It’s been a busy few days around here.
I had a little baking project to work on for a couple of days.
We worked on the house – so close to being done!
And Bill made Pho.
Pho is Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup.
Pho is intoxicating, flavorful beef broth with noodles, assorted pieces and parts of beef, and tripe, garnished with bright splashes of vegetable flavors and color.
Pho is heaven in a bowl.
He made pho once before, some time ago, and it wasn’t right. Didn’t have the right flavor.
Something was missing.
So back to the drawing board.
Or, in this case, the computer.
And oh, my.
It was very, very right.
The first, and most important, thing you need to do if you want to make good pho, is to make the stock.
It’s basically a beef stock, but if you just decide to use a straight-up beef stock to make your pho, then you’re missing out.
Besides the beef bones (and yes, my husband bought a huge beef leg bone and the butcher cut it up for us into sections. We have half in the freezer and used the other half to make the stock) and the onions, you need some spice.
Some of the spices vary, depending on which recipe you’re using, but in our opinion, the most important two are fresh ginger and star anise. The flavor these two ingredients bring to the broth are paramount in creating good pho. And I’ll go one step further and place the star anise at the very top of the list.
After you’ve made your stock, the rest is easy. All you need now are the noodles, an assortment of meat, and lots of garnishes like cilantro, fresh and dried chili peppers, lime wedges, Thai basil, bean sprouts, and so on.
The different garnishes, or condiments, allow you to make a bowl of pho uniquely yours. For instance, I’m not really a fan of bean sprouts, so I usually only put a few in, or I break them into smaller bits. The kids, on the other hand, love them.
I like just about everything else, especially some garlic chili paste stirred into the broth. Great for the sinuses, and it’s especially warming on a cool, autumn evening.
Don’t be afraid of making the stock. Once you’ve got everything in the pot, you don’t have to do a whole lot other than take a peek every now and then and make sure it’s simmering nicely.
Now, in the two recipes I’ve linked to, you simmer the broth for roughly 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Both recipes say that’s how long it takes to get all the flavor from your stock ingredients.
Somewhere in our reading, either in a book or online, we’d got it into our heads that you needed to simmer the stock for 6 hours.
We pondered this conflict a bit, and came to the conclusion that though all the flavor may have been leeched from the bones and so forth, a longer simmer time might serve to concentrate the flavor.
So next time we make pho, that’s what we’re going to do – simmer the stock for 6 hours instead of 3. I’ll let you know how that turns out.