I went to high school in southeast San Jose. At the time, this was a largely Vietnames area of town. I developed a love of pho! Pho is all about the broth. I have been perfecting this recipe over the last decade or so. Now, I do it all the time!
6-7 marrow bones or oxtails
1 large white onion
3″ knob of ginger, peeled
4 bay leaves
15-20 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
4-5 star anise, whole
1/4-1/2 c fish sauce
1/2-3/4 c soy sauce
1/4-1/3 c brown sugar
Preheat gas grill to 600-700 degrees or your oven to 500.
Rinse the marrow bones or oxtails under cool, running water. Pat dry.
Place the bones on the grill and roast until all sides are charred. You will have to turn several times and remember to set them on their ends as well as sides. If you are using marrow bones, do the ends first, as the marrow will bulge out as they cook.
Slice the onion in half and place it on the upper rack of your grill. If you only have one level, you can grill the onion on the main rack in about 10 minutes. Peel the ginger and add it to the upper rack as well. Turn the ginger 1/2 way through cooking.
If you are using your oven, place the bones, onion and ginger in an over proof pot. I use my cast iron dutch oven so I can go from the oven to the stove top without creating another dish. Roast the bones and veg, turning 1 or 2 times, for 45 minutes, until the bones are dark in many places.
I strongly prefer my gas grill for this over the oven because it is much faster. If you are roasting the bones and veg in the oven, it takes about 45 minutes as opposed to 15-20 on the grill.
Place the bones and ginger in a soup pot. Stud the onion with the cloves. Place the onion in the pot. Add a 48 ounces of water. Add the bay leaf, peppercorns, anise, and cinnamon stick to the pot. Bring the water to a near boil, then turn down and simmer for at least six hours. Keep the pot tightly covered, or all the water will evaporate. [See Cook’s Note for crock pot method.]
Remove the bones, onion and garlic from the broth. Strain the rest through a fine mesh sieve. Return the stock to the pot. Add 1, /2 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup fish sauce and 1/4 cup brown sugar to the broth. Squeeze in the juice of one lime. Mix well and then taste. Adjust the levels of fish sauce [umami taste], lime juice [acidic, tangy taste], soy sauce[salty taste] and sugar [sweet taste] to accommodate your personal pallet.
Pho is traditionally served with noodles in the bowl and then broth is added. At the table, diners add basil, cilantro, jalapenos, mung bean sprouts, lime juice, soy sauce and sriracha for their personal taste. These items are commonly placed on a plate next to the bowl of pho.
With beef pho, some people enjoy slices of flank steak with the broth. If you are using flank steak, freeze a piece. Take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes prior to serving dinner to let it defrost just a bit. Slice very thin slices of steak and place on top of the noodles prior to ladling out the hot broth. The steak will cook in the broth.
I use udon noodles or buckwheat noodles depending on who is dining with me. These are available in most grocery stores these days in the “Asian” food aisle. If you have access to a store with true ramen noodles (not the instant kind) those are great! However, I have had little luck in many grocery stores finding something other than udon noodles.
Okay, this is not traditional with pho, but I stole tea eggs from ramen shops and serve them with my pho.
1/2 c soy sauce
1/2 c mirin
1/2 c saki
Bring a pot of water to a full boil. The pot should be large enough to accommodate your 8 eggs and have water covering them.
Gently place the eggs into the boiling water, and turn down the heat to a gentle simmer.
Boil eggs for 7 – 8 minutes, but no more than 8!
Remove the eggs from heat, drain the water and fill the pot with cold water to stop the cooking.
Mix the soy sauce, miring and saki in a large bowl or jar (even a good ziplock bag works). Peel the eggs gently when cool enough to handle. Place in the soy mixture. Let the eggs sit in the mixture at least 4 hours, and up to several days. Serve cold. Slice in half immediately before serving.
If you don’t want to attend to your stove, once you have roasted or grilled the bones and veg, add them to a crockpot with the other spices and cook on low for eight to twelve hours prior to straining. Add the remaining ingredients after the broth is strained.
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