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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Bun Thit Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork with Vermicelli)

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Bun Thit Nuong (Vietnamese Grilled Pork with Vermicelli)
slightly adapted from Hungry Huy

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds pork shoulder
  • 1 10-oz. package rice vermicelli (small thickness), cooked using package directions

Marinade

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon thick soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon neutral cooking oil

Vegetables

  • Mint (rau thơm), chopped or minced
  • Vietnamese perilla (tiá tô), chopped or minced
  • Vietnamese balm (kinh giới), chopped or minced
  • Cucumbers, sliced or julienned
  • Carrots, julienned

 Garnish

  • Pickled radish
  • Scallions
  • Crushed peanuts

Sauce

Method

Slice the uncooked pork thinly, about 1/8-1/4″. It helps to slightly freeze it.

Mince garlic and shallots. Mix in a bowl with sugar, fish sauce, thick soy sauce, pepper, and oil until sugar dissolves. Marinate the meat in the mixture for at least 1 hour, or overnight for better results.

Bake the pork at 375F for 10-15 minutes or until about 80% cooked. Finish cooking by broiling in the oven until a nice golden brown color develops, flipping the pieces midway.

Assemble your bowl with veggies, noodles, and garnish. Mix the whole bowl up and pour the nuoc cham on top or sauce individual bites, as you prefer.

NOTES

Bun Thit Nuong has been my favorite Vietnamese dish since I first laid my hands on it in SoCal around 2007. And I can’t tell you how many friends of mine have heard my mini-diatribe re. eating at a Vietnamese spot: “forget the pho, order the bun!”

But ever since coming back to Texas in 2011, I have gone without. Why? Well, I rarely eat out since I moved back here. And for some reason, it never occurred to me to make it myself. Which… for me? That is WEIRD. WHY? Why would I not have thought to make it myself?? It took a longtime acquaintance of Vietnamese background to nudge me to do it and once I did, I kind of face palmed myself for waiting so long. From the first bite, I nearly cried at how perfect it tasted – and just like the restaurant versions I remembered.

I won’t lie: this is not a 30-minute meal. More like twice that. The assembling of all the elements takes a bit of effort. But if you love this dish like I do, it is so, so worth it. Promise.