Pho (pronounced "fuh") is the extremely popular Vietnamese soup made of broth, rice noodles and thinly sliced meat. While you could spend hours brewing up the perfect stock from beef bones and meat, Howie's & Alexander's can make your life easier with their own pre-made stocks and broths. We used their Beef Bone Broth in this quick pho. For a special treat, Alexander's can also provide thinly sliced USDA prime carne asada meat. Pounded very thin and cut or torn into pieces, the meat, which cooks almost instantly when hot broth is poured over it (think Shabu Shabu), is melt-in-your-mouth amazing.
We added some easily homemade Garlic Vinegar sauce for extra flavor. Our interpretations start with the recipes in The Pho Cookbook by Andrea Nguyen. Serves 2.
Quick Beef Pho
4 to 5 ounces very thinly sliced roast beef or cooked steak OR thinly sliced carne asada meat, pounded thin and cut or torn into pieces (see head note)
¾-inch section ginger, peeled
2 medium-large green onions
1 large star anise
1½ inches cinnamon stick
1 or 2 whole cloves
1¾ to 2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1¾ to 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 to 2 tablespoons beef bouillon (optional)
1/2 tsp Maggi seasoning (optional)
About ½ teaspoon salt (may be omitted if using salty bouillon)
5 ounces dried narrow flat rice noodles
2 to 3 teaspoons fish sauce (or to taste)
About ½ teaspoon sugar, or 1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, leafy tops only
1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
Optional Extra: Garlic Vinegar
If using thinly sliced carne asada meat, pound it very thin and then cut or tear it into bite sized pieces. (We use a large plastic mallet from the hardware store. The bottom of a frying pan also works well. It helps to put the meat under some heavy plastic, such as a large freezer bag.) Refrigerate until ready for use.
Slice the ginger into 4 or 5 coins. Smack with the flat side of a knife or meat mallet; set aside. Thinly slice the green parts of the green onion to yield 2 to 3 tablespoons; set aside for garnish. Cut the leftover sections into 1/2" lengths, bruise, then add to the ginger.
In a 3- to 4-quart dry pot, toast the star anise, cinnamon, and cloves over medium heat until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the ginger and green onion sections. Stir for 30 seconds, until aromatic. Take the pot off the heat, wait about 15 seconds to cool a bit, then pour in the beef and chicken broths. Return the pot to the burner, then add the water. Taste the broth. If you would like to increase the beefy flavors, slowly (remember it is salty) add the beef bouillon and/or Maggi to taste. Add the 1/2 tsp salt if needed.
Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to gently simmer for 30 minutes.
While the broth simmers, soak the rice noodles in hot water until pliable and opaque. Different size and thickness noodles take different amounts of time. Follow package instructions. We have sometimes found it necessary to put them through several baths of hot water, sometimes longer than the packages recommend. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
When the broth is done, pour it through a fine-mesh strainer over a 2-quart pot; Optionally, line the strainer with cheesecloth for a very clear broth. Discard the solids. You should have about 4 cups.
Season the broth with fish sauce and sugar (or maple syrup), if needed, to create a strong savory-sweet note.
Bring the beef to room temperature.
Bring the strained broth to a boil over high heat. Put the noodles in a noodle strainer or mesh sieve and dunk in the hot broth to heat and soften, 5 to 60 seconds. Lift the noodles from the pot and divide between 2 bowls.
Keep the broth hot (boiling hot if using raw meat) while you arrange the beef on top of the noodles and garnish with the chopped green onion, cilantro, and a sprinkling of black pepper. Include the sliced serrano, if using.
Once again, adjust the broth's saltiness to your taste, remembering that seasoning brings out a dish's flavors. Return the broth to a boil and ladle into the bowls. Add some garlic vinegar sauce, to taste, if using. (Remember if starting with raw meat that it should be cooked through by the boiling broth before serving.). Serve immediately.
Makes 3/4 cup
2 cloves garlic, smacked with the broad side of a knife
2 Thai chiles or 1 large Serrano chile, partially split lengthwise
1/4 cup unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
Combine all ingredients and age overnight in the fridge.
You can keep adding rice vinegar as you use it up until the chiles and garlic have given up their all.
WINE SUGGESTION: A cabernet is an excellent match with the beefy flavors of this dish.