Beef Pho

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Beef Pho
Serves 4
with thanks to The Woks of Life

Ingredients

  • 2 (3-inch) pieces ginger, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 onions, peeled, cut in half
  • 5 pounds beef marrow or knuckle bones
  • 2 pounds beef chuck, cut into two 1-pound pieces
  • 4 scallions, cut into 4-inch lengths
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 2-1/2 ounces palm sugar (can sub rock sugar or granulated sugar)
  • 8 star anise
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 black cardamom pod (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 pound fresh pho noodles
  • 1/3 pound beef sirloin, slightly frozen, then sliced paper-thin against the grain

Garnishes:

  • Sliced jalapeno peppers
  • Thinly sliced onion
  • Chopped scallions
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Thai basil
  • Lime wedges

Method

  1. Start by charring your ginger and onions. You can do this by a) using tongs to hold the ginger and onions over an open flame; b) place the vegetables directly on an electric burner; or c) putting the vegetables on a sheet pan under the oven broiler. Turn until they’re lightly blackened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Rinse away any blackened skins and set aside.
  1. Place the bones and beef chuck in large stockpot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and thoroughly clean the stockpot. This process will give you a much cleaner broth.
  1. Add 5 quarts fresh water back to the stockpot and bring to a boil. Transfer the bones and meat back to the pot, along with the charred/cleaned ginger and onions. Add the scallions, fish sauce and sugar. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the beef chuck is tender, about 40 minutes. Skim the surface often to remove any foam and fat.
  1. Remove one piece of the chuck and transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Transfer the beef to a container and refrigerate. Leave the other piece of chuck in the pot.
  1. Now toast the spices (star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom, fennel seeds, and coriander seeds) in a dry pan over medium low heat for about 3 minutes, until fragrant. Use kitchen string to tie up the spices in a piece of cheesecloth, and add it to the broth.
  1. Continue simmering for another 8 hours – minimum – adding bits of water to maintain liquid level as needed. Add the salt and continue to simmer, skimming as necessary, until you’re ready to assemble the rest of the dish. Taste broth and adjust seasoning by adding more salt, sugar, and/or fish sauce as needed. Strain, if desired (see notes).
  1. To serve, add noodles to each bowl. Place a few slices of the beef chuck and the raw sirloin on the noodles. Bring the broth to a rolling boil and ladle it into each bowl. The hot broth will cook the beef. Garnish with your toppings, and be sure to squeeze a lot of fresh lime juice over the top!

NOTES

I barely know what to say. I never ever dreamed that I would make pho at home that tasted this perfect, flawless, the broth as good as any Vietnamese restaurant I ate at in SoCal. Seriously, THAT GOOD. I almost cried. Yep.

Not gonna lie. The initial stages take a bit of effort. But it’s a labor of love. And once you get to the point of leaving it to simmer, it pretty much takes care of itself after that. I did add a cup of water nearly ever hour to keep it from simmering away too much (my stove runs hot, even on low), and in the end I strained the broth to make it easier to serve, though you certainly don’t have to if you’d like to skip another step. I wouldn’t blame you one bit.

I can’t wait to eat this again.

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