For Golden January, I’m focusing on learning a few key Vietnamese recipes. Pho always seems like the classic vietnamese comfort food to me. I’m stoked that now I finally know how to make it!
For all my veggie and vegan friends, avert your eyes. This is not the post for you. However, there are some great vegetarian pho recipes out there. Here’s a few that look delicious: the kitchn, nytimes, running with tweezers.
I can’t lie. When Viet and I first started dating the thought of pho sorta freaked me out. It’s the fact that the broth is so hot that it literally cooks the raw meat when you place it in the broth. For years, I would never order pho when we went out to Vietnamese restaurants. I just couldn’t handle it. and then, Viet’s mom made pho for me, and being the polite future daughter-in-law, I couldn’t refuse!
That was that. Viet’s mom’s pho is good y’all. After that, I was officially in. Pho is warm and comforting. The noodles and the broth are delicious, and I like the messiness. I like the kind of food that you need to actively use two utensils to take down. Pho is a great dish to add to your winter meal list.
When I told Viet that I wanted to learn how to make pho this month his face lit up. But then he said, “You’re going to make it right? Not just watch me make it and take pictures?” Oh how well he knows me.
So, I promise this pho was made with my own hands. Viet pretty much made this recipe up as we went along.
The key thing that makes this pho a little different is the oxtail bones. As with most meat-based broths, you generally need to boil down bones to make the stock. Generally when you make beef pho, you just want to get beef bones and a few oxtail bones to kick up the flavor. Oxtail bones are generally more expensive, which is why it’s not economical to use them for large batches of pho. Most of the time when people make pho (at Viet’s family gatherings for example), they are making it for a large number of people. It’s usually made in a giant pot in a much larger batch.
For our little family of two, we wanted to make a smaller batch just for us (with some leftovers of course). Since we were making a smaller batch, we could invest in the more expensive oxtail bones. We picked them up from the butcher at the little vietnamese market down the street. Even though they’re a little more expensive, three pounds of oxtail pounds cost us $13. Given the amount of effort that goes into making pho, and the payoff, we figured that $13 was totally worth it.
Here’s the skinny:
for the broth:
+ 3 pounds of oxtail bones (you can ask your local butcher for these).
+ 1 onion
+ 1 piece of ginger about half the size of your fist
for the spice bouquet:
+ cheese cloth
+ 5-6 anise stars
+ 1 teaspoon of fennel
+ 1 cinnamon stick
+ 2 teaspoons of fennel
for garnish (as much as you would like):
+ bean sprouts
+ chopped onions
+ 1 lime sliced
+ Sriracha sauce
+ Hoisin sauce
+ 1 pound of thinly sliced eye round
+ 1 package of “pho noodles”
Step 1: Fill two pots with water and bring to boil. In the 2nd pot (where you’re going to make the broth), you should about 4 or 5 quarts of water. Put oxtail bones in the first pot (the non-broth pot) and boil for 5-10 minutes.
Step 1b: While the water is boiling, prep the spice bouquet. I placed all the spices in cheese cloth and tied up the ends, but you can also use baker’s twine to tie. Place this aside for a second.
Step 2: Then pour out the water and all the goopety-gop that is floating around with it. Place bones into the 2nd clean pot of boiling water. note: We do it this wayn (with two pots) because we’re lazy and impatient. Theoretically you could boil it in one pot, pour out the water, remove the bones, clean the pot, fill it with fresh water, bring to a boil, and put the bones back in that pot. Once the bones are in the new pot (or in the fresh water), throw in the spice bouquet. We used our favorite pot, the 7.5 quart Le Creuset Bouillabaisse Pot we got as a wedding gift. We make almost all our gumbos, soups, stews in this pot now. LOVE it.
Step 3: Funnest step alert : You can also do this ahead of time if you prefer. Place onion on an open flame rotating it slowly with tongs. You should roast the onion for about 5-7 minutes. Set aside to let it cool. Repeat roasting with the ginger. Once both have cooled, remove the outside layers of the onion and any excess char that you see on the ginger. Toss both into the pot with the bones and spice bouquet.
Step 4: Now comes the patient part. We let this baby cook for 7-8 hours. We started it around 10:30 in the morning, and we ate at around 6:30pm. Viet says you should let it cook for at least four hours. But as most things like this go, the longer you let it cook, the better. You also want to check in on it every hour or so and skim off the fat that has risen to the top.
Step 5: When you’re about an hour and a half from eating, you should prep and set out all the fixins. Cut and wash the basil, cilantro, lime & jalapenos.
Step 6: Place the pho noodles in standing warm water for 1 hour to soak.
Step 7: Remove the oxtail bones from the broth. Bring the broth to a boil right before you’re ready to eat.
Step 8: Then place the pho noodles on the stovetop and bring to a boil. Boil for 45 seconds, drain, and place in bowls to serve. Add garnishes on top, and as many slices of raw beef as each person would like.
Step 9: Carefully pour hot pho over each of the bowls. Add Sriracha and Hoisin sauce to taste!