Vietnam has some of the best gastronomic treasures on this earth, if you ask around which soup would be the most popular worldwide… I think the Pho soup would surely be in the top 5. The traditional Pho (vietnamese soup) is Pho Bo, the last 2 letters standing for Beef or there is also the Pho Ga which is done with chicken broth instead of beef. This recipe is a mix of both, with a 80% of homemade beef stock and 20% chicken. The result of this dish is a Pho Bo Ga.
The origin of Pho isn’t clear, some say it’s from the occupation of the French in Vietnam, others say it from the Cantonese. Either way it’s a delicious soup, which you can eat for breakfast, to diner in Vietnam. I’ve visited Vietnam last year, and every single hotel would serve us pho for breakfast which is somehow strange for a westerner and especially when it’s about 40°C (100F) outside… I have to say, I prefer the pho as a diner soup.
The magic here lays in the broth, there is a few special, uncommon procedures about that soup. For example, you have to char, burn the ginger and onions at first… which isn’t a typical method for broth. Also it’s important to keep the broth clear, which I have to say, isn’t perfect in my picture, resulting of adding extra meat at the end… which blurred my soup up. The trick to keep it clear is to pre boil your meat pieces, then rinse them in cold water and restart the process… make sure it never reach a full boiling, this blurs up a broth quite fast. When you see those tiny bubbles forming lower your fire, it should be simmering really gently, just a few minuscules bubbles showing. Then it’s a 5 hours long slow cooking process.
Another important ingredient here is the fish sauce, which replace salt at the end of the coccion. I recommend to search for a Fish sauce made in Vietnam, since the Thailand “fish sauce” isn’t made with fishes, but rather calamari, and the taste differs.
Let’s make that delicious Vietnamese dish!
Pho Bo Ga
Makes 4 main meal portions
- 1 kg beef bones
- 300g chicken carcass
- 500g of nice slim cut of beef piece (brisket, steak, flank)
- 100g of carpaccio (raw beef meat thinly cut)
- 2 big yellow onions
- 1 piece of ginger (10cm long)
- 5 anise star
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 5 coriander seeds
- 10 fennel seeds
- 5 cloves
- 1 piece of yellow rock sugar *optional
- Fish sauce to taste (Phu Quoc)
The final step
- Banh Pho Thuong Hang (rice noodles)
- coriander leaves
- beans sprouts
- limes cut into quarters
- thai chili peppers
- Cover the bones and meat pieces into a big cold water pot, bring to a boil for a minute
- Eliminate the water with residues and rinse the bones into cold water for a few minutes (clean up the pot from residues)
- Add the bones and meat again to the big pot and cover with water, bring to a low simmer
- On a gas burner or in your oven on broil mode, char the ginger and onions until black (keep the skin) on every side (takes 5-10 minutes) Turn with metal tongs
- Once the charring is done, cool the ginger and onion before peeling off the skin
- Cut the onion and ginger into big pieces and add to the broth
- In a pan, add a little oil, and cook the aromatics; anise stars, clove, fennel, cinnamon and coriander a minute or 2 before adding to the broth
- Leave the broth gently simmer for 5-6 hours (even a night) with cover, *IMPORTANT to take out the nice slim cuts of beef after 1 hour of cooking, keep it in a container in the fridge, for when the soup will be ready to assemble
- When the broth is ready, discard the bones
- Clear the broth through a sieve, then through a cheesecloth (or paper towel inside a sieve, or stockings) to make it extra clear
- Prepare the rice noodles, by simply soaking them into lukewarm water for a minimum of 15 minutes
- Cut into pieces the reserved slim meat pieces
- Add the slim meat, yellow rock sugar and fish sauce until well seasoned into the broth and bring to simmer a last time
- Take a small sieve or mini basket to plunge the presoaked rice noodles into the simmering broth, for about 30 seconds, before adding to a preheated bowls
- Add warm soup with meat pieces to the bowls
- Top with the raw beef (carpaccio), beans sprouts, coriander leaves
Serve as extra on the table; lime quarters, thai chili peppers, extra beans sprout and coriander. Enjoy!