Pho For Me
By Sydaney Moog
Everybody has a go-to winter dish. A dish that’s so satisfying that it warms your insides and gratifies the deep recesses of your soul. A dish that as you consume it, it makes you forget about the long cold dreary days, the rain, the fog and the wind. Some people turn to chicken soup, others a rich hearty stew. For me, my winter saviour dish is Beef Pho.
Pronounced fur and also known as Beef Noodle Soup, this bowl of beef broth with noodles adorned with slices of beef, beef strips and beef balls, is hearty yet light, rich yet subtle. The broth provides the heartiness and richness whilst the accompaniment of bean sprouts and fresh herbs adds a freshness and lightness to the soup allowing you to indulge in bucket-sized bowls. The addition of an assortment of condiments and flavours makes the soup your own personalised piece of culinary heaven causing you to sometimes forget that you are civilised as you pick up the bowl and slurp directly from it.
A dish this satisfying deserves the time that it takes to make it. The broth is the hero of the dish and takes at least 6 hours to develop. The prepping and cooking of the dish is not difficult or arduous, but it is time consuming. Whilst you are not actually doing anything except for occasionally skimming the impurities off the top of the soup, the time is needed to extract the flavour from the soup bones, soften the meat that will eventually fall off the bones and allow the flavours of the ingredients to intermingle and marry, creating a broth that rouses your tastebuds and turns your house into a haven of heart-warming aromas.
When I don’t have the foresight to make the soup and the soul calls for Pho, I head to my favourite Vietnamese restaurant. But when the weather feels like it’s not going to turn and a weekend of pyjamas and movies are imminent, I like to make a big pot of Laos Pho. Enough to last me a couple of days. There are subtle differences between the well-known Vietnamese Pho and the lesser-known Laos Pho. The main being the broth where the Vietnamese broth is slightly thicker with more spices, whereas the Laos broth uses vegetables and herbs to flavour the soup. Another key difference is the type of noodles used. Vietnamese Pho uses fresh rice noodles (used straight from the packet), whereas Laos Pho uses dry stick rice noodles (which is soaked in cold water for about an hour and drained prior to using). I don’t know if it’s because this is the Pho of my childhood memories (we had a tradition where every single time someone travelled my grandmother made a pot of Pho to welcome them home) or if it’s because the Laos Pho reminds me of my many “visiting family” trips to Lao, but I do favour the Laos version. The recipe here is for Laos Pho, passed from my grandmother to my mother, who has passed it to me. The broth should be made as is, but choose whichever accompaniments, additions and condiments you prefer. I like my Pho with just the softened beef off the bones with beefballs, bean sprouts and mint leaves. I then add Sriricha chilli sauce, Hoi Sin Sauce, squeeze of lemon and fried garlic.
PHO SOUP BROTH
2kgs beef bones (try to get some that has some meat on it)
5 litres of water
4 star anise
3 sticks of cinnamon
1 onion, skin removed and halved
1 3inch piece of ginger, skin removed
1 head of garlic, washed and stalks removed
Canned sugar cane
Grill and blacken onion and ginger.
Add water and beef bones to a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours. Occasionally skim off the dark foam that rises to the top of the pot using a slotted spoon.
Add the blackened onion and ginger along with the garlic, star anise, cinnamon and sugar cane.
Return to the boil, then simmer, skimming when necessary. Simmer for at least 3 hours.
After this time, do a final skim for fat then strain the soup, leaving some bones.
Soaked dry rice noodles
Raw beef tenderloin, thinly sliced
Thai purple basil
Chopped coriander and green onions (shallots)
Sriricha chilli sauce
Hoi Sin sauce
TIME TO PUT IT ALL TOGETHER!
– Add beefballs to broth and allow beefballs to cook(if using)
– In a large soup bowl, add a handful of soaked noodles. Pour hot water into bowl to cover noodles. After 5 seconds, drain water out.
– Add whichever meat additions you like to bowl.
– Add pho broth and beef balls. If you are using the raw beef tenderloin make sure your soup is super hot to make sure the beef is cooked.
– Add whichever accompaniments you like (bean sprouts, mint etc)
– Add sauces and flavourings
– Mix all together in bowl and enjoy!