Pronounced “FUH”, this traditional Vietnamese breakfast soup is my go-to comfort food. During their month-long stay in Vietnam, my parents watched people slurping up this soupy goodness on the streets, and came to love it themselves. At Thuan Tinh Island Cooking School in Hoi An, my mother learned the secrets to Pho, and passed them on to me. Though not the simplest of recipes, Pho is worth the effort, as it is comforting and packed with nutrition and flavour.
1 pack dry Pho noodles (450 g)
500 g beef bones
200 g beef flank
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. black pepper
2T + premium fish sauce
1 beef bullion cube
100 g beef tenderloin, (optional)
1 thumb-size ginger knob
8 star anise
1 small cinnamon stick
1 cup bean sprouts
1-2 scallions, sliced thinly on the bias
Handful Thai or sweet basil
1 Lime segment
Red chilis or jalapenos
5 sprigs Cilantro
Salt to taste
Wash the bones and flank. Put in a large pot and cover with 2.5 liters of water. Bring to a boil then simmer at low heat. Skim from time to time. Season with 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 tsp. black pepper, 2 T premium fish sauce, 1 cube beef bullion. Simmer stock for 1 hour.
Set the flank aside to cool. Slice finely across the grain. The flank should be tender but not falling apart.
Grill the cinnamon, ginger and shallots or toast in a frying pan. Glean the shallots and ginger, then crush slightly. Grill or toast the star anise. Add these spices to the broth and continue to cook for 30 more minutes. Remove spices.
Taste the broth, and add seasoning or water at this point to your preference.
Soak dry rice noodles in hot water for 15 minutes. Meanwhile bring a pot of water to boil. Blanch bean sprouts in water for 1 minute and remove to a tray to stop the cooking. Cook soaked noodles in boiling water over high heat for about 45-60 seconds. Drain and place noodles in a large bowl.
Top the noodles with 8-10 slices of flank and thin slices of raw tenderloin. Sprinkle with chopped scallions. Cover with boiling broth. Add 4-5 thin slices of shallots, basil, chills, and squeeze lime over to taste. Add extra fish sauce if desired.
Recipe courtesy of: Thuan Tinh Island Cooking School, Hoi An, Vietnam
Images courtesy of Becky Steere and Mare Odomo.