Pho is a sumptuous Vietnamese soup, full of flavor yet light in the belly. The broth is robust with a base of beef but a variety of spices that adds a sweet complexity. Thin strips of beef are cooked in the broth with rice noodles. Then you top the soup with crunchy bean sprouts, fresh cilantro, fresh Thai basil, and a squeeze of lime juice. On the side is a small dish of hoisin and siracha, perfect for dunking those slices of beef in.
When we lived in Boston, we would walk to China town every Saturday to have a big bowl of pho. I could eat this soup in any weather. The warmth was perfect for a cold grey day. Yet the brightness of herbs and lime made it a nice compliment to the spring flowers in the park. I love this soup! Making this dish has been on my bucket list for a long time. With the countless jars of stock and a recently discovered recipe on food52.com, I decided this is the week to cross Pho off the list.
4 cups of beef stock (see previous recipe on stock, you want high quality here)
1/4 cup of fish sauce
3 star anise
1 stick of cinnamon
6 whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
1 T brown sugar
1/2 lb thinly sliced beef
1 packet of pho noodles (rice noodles)
bean sprouts, cilantro, Thai basil, lime, hoisin and siracha
Place the stock, fish sauce, star anise, cinnamon, clove, peppercorn, bay leaves, and brown sugar in a pot and simmer on low for about 45 minutes. If the broth reduces too much and the flavor becomes too intense, add water to mellow it out. You are looking for a full flavored broth, so taste periodically and adjust the simmering time to get your ideal flavor. Also, have fun with the seasonings and adjust to your palette.
When the broth is hot add the rice noodles and cook for about one minute, then add the thin slices of beef. Remove from heat (the broth will be hot enough to cook the beef even when off the burner) and spoon into bowls. Add the bean sprouts, cilantro and Thai basil to taste. Squeeze a lime wedge over top. The best part of pho is you can add the additional flavors to your liking. If you are a huge cilantro fan, go nuts! If you can’t stand Thai basil, leave it out. Like spice? Add a slice of jalapeno and hold on. Have fun with the dish and eat it how you love it. Plus, it gives you the perfect excuse to make it over and over again…I mean come on, you have to find the perfect combination!