everybody loves pho. nothing quite cures what ails you like a nice, steaming bowl of pho. i’ve been on the search for perfect pho in LA since i arrived in late october and it’s been tough (disclaimer: my search so far has only reached the highland park, eagle rock, pasadena & silverlake areas and i’m talking beef pho).
my points for good pho:
- at first look: cloudiness in the broth (an indicator of depth in flavor)
- a good savory taste that isn’t too sweet or salty
- the broth can stand on its own without added condiments
- noodles take a 1:4 ratio to broth
- beef is sliced thin and there are no big chunks (big chunks = chewy chunks)
- sprouts, basil, etc. are obviously fresh
- they have chili sauce with the oil (okay, i’m just being picky)
hmm… looking at this list, i guess i’m 1. a pho nerd and 2. pretty hard to please. so i decided to tackle my own pho at home.
here’s a recipe i tried from my friend maria with a few tweaks. i was really happy with the recipe and got a cloudy, tasty broth. the initial parboiling of the bones is important to get rid of the yicky scum that rises out of them. aside from that, it was rather enjoyable waiting for homemade pho!
7 Hour Pho Tai (serves 4)
- 4 pounds beef bones (knuckles and marrow)
- 13 cups water
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 – 4 inch piece of ginger
- 4 whole anise stars (or 32 points)
- 10 whole cloves
- 4 shallots
- 1 onion cut in half
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tbsp salt
- 1 pho cube
- one sheet of cheesecloth or a coffee filter and a small length of string
bowl & garnish ingredients:
- 10 oz. pho noodles (either dried or fresh)
- 4 oz. lean beef
- 1/4 pound of mung bean sprouts
- 1 lime cut into quarters
- 4 sprigs of Thai basil
- hot chili sauce with oil
optional: paper thin slices of onion, sprigs of cilantro, sliced green onions, sliced jalapeno pepper, fish sauce, plum sauce
1. set oven to broil. place ginger, shallots & onion on a baking sheet on the highest rack and broil for 15 minutes. remove burned skins and set aside.
2. trim excess fat off soup bones. put bones and water enough to cover them into a large soup pot and bring to a rolling boil for 5 minutes. scum will rise from the bones. pour entire pot (water & bones) into the sink. wash pot of residue and rinse bones. return to pot. add water (in recipe) to pot and bring to a boil.
3. tie cinnamon sticks, ginger, anise stars, and cloves in cheesecloth and add to pot. add broiled shallots and onion halves, fish sauce, sugar, salt and pho cube. return to boil.
4. turn heat to low and simmer, skimming occasionally, for at least 5 hours. (i simmered mine for 7 hours total)
5. cool and place in refrigerator overnight.
6. about an hour before serving: skim fat off of surface of pho. you can strain your pho if you’d like before reheating. reheat over medium high heat and season to taste with extra salt, fish sauce or sugar.
7. slice lean beef across the grain (1/16″ pieces) and set aside. you can place the beef in the freezer for 20 minutes before cutting to make it easier to get really thin slices.
8. prepare a garnish plate with bean sprouts, basil, lime wedges, etc.
9. prepare pho noodles according to package. (i used rice stick noodles from trader joe’s which ended up too big and hard to eat. get real pho noodles from an asian market if you can.) try not to overcook them. place into bowls. (noodles should take up 1/4 to 1/3 of bowl) top with beef slices (and onions, green onions & cilantro, if using)
10. ladle pho broth over noodles. serve immediately with garnish & optional sauces. nom nom away!