I wrote an entry for crock pot pho last year and it was quite an experience. Crock pot cooking sure has its benefits but I much prefer cooking on the stove top. Maybe I have OCD in the kitchen but I can not leave something cooking on it’s own for that long without tasting it. It’ll probably work if I started measuring everything precisely but I know that’s not going to happen!
I have tried cooking pho in many different ways, believe me I’ve tried all the techniques! And I don’t think one technique is better than another, it’s all about what you are comfortable with! And these are the techniques I love and I hope they will help you on your next phoventure!
1. Root Vegetables
When you of think of pho, you automatic think of beef and even more beef. While beef play an important role in making a pot of beef pho, I feel we need to credit the root vegetables. A lot of western soup are made by using a lot of roots vegetables such as onion, carrot, leek, celery, and etc. Why? Root vegetables are so good for broth because they give off a natural sweet flavor that’s not going to take away or overwhelm the beef flavor. I especially love using the onion family for pho such as yellow onions and leeks. They are must haves whenever I make pho!
2. Beef Bones
I love love my bone marrow but you have to use a variety of bones and meat. Bones alone will not produce a great broth, that’s why we use beef shank as well. Look for beef neck bones or any bones with a little bit meat to it.
One of the worst pho turn off for me is the over use of spices. I definitely got this from my dad. He hates pho that has a very strong aroma of spices, he feels it takes away the beef flavor. There are pre-package pho spices at the Asian market but I tend to stick with only a few. I usually only use cinnamon and star anise. You want the spices to be subtle to linger but not to overwhelm.
While my mom feels roasting the ginger and onions are not needed, I love this step. It takes these ingredients to a whole another level of sweetness. You can also roast the spices as well but spices burn a lot faster so be careful. I like to roast them and wrap in aluminum foil and place it in the pot, you can remove easier this way.
5. Clear Broth
Certain soups you can get by without have a clear broth but murky pho is not as inviting. I take the extra step to get my bones and meats very clean. You’ll want to par-boil your bones and then rinsing them with cool water right after. I even use a different pot par-boil my bones. The only thing that goes in my pot of pho are clean bones, fresh water, and clean meat.
4-5 lbs of bones (the more the better)
beef balls bo vien (optional)
2 yellow onions
2-3 knob of ginger
2 cinnamon stick
thinly sliced beef (Pho Tai)
green onions/cilantro/sliced yellow onions (garnish)
bean sprouts/basil (optional)
Total cooking time: 5-6 hours minimum
1. Par-boil beef bones/shank/tendons, thoroughly rinse both with cool water and set aside. If you are using tendons, you’ll need boil this for 2 hours before you add it to your pot.
2. Fill a new 10 qt. pot with water and add clean beef bones/shank/tendon. Let everything simmer on low-med heat. All the ingredients will be ready at different times, the best thing to look is the tenderness. If the meat is falling off the bones you know you have cooked the bones sufficient enough. Estimate time about 3 hours.
3. Roast the ginger/onion in the oven or grill. Remove the skin and then add to the broth. Add the leeks to the pot along with your meats and bones. Add rock sugar about the same size as a knob of ginger. 1/2 cup of salt, 3 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning. Remove scum when necessary.
4. You should see fat at the top from the bones/shank, remove as much as you can or if you like the fat you can leave it.
5. Remove shank when it’s tender, I don’t like my shank fall apart tender I like it a little firm which will be easier to slice as well. Tendon will take longer so keep it in the pot until its tender to your liking. Once meat/tendon is done; remove, let cool down, and the. sliced thinly.
6. Taste the broth and add final adjustment now, add additional salt/sugar/fish sauce if needed.
7. Lightly wrap the spices in aluminum foil and add to the pot for about 20 minutes and leave lid on.
8. Prepare sliced rare beef, noodles, vegetables, green onion, sliced onion, and lime.
9. When your pot of pho is done I like to remove all bones in to one bowl for munching. Discard ginger, onions, leeks, spices. So you are left with only the broth. You can also take the extra step of straining your broth.
10. Prepare a bowl to your liking and enjoy!