making pho broth is no harder than any other soup stock. You throw a bunch of ingredients into a pot, let it make magic for a couple of hours, and voila - you've got pho broth! if I can't convince you of how painless it is, the latest issue of Lucky Peach might be able to. part of the reason for starting this blog was to help make asian food more approachable to everyone. this recipe might not be your vietnamese grandma's, but it does the trick. we add japanese kombu as an umami booster rather than MSG, and then turn the umami up some more with fish sauce.
this recipe can be viewed as a template for whatever combinations you desire. the secret to good pho is in the broth, and from there you can branch out and experiment with whatever not-quite-rotting produce is hiding in the dark corners of your fridge.
1.5 kg (3.3 lbs) beef bones
1 large onion, cut in half (keep the skin on)
4 L water
3 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 dried guajillo peppers (optional, toasted for 10 seconds in the microwave)
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 sheet kombu (Japanese seaweed - found at your local Asian market)
15 g (4 x 1/8"-1/4" slices) fresh ginger
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
pho noodles, soaked in cold water and blanched (see note at the bottom)
grilled chicken OR
thinly sliced raw beef flank (found in the freezer section of your supermarket, usually for fondue chinoise, or get some from your neighbourhood butcher)
bean sprouts (we forgot to buy them and used sugar snaps from the garden instead!)
onion, thinly sliced
pepper to taste
gluten free hoisin
In the oven or on the grill, roast bones at 400F until browned, about 15 minutes.
At the same time, roast the onions until charred (blackened, but not too burnt), about 15 minutes as well.
In a dutch oven or large stock pot, combine water, cloves, star anise, cinnamon sticks, dried guajillo peppers, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, kombu, fresh ginger, sugar and fish sauce. Add the bones and onions when they are ready.
Simmer on low for a minimum of 2 hours, and skim foam and fat periodically. You could also cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour in a pressure cooker.
Strain the stock through a sieve to separate the broth from the bones and spices. If you are serving immediately, skim as much fat as possible. Otherwise, refrigerate, let cool, and skim off the solidified fat. Reheat to a boil before serving.
Serve in a large soup bowl. First, place cooked pho noodles at the base of the bowl. Put thinly sliced red onion and protein of choice on top, then pour pho broth overtop of the noodles.
On a separate, communal plate, serve raw bean sprouts, thai basil, cilantro, lime wedges, sriracha and gluten free hoisin sauce. Each person eating can then customize their own bowl: lime for acidity and brightness, herbs for an earthy flavour, bean sprouts for crunch and to cool the broth if it's too hot, hoisin for umami and sriracha for heat.
Customize with your favourite toppings and proteins! Extra broth can always be stored in the freezer and defrosted in a jiffy.
Pho noodles are labelled banh pho or rice stick in asian markets. They are also readily available at most western supermarkets and sometimes come in different widths. We prefer the medium or thin format, but it's a matter of personal preference.