Pho Bo with Spinach and Shiitake is similar to authentic Vietnamese soup but with some extra crunchy spinach and shiitake mushrooms to give it a little twist. It is an aromatic soup served with hot bone broth, rice noodles and loads of veggies.
Pho Vietnamese soups are a delicious, delicate and unique dish, but adding a few extras like spinach and shiitakes makes it a touch more special. The traditional pho bo soup contains a few pieces of thinly sliced beef swimming in a clear but aromatic broth with noodles and scallions. This Pho Bo with Spinach and Shiitake version is slightly simplified but has extra veggies and no cilantro.
The tricky part of this soup is keeping the broth clear, see-through, and not blurry, although fully packed in flavour. Here are fun critical steps to a straightforward yet powerful broth:
- Pre-boil the bones and rinse them before starting the main simmering.
- Never boil; the best way to keep it clear and filtered is never to go over a light simmer. It’s just a bubble too powerful, and you messed up. Keep it low.
- The charred veggies (onion and ginger) will help to clean your liquid.
- Do not stir the soup; stay away from the soup. Otherwise, you’ll break down the veggies.
- Keep the lid on; this one mainly keeps as much liquid as possible and prevents evaporation.
The right noodles for Vietnamese Pho are large (linguini style) rice noodles; the package usually has Pho written. It’s pretty easy to spot. Unlike spaghetti, they typically need soaking and shorter cooking periods. If you want to keep them bouncy and separate, add a bit of oil to the cooking water. Also, it is a good idea to stop their cooking process by rinsing them in cold water.
The beef pieces are usually a thinly sliced brisket, filet mignon or flank. Butchers usually cut it when frozen to make it extra thin. I buy a Carpaccio package in the supermarket for this soup, but you can freeze and cut it yourself. If you go to an Asian market, they will probably have this cut or ask ahead of time your butcher. The meat is added raw to the fuming soup and cooks instantly when dropped in. It melts on the tongue when you bite into it, a lovely detail of these soups.
The proper serving bowl is a large, thick bowl, which you preheat before or add a little hot broth or hot water before serving. Make sure the soup is fuming hot when you serve it. Also, you can dip the noodles in the broth pot to warm them up. To prevent the soup from getting cold when you fill it with all those other extras. Ensure not to overfill the bowl; the broth should be the highlight.
In Vietnam, Pho soups always come with a lime wedge, sliced Thai chillis and fish sauce. The fish sauce is the equivalent of our salt, and the chilli is our black pepper. You adjust to your needs here! As for the extra shiitake, you’ll need to stir-fry or air fry them to crispen them gently. The final touch is all the crunchy cold ingredients you add in the end, after the meat. They will cool down the soup drastically but give it this nice fresh crunch.
*Try to get an authentic fish sauce from Vietnam, made of fish and salt, nothing else, no preservatives, enhancers, etc.
Other Meal Soups
So, let’s make this crystal clear Pho Bo with Spinach and Shiitake soup!
Pho Bo Soup with Spinach and Shiitake
Broth (makes about 2 litres)
- 4 l water
- 2 k beef or pork knuckles, oxtail
- 2 onions
- 10 cm ginger root (with skin)
- 5 anise stars
- 5 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 10 peppercorn
- 1 tbsp sugar (rock sugar)
- 200 g Banh Pho Thuong Hang (rice noodles)
- 200 g carpaccio style beef
- 10 shiitake mushrooms
- 3 scallions
- 2 handful bean sprouts
- 2 handful baby spinach
- thai chilli
- lime wedge
- fish sauce
- Cover the bones and meat pieces into a Dutchoven or big cold water pot, bring to a boil for a minute or two. Rinse the bones under cold water (clean up the pot from residues).
- Add the bones and meat again to the Dutch oven pot and fill with water, bring to a low simmer, again.
- On a gas burner, torch or in your oven on broil mode, char the ginger and onions until black (keep the skin) on every side (takes 5-10 minutes).
- After charring is done, cool the ginger and onion, r
- In a pan, add a little oil, and cook the aromatics; anise stars, cloves, pepper, cinnamon a minute to release it's flavor.
- Remove all impurities from the top of the simmering bone broth before adding the charred onions, ginger and spices.
- Let it gently simmer for 5-6 hours (or overnight) covered.
- When the broth is ready, discard the bones, veggies and spices. Clear the broth through a straighner, 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 warm water for a minimum of 15 minutes, and cook following instructions.
- In a pan cook the shiitakes, at medium-high heat, until nicely done.
- Add the sugar and fish sauce until well seasoned into the broth and bring to a last simmer.
- Take a small sieve or mini basket to plunge the presoaked rice noodles into the simmering broth, for about 10 seconds, before adding to a preheated bowls
- Assemble the soup with noodles, sliced beef, bean sprouts, spinach, scallion and shiitakes.