Light, fresh and unbelievably flavourful Pho Bo is, in my opinion, the best hot summer soup out there. Text: Eileen Smith
It may seem like a lot of work for a few bowls of soup, but trust me, you won’t regret the effort!
Talk to your butcher about getting the beef bones, they usually have some on hand. Happy cooking!
Vietnamese Pho Bo (Beef and Rice Noodle Soup)
Serves 8-Note: if cooking for less, keep broth portion the same, but halve the bowl ingredients. Extra broth can be stored for another time.
2.5kg good quality beef bones (20% leg bone with marrow and 80% knuckle)
450g good quality beef meat, such as rump or chuck, cut into big slices
4 large shallots (about 450g) and a 6-inch (15cm) piece of ginger, cut in half
8 star anise, 6 whole cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 cardamom pod and 1tbsp coriander seeds, all lightly toasted in a dry pan
30g sugar, ideally yellow rock palm sugar but cane sugar is ok too
1tbsp sea salt
4tbsp fish sauce
6 litres water
What to put in the bowls
1kg rice stick noodles (1/8 inch (0.3cm) wide), follow preparation instructions on packet
250g beef, such as eye of round or fillet, slightly frozen and sliced as thinly as possible
1 onion, sliced paper thin and soaked in cold water for 30 minutes
3 spring onions, green part only, thinly sliced
1 big bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
1 big bunch of Thai basil, whole leaves
450g bean sprouts
1-2 red chillies, finely sliced (optional)
2 limes, sliced into wedges
Freshly ground black pepper
Hot sauce (preferably Sriracha Hot Sauce)
First, you need to char the shallots and ginger over an open flame (or using your oven grill setting). Lightly brush them with a little vegetable oil and slowly char, turning here and there. This should take about 15 minutes. Rinse to remove any blackened parts and remove skins. Set aside.
Next, you need to parboil the bones. Fill a large stockpot with cold water and add bones. Bring to a boil for 8 minutes. This releases the impurities from the bones. Drain and rinse the bones under water. Clean the pot. Return the bones to the pot and add your 6 litres of cold water. Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Skim off any scum that rises to the top using a large spoon or ladle. Add your charred ginger and shallots, large slices of beef, spices, sugar, salt and fish sauce. Simmer for 1½ hours then remove the slices of beef, cool in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes, remove, then set aside for use later. Continue to simmer the broth for an additional 1½ hours. Strain the stock using a fine mesh strainer or lining a sieve with muslin. Taste and adjust seasoning using a balance of fish sauce, salt and sugar until it tastes delicious to you. Remove some of the fat that rises to the top using a spoon or, alternatively, refrigerate the broth and then scoop out the congealed fat, making sure to leave a little. Fat is flavour!
Divide the rice noodles into your bowls. Top with a handful of the thinly sliced onions, some of the raw beef as well as slices from the cooked beef (from making the broth). Top with a generous sprinkle of the chopped coriander, a dash of the pepper and a few slices of chilli, if using. Bring the broth to a vigorous simmer and ladle over the raw and cooked beef to warm it through. On a large plate, arrange the bean sprouts, Thai basil and lime wedges for your guests to garnish their soups themselves. Don’t forget to put the hoisin and hot sauce on the table for those who like these additions. Enjoy!