Monday, September 26, 2011

Homemade Beef Broth & Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup: Pho

Beef Noodle Soup- Pho

I've gone a little crazy for Vietnamese and Thai food in the last couple weeks.  The cravings started when my mom was visiting and wanted to take us out for Vietnamese.  The kids had pho and my mom and I had noodle salad.  The flavors of mint, Thai basil, cilantro and rice noodles continued to linger on my mind long after the lunch. Fortunately, we are blessed with a family of adventurous eaters so they'd welcome an Asian cooking spree.

After that lunch outing, I went home and chose a couple recipes from one of my favorite Thai cookbooks and a Pho recipe from another favorite cookbook, wrote up a shopping list and headed to our local Vietnamese/Asian grocery.

Shopping in an Asian grocery store can be a bit intimidating, but it can also be a great learning experience.  When you're on the search for food you've never heard of packaged with labels you can't read, it can get a bit frustrating and overwhelming, but be open to asking questions.  I've learned so much asking fellow shoppers or grocery employees questions.  There was one Asian grocery I frequented and every time I went to check out the sweet employee would ask me what I was making.  She'd then look at my basket and remind me of ingredients I was missing.  Love that help.  I've also learned so much by asking Vietnamese friends how to prepare their favorites.  They offer me tips I haven't found in books- tips that actually work!  I'm always searching for a cultural education in food preparation.

The first menu item on my list was Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup, also known as Pho, pronounced "fuh."

Beef Noodle Soup
(Recipe from Extending the Table...A World Community Cookbook)

Combine in a large saucepan:
3 quarts water
1/2-1 1/2 pounds beef or beef soup bones
2-4 beef bouillon cubes
1 onion, cut in half
1 teaspoon salt

Beef Soup Bones

Huge pot ready for soup. 

I double most recipes to have extras for lunches in the week.
Cover and simmer 2-3 hours until broth is flavorful.  Skim residue so broth is as clear as possible.  I skim the broth a few times and then finally strain it to ensure it is as clear as possible.

Skimming off the residue...this is the residue.

Broth cooking

I will often strain the broth to get it as clear as possible.

The broth is ready for next step.
The soup bones and onion are removed from the broth.  These look great for a dog.  Too bad we don't have one.
1 hour before serving the soup, add:

4 whole anise stars

Continue to simmer.

Anise stars- beautiful!
 While broth is simmering, prepare separate bowls with the following:

Cilantro, chopped
Thai basil (Thai basil is different from regular basil.  It has a purplish stem).
Green onion, thinly sliced
Beef tenderloin, thinly sliced (Our Asian market will slice beef thinly.  If you don't have this luxury, partially freeze beef and then slice)
Tripe, optional.  Many people don't like tripe, but I was raised on it, so we add it.  My hub doesn't like it, so he doesn't add it to his soup.  Boil the tripe to cook.
Thin rice noodles  I buy fresh or semi-fresh noodles, but if you purchase dry noodles, place noodles in a saucepan of boiling water and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.  Do not overcook- they will start to fall apart.  Rinse in cold water and drain thoroughly in strainer.

Tripe cooking- If it's not your thing, don't add it.

This is a very large bag of rice noodles.  I'll also make Pad Thai with it.
Just before serving add:
1 tablespoon sugar
2-3 tablespoons fish sauce
salt to taste

Broth should be a bit saltier than you might normally prefer, because rice noodles are bland.  To serve, place portions of rice noodles, cilantro-onion-herb mixture, and raw beef  slices in large soup bowls.  Cover with very hot broth.  The hot broth will cook the meat in the bowls.

Have another plate of bean sprouts, mint leaves, hot chili pepper slices, and lemon/lime slices for people to add as desired.  We also serve with Hoisin Sauce and Sriracha Hot Sauce.

The beef purchased at the Asian store is VERY thin, so it cooks in the broth.  If your meat is thicker, you can add it to the broth and allow to cook prior to placing in bowl.

Beef, Tripe & Noodle

Covered with broth and herbs

So good!  Enjoy!


Isom said...

You might like to try using oxtails for a soup base too! Oxtails just beef and no idea why it's called oxtail. They give a wonderful rich flavour to broth and I use them instead of beef bones.

I have a close Cambodian friend and she introduced me to some Vietnamese dishes. I love the cuisine and started looking online for Vietnamese recipes to make. My two favourites are bò kho (with tendon as it has a lot of flavour!) and bánh xèo. I really love strong flavors and lots of fresh raw herbs and greens.

Kimberly said...

Thanks so much for the great ideas! I will look for Oxtails next time I make Pho. Our blog has a new location at

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