We've made pho one time before this, but perhaps it was PB (pre-blog). In any case, we didn't document it.
It was a huge success in terms of enjoyment, even though I managed to make the noodles soggy. =(
Some time ago, we saw that oxtails were on special and decided that it was high time we made pho again. This time, I'm applying what I learned from the previous attempt. Then and now, we used the recipe from Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham as a guide.
The first step in making the broth was charring ginger and onion. So cool. These pictures aren't really step-by-step, but the charring was so fun I had to take pictures. Here are the charred ginger and onion waiting to go into the broth.
The recipe called for beef bones and beef chuck to make the broth, but we decided to just use oxtail. The oxtail pieces were "cleaned" first by plunging them in boiling water until their exterior changed color. Then they went into pot with new water and brought to a boil, then simmered. In went the charred ginger and onions, some fish sauce and sugar. This simmered for about two hours. Of course, one's supposed to skim this simmering liquid to get rid of any scum.
Look at that beauty!
Anyway, after the 2 hours, I added the spices: star anise and cloves. According to the book, the spices are simmered in the broth for only 30 minutes. But I left them in there for longer because I really like star anise-y pho. I believe we basically just left that pot to simmer for quite a while. I remember just turning it off before going to bed.
The next day, we brought the broth up to heat and removed the spices, onions and ginger. I seasoned it with salt and fish sauce until a little salty (because the noodles will balance it out) and added a little ginger to "freshen" it up. The broth was basically done.
I prepared the garnishes. They were:
black pepper (not pictured)
green onions (not pictured because I forgot them)
Unfortunately, cilantro and Thai basil are as far as our herbs go, as I don't think those exotic Vietnamese herbs are available here. (Or at least, I don't know where to get them.)
I learned my lesson here! I soaked some dried rice noodles in cold water for 30 minutes -- not 1 minute more! -- and drained them. To cook, I placed small batches of noodles into boiling water until just cooked. I was afraid of them being soggy again. They were perfect this time.
To serve, place cooked noodles in your bowl, add some oxtail pieces and thinly-sliced sirloin beef. Pour boiling broth over. (Yes, I had to bring the broth to a rolling boil; it wasn't just hot.) Add other garnishes as desired.
For me, the sliced onions, cilantro, Thai basil and peppers are a must. Oh, and lime juice and black pepper too. I don't like adding hoisin as a condiment. I want to focus on the broth.
Ah, pho. So good. I don't think I even need to describe how good it tastes. I want some now!
For more information on pho and an actual recipe, visit Pho Bo at Wandering Chopsticks. Pho recipe used is from Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Mai Pham.
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