERY thin pieces
Plenty of cilantro, lime, jalapeño, and beans sprouts for garnish
1. Place beef bones in a medium saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until all the impurities have risen to the top of the water. Transfer bones to a large stockpot and discard the water.
2. To the bones, add the beef stock, water, onion, garlic, ginger, hoisin, spices, and salt. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour.
3. Strain broth, discard cooked ingredients.
4. Bring the broth back to a boil and add rice noodles, cook until soft.
5. Place beef in the bottom of a soup bowl, and cover with boiling broth. The heat from the broth should cook the beef.
6. Garnish with lime, cilantro, jalapeño, and hoisin sauce.