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Vietnamese Pho Noodle Soup

5 from 5 reviews

A classic and authentic recipe for Vietnamese Pho Noodle Soup. This beef pho recipe uses oxtail and beef brisket for a delicious and full-flavoured pho broth. Recipe with step-by-step photos.

Ingredients

For the broth

To serve

Instructions

To make the broth

  1. Place the oxtail and brisket (or short ribs) in a large pot and cover with cold water.
  2. Bring the water to the boil and let it bubble away on high heat for about 5 minutes. During this time, a lot of the impurities from the meat and bones will come to the surface.
  3. Use large tongs to remove the oxtail and brisket to a large colander.
  4. Discard the water from the pot.
  5. Rinse the oxtail and brisket under cold water to remove any impurities that might be attached.
  6. Place the oxtail and brisket in a clean stockpot and cover with cold water. For this quantity of meat, you will need about 6 litres (24 cups) of water.
  7. Bring the pot to a gentle simmer.
  8. Meanwhile, add the cloves, star anise and cinnamon sticks. You can place these spices into a spice pouch or add them directly to the broth (you will be straining the broth later anyway).
  9. Heat a cast-iron grill over medium-high heat and chargrill the onions and ginger until they are lightly scorched on all sides. This will take about 10-15 minutes. You can also char the onions and ginger over an open flame if you have a gas stove, or under a hot grill in the oven.
  10. Add the chargrilled onions and ginger to the broth.
  11. Simmer the broth over low-medium heat for about 3 hours. During this time, keep skimming the surface of the broth to remove any impurities to ensure a clean and clear broth, otherwise the broth will turn cloudy.
  12. After 2 hours, add the fish sauce, sugar and salt.
  13. After 3 hours, or when the meat falls off the bones easily and the beef brisket is very tender, remove all of the meat and bones to a large bowl.
  14. Remove the spices and discard.
  15. Strain the broth through a fine sieve or a muslin cloth, and into a clean stockpot.
  16. Heat the broth over medium heat.
  17. Taste the broth for seasoning – you might want to add some more water if the broth is too concentrated, or perhaps some more salt or fish sauce if the flavour needs adjusting.
  18. Reserve the oxtail for serving.
  19. Once the beef brisket has cooled, slice it into thick slices. If you have used short ribs, remove the meat from the bones and cut into large slices or chunks.

To serve

  1. Cook the rice noodles according to the packet instructions. If you are using dried rice noodles, this usually requires an initial soak in cold water for about 30 minutes, and then about 1 minute in boiling water until they have softened. If you are using fresh rice noodles, you should blanch them first in some boiling water for just a few seconds. A Chinese noodle strainer is helpful for this task. For both types of noodles, keep in mind that they will continue to soften when you add hot broth to them.
  2. Place the softened noodles into large bowls.
  3. Top the noodles with some onion slices, some slices of beef brisket, and a few pieces of oxtail (optional). Please see more serving ideas below in Kitchen Notes.
  4. Ladle hot broth into each bowl.
  5. Depending on how steaming hot you like your bowl of noodles to be, you can repeat this step by using a large slotted spoon to hold back the contents of the bowl, and return the broth to the stockpot. Wait for the broth to come back to the boil and pour some hot broth back into each bowl.
  6. Garnish with coriander (cilantro) and spring onions (scallions).
  7. Allow each person to season their bowl to taste with some Thai basil, red chillies and a squeeze of lime.
  8. For a dipping sauce for the meat, the Vietnamese typically mix together Hoisin sauce and Sriracha hot sauce in a little sauce bowl.

Kitchen Notes

PHO NOODLES 
Pho is traditionally served with flat rice noodles. They come in various widths, and the size used depends on personal preference. Thin flat rice noodles are perhaps more common in restaurants, but I personally prefer the wider noodles (about 1 cm width) because they have a softer, silkier texture when cooked.

HOW TO COOK RICE NOODLES
The instructions will vary from brand to brand, but I generally soak my dried rice noodles first in a large bowl of cold water for about 30 minutes. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Using a noodle strainer or large slotted spoon, cook one portion of noodles at a time in the boiling water. The timing will vary depending on the type of noodles that you have used, but anywhere between 30 to 60 seconds should be sufficient. The noodles should be soft but still have a bit of bite. Strain the noodles and place them in the serving bowl. The noodles will continue to cook once you pour over the soup broth.

HOW MUCH BROTH PER PERSON 
For a generous serving, I like to give each person approximately 600 ml (about 2½ cups or 3 large ladles) of broth. This should give the cook an idea of how many noodles per serving, keeping in mind that the noodles will absorb some of the broth once added, and you want enough broth in the bowl for some slurping action.

HOW MUCH MEAT PER PERSON 
How much meat you add is also a personal choice. I often find that the oxtail and beef brisket used to create the broth is more than we would eat over 6 to 8 servings. In fact, a lot of recipes for pho often don’t tell you what to do with the oxtail; it is a lovely and flavourful piece of meat which should be enjoyed after you have tended to it for so many hours. The oxtail happens to be my daughter’s favourite part of this recipe! You can serve the oxtail as is alongside or in the soup bowls, or – for a more elegant option – you can remove the meat from the oxtail and discard the bones before serving.

HOW TO MAKE PHO TAI
Vietnamese Pho is commonly served with slices of thinly sliced fresh beef. You will need about 400 g (14 oz) beef filet or eye filet (for 6 to 8 servings). To help you achieve paper-thin slices, place the piece of meat in the freezer for about 30 minutes before slicing. Slice the beef very thinly and place 4-5 slices on top of the noodles. As you pour the hot broth over the beef, the meat will start cook. The slices of beef will continue to cook in the hot broth in the bowl.

MAKE IT WITH BEEF BONES
My mother always made pho with oxtail, which I think gives the broth a unique sweetness and flavour which you can’t achieve with regular beef bones. However, you could still substitute the oxtail for the same quantity of beef bones, or use a mixture of both oxtail and beef bones. I like to use to mixture of oxtail and beef short ribs; the bones in the short ribs add additional flavour to the broth, and if you choose meaty short ribs, you can serve the meat with the soup later. When choosing oxtail, I prefer to use small to medium pieces, especially if you plan to serve them as part of the meal.

MAKE IT WITH MORE VEGETABLES
For a non-traditional, yet a frequent variation of this recipe in my home, I like to add vegetables to the finished broth, such as:
* carrots, thinly sliced
* bok choy or pak choy, sliced if large
* broccoli, cut into small florets
* baby corn, sliced

HOW TO STORE THE PHO BROTH 
The broth keeps well in the fridge for several days and will turn jelly-like once cold. If you have made a large batch, you can freeze the broth in freezer bags. 

FOOD STORAGE
All of the components of this dish should be kept separately in the fridge.

Nutrition