Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)
Updated: May 13, 2018
Because everyone loves a good hearty bowl of pho.
And here's my very first ph-ost on a brand-new blog!
When it comes to authentic pho in Singapore, they're pretty much a rarity because firstly, we don't get them noodles fresh here and secondly, most restaurants here aren't run by the Vietnamese themselves, save for a few small establishments in the Joo Chiat and Katong area. Well there is a popular casual eatery chain around town that serves pho, bun thit nuong, cha gio, etc if you're looking to get your Vietnamese craving fixed but personally, I wouldn't recommend this joint since it really tastes nothing like the real stuff. Why? Because the soup though tasty enough, is quite msg-laden and appears to lack a certain "moreish" quality of pho you've tasted elsewhere.
So where can you find the best pho? Surprise surprise, it's actually in Australia and not Vietnam! And this was all due to a wave of Vietnamese migrants back in the 80s. It was in fact in Sydney where I've had my first encounter with pho. And unlike us relying on stick noodles over here, the joints there actually use freshly-made pho and tender Australian sirloin which means you'll always get a fantastic bowl of smooth, slurpy noodles in an intensely beefy yet sweet broth topped with a whole smorgasbord of mint, basil and beansprouts.
But I digress.
So this post really is about cooking a bowl of pho from scratch and the best part about making this is you'll get a big pot of stock out of all those hours of hard work and you can freeze the soup to make it for another day even when you can't finish it all in the first sitting. This recipe was adapted from Andrea Nguyen's recipe found here, but I've tweaked the recipe a bit since this is the 2nd time I'm making it. If you're wondering where you can get beef bone marrow in Singapore, forget about looking for them at the online meat sellers...they're in frozen packets and imho, ripoffs. If you haven't already discovered Tekka Market, you should check it out. Because that's where you can get them fresh and at half the price. No kidding.
Apart from beef bones, you can also add in oxtail, spare ribs, shin and whatever else to give that soup the extra beefy oomph. The best thing about making pho broth is it's pretty much sitting and waiting after the bulk of the work is done at the beginning and that includes cleaning out the fats from the marrow....it's slightly revolting when you realise the amount of fat that's stuck in between the bones but hey, this is also the stuff that makes your soup really umami!
(feeds about 10 people)
2 kg beef marrow bones
About 1 kg oxtail beef (you can also use beef shin, chuck and tendons to lend depth to the soup)
~5 litres of water (or enough to cover the bones and meat)
1 large daikon, cut into 3-4 pieces
2 large yellow onions, halved
10 cm piece ginger
5 star anise (40 star points total)
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cloves
3 pieces of 4-6 cm cinnamon sticks
2 tbsp salt
5 tbsp fish sauce
200g yellow rock sugar
2 packets of pho noodles (I used the Vina Pho brand)
1 kg of sirloin/ribeye or thinly sliced beef sukiyaki
Mint, cilantro and basil leaves
To also serve with sriracha and hoisin sauce.
For the stock:
In a large stock pot of boiling water, parboil the beef bones and oxtail/chuck/whatever sort of meats you are using. This shouldn't take more than 10 minutes.
Once the bones look cooked, pour away the scummy water and the bones into a clean sink.
Here's where it starts to get a bit messy. Using a bread knife or a chopstick, start poking through the bones to remove the jellied fats stuck in between them.
Once all the bones are cleaned, put them back into the stock pot together with the rest of the parboiled beef. Fill it with around 5 litres of water or when the bones and meat appear to be fully submerged in the water.
Over an open flame, char the large onions, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, cloves and fennel seeds till they turn brown. Place the onions and ginger into the stock pot. For the rest of the herbs, pour them into a muslin bag, bind tightly and add the bag into the stock pot.
Add in the rest of the rest of the ingredients, including the daikon and yellow rock sugar into the stock pot, close the lid and allow it to simmer for at least 3-4 hours or even longer. I made this in the late morning and by the time I ate it at night, the soup was cooked for at least 7-8 hours.
Once you're ready to serve the soup, add salt and fish sauce to taste.
For the noodles:
Blanche the dried stick noodles in a wok of boiling water, one packet at a time. The noodles will take around 5 minutes to soften. Remove and rinse over cool water.
Separate the noodles into bowl servings. Garnish with the raw beef slices.
Make sure the soup is brought to a boil first. Ladle the soup over the uncooked beef, letting it cook naturally by itself and this is where it also adds to the richness of the broth.
Garnish with the mint, basil, coriander and beansprouts. Squeeze a bit of lime into the soup for an extra zingy kick.
Eat with sriracha and hoisin sauce and enjoy your delicious pho!