recipe for vietnam’s classic noodle soup
Alan Rosenthal has just released his delicious new cookbook stewed! 80 Irresistible stews and One-Pot Wonders. It’s a feast of international dishes, from jambalaya and curries to tajines, and best of all, the 80 recipes are economical, tasty, comforting and simple to make at home.
Alan travelled the world researching this book, so Intrepid Express asked Alan what was his favourite dish in Vietnam, and his answer was instantly pho. This iconic dish is so delicious and healthy and thanks to Alan, now you can give it a try…
Vietnamese beef pho:
Pho is the classic noodle soup that has become one of the hallmarks of Vietnamese food. Packed with fresh coriander, mint and basil, this wonderful dish captures the essence of Vietnamese food perfectly.
Pho can vary from one region to another or from one family to another, but it will always consist of a fragrant hot broth poured over rice noodles with fresh herbs, bean sprouts, noodles, chilli and lime. Seafood, chicken or beef are then commonly added to create a wonderful complete meal. Like much of the food in southeast Asia, the finishing touches are made at the table; an extra squeeze of lime, a few more slices of chilli, a little bit more fish sauce… it’s up to you to make is just how you want it!
To make a truly authentic pho, it’s really important to make a really good stock, which is the backbone of the whole dish. And that means having the time to do it! Once the stock’s made, the rest is pretty quick.
For the broth
2kg beef shin with bone – ask your butcher to slice it into 3-4cm thick pieces
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks
5 star anise
7 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1tsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp salt
4 tbsp fish sauce
5 ltrs water
For the bowls
300g thick flat rice noodles (bahn pho) – if you can’t find these use any other rice noodle
250g beef sirloin or fillet
150g bean sprouts
3 tbsp roughly chopped coriander leaves
1 spring onion finely sliced
On the side
Bunch of fresh coriander
Bunch of fresh mint
Bunch of Thai basil
Red hot bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced
First, remove any loose skins from the onions and place them, along with the unpeeled ginger, under a hot grill for about 15-20 minutes. Turn the onions and ginger fairly frequently. The skins will blister and turn black in parts. This is absolutely fine – you’ll be releasing some of the sweetness from the onions which will impart their flavour on the broth. Now allow them to cool before removing the onion skins and roughly peeling the ginger and giving it a bash with a rolling pin to bruise it.
Place the beef in a large, deep saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for a few minutes until scum rises to the surface. Drain the shin, give the bones a rinse under the cold tap to remove any more impurities and give the pan a quick scrub. Return the beef bones to the clean pan, cover with 5 litres of water and slowly bring to simmering point. Throw in the peeled grilled onions, the ginger and the carrots.
In a dry pan on the hob, roast the star anise, cloves, cinnamon and black peppercorns for a couple of minutes until the colours of the spices darken a little and you can smell the aromas being released. Add the roasted spices to the beef, carrots and water. Add the fish sauce and salt to the broth and allow to simmer, very gently, for 3-4 hours depending on how much time you have.
Strain the broth; the meat from the beef shin should still be quite tasty so pull this off the bone and set aside. Keep the broth warm on the stove. Cook the noodles following the instructions on the packet. Whilst you’re waiting for the noodles, thinly slice the beef (as thin as you dare!).
Now assemble the pho. Place a heap of noodles at the bottom of 4 large soup bowls followed by several strips of beef and scatter around some pieces of the reserved cooked shin. Ladle the broth over the top, submerging the beef to cook it. Finally sprinkle coriander leaves and sliced spring onions on top.
Serve fresh coriander, mint, Thai basil, sliced chillies, bean sprouts and wedges of lime in bowls on the side for people to take as they please.
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