Pho

Pho

The breakfast of champions, this fragrant spiced Vietnamese
noodle soup topped with slices of beef, brisket, chicken or
meatballs and a squeeze of lime is the perfect wake-up call.

Origins
Pho has its origins in the cuisines of France and China and was popularised around the end of the 19th century. The Vietnamese took the rice noodles from their northern neighbour and a taste for red meat from the colonialists, and created something new. Some say pho (pronounced ‘feu’) is derived from the French dish pot au feu, while others argue that it is Chinese in origin, stemming from a Cantonese word for noodles, fan.

You’ll need
Broth
10cm (4in) piece of ginger
2 yellow onions
cooking oil
2.25kg (5lb) beef marrow or
oxtail bones
4.75l (5 quarts) of water
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tbs fennel seeds
5 star anise
2 cardamom pods
6 whole garlic cloves
¼ cup fish sauce
2 tbs sugar
1 tbs salt

Noodles & garnishes
225g (½lb) beef steak
450g (1lb) dried flat rice
noodles
10 sprigs mint
10 sprigs coriander leaves
(cilantro)
10 sprigs Thai basil
12 sawtooth coriander leaves
½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 limes, each cut into 6 thin
wedges
2–3 chilli peppers, sliced
450g (1lb) beanshoots
hoisin sauce
hot chilli sauce

Cooking Method
Broth
1 Halve the ginger and onions lengthwise and place on a baking sheet. Brush with cooking oil and put on the highest rack under a heated grill (broiler). Grill on high until they begin to char. Turn over to char the other side for a total of 10–15 minutes.
2 Boil enough water in a large pot to cover the beef bones and continue to boil on high for five minutes. Drain, rinse the bones and rinse out the pot. Refill the pot with the bones and the 4.75L of cool water. Bring to the boil then lower to a simmer. Remove any scum that rises to the top.
3 Place the cinnamon stick, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, cardamom pods and garlic cloves in a mesh bag (alternatively, pho spice packets are available at speciality Asian food markets) and add to the broth pot along with the charred onion and ginger and the fish sauce, sugar and salt and simmer for 1½ hours.
4 Discard the spice pack and the onion and continue to simmer for another 1½ hours.
5 Strain the broth and return it to the pot. Adjust salt, fish sauce and sugar to taste.

Noodles & garnishes
1 Slice the beef as thinly as possible across the grain.
2 Cook your noodles according to the packet.
3 Bring the broth back to the boil.
4 Arrange all the other garnishes next to your serving bowls.
5 To serve, fill each bowl with noodles and raw meat slices. Ladle the boiling broth into the bowls – this will cook the beef slices.
6 Garnish with the remaining herbs, onion, lime wedges, chillies, beanshoots and sauces, and serve immediately.

Tasting notes
Dawn is breaking across Vietnam and the hum of scooter engines has yet to reach its midmorning crescendo. The pho sellers have set up stalls, some little more than a battered collection of metal pans, while others include plastic tables and gleaming trolleys. Whatever you choose, it’s the broth that matters. This is the heart and soul of pho and should be rich and deeply flavoured, hinting at star anise, cardamom and coriander. The noodles should be freshly made, while the chillies are mild, rather than fierce. Beanshoots add a satisfyingly crunchy texture. A dash of fish sauce, a squeeze of lime, and breakfast is ready. Grab a wobbly chair, sit back and slurp.

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