Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)
Adapted from the amazing "Hot Sour Salty Sweet" by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
In addition to highly recommending The Lotus Eaters, I also highly recommend Hot Sour Salty Sweet. It is one of those massive (and expensive) cookbooks that is both a coffee table book and cook book - and both aspects - the photography and recipes - are amazing. If you have any interest in Southeast Asian food or travel get this book! It is pretty old now so maybe you can get it for a decent price! This recipe was a bit time consuming for the broth, but it was a really special broth, much of it now happily sitting in my freezer, ready to use in a multitude of ways.
5 pounds oxtails or beef short ribs
6 quarts water
5 star anise
One 2 inch cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon black peppercorns (admission here, totally forgot these)
2 to 3 inch piece of ginger
2 medium onions, cut in half
1 pound stewing beef
5 tablespoons Vietnamese or Thai fish sauce
salt to taste
1 pound thin or medium dried rice noodles, soaked in water for 15 minutes and drained
Garnish and Accompaniments
2 cups bean sprouts, rinsed
1 pound eye of round or other boneless lean beef, very thinly sliced across the grain into 1 to 2 inch long slices
1/2 cup Asian Basil or sweet basil leaves (I ended up substituting mint)
1/2 cup coriander leaves
3 shallots thinly sliced
1 or 2 bird or Serrano chilies, minced
To make soup: Place the oxtails or ribs into a large pot, cover with cold water, and bring to boil. Boil vigorously for 5 minutes, then drain. Rinse out the pot well, rinse off the oxtails or ribs and place back in the pot. This is supposed to clean the beef. As you can see, I used oxtails.
After you add the oxtails or ribs back to the pot, add 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add the spices. Now, if you have a gas stove, you should (carefully!) char the outside of the onions and the ginger using the burner flame. I unfortunately don't have a gas stove, so instead I heated up a fry pan really hot and charred the onions and ginger on that. I used a dry pan and just let the outside of the onion and ginger burn. Once you char this stuff add it to the pot.
Let the broth boil gently, uncovered for about 30 minutes. Skim off any scum/foam that rises to the surface. Add the remaining two quarts of water, bring back to a boil and continue to gently boil skimming off foam. After about another 20 minutes, lower heat and continue to cook for another hour. Then add the stewing beef and fish sauce and cook, uncovered, for another 2 hours until the meat is tender. Remove the beef from the soup and slice very tender. (Note: I did not end up saving the stewing beef for inclusion in the final pho, cause my beef looked gray and icky. It is your call).
Remove the soup from the heat and remove all solids/strain. Let the stock cool, then refrigerate, covered, for at least two hours. This refrigeration will help separate the fat so you can remove it. You can already see a layer of fat, below, before I even refrigerated it. It is important to get rid of this stuff or the pho will be greasy.
To cook the noodles, bring a large pot of water to a boil, drop in the rice noodles and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer to a colander and rinse with cold water, set aside.
For the condiments, I created a plate with limes, herbs, shallots, sprouts and chilies.