What the Phở?

I am on a bit of a soup kick, I guess. I had a pound of thinly sliced eye of round in the fridge, and I didn’t really feel like Korean or Japanese (I had yakiniku for lunch the other day, and that really sits with you). So tonight I made big bowls of phở for the hubz and myself. Btw, it’s pronounced “fuh?” not “faux” – the intonation indicated by the squiggly on top of the ‘o’ makes the sound lilt upwards at the end, resembling a question. I only speak a few words of Vietnamese, but this I know.

Phở is so incredibly easy to make. I was able to take the lazy way out, since I already had veal demi in the freezer. (I’d normally save this for something special, but the beef stock I have has red wine in it. Also, remember the name of my blog.) There are some regional variations in the way the broth is flavored, but we’re generally talking about stock made of oxtails steeped with garlic, charred ginger, star anise, cinnamon stick, clove and a bouquet garni that may or may not include a bit of lemongrass. Add raw thinly sliced beef, chewy rice noodles and a handful of bean sprouts, cilantro, basil and sliced chile, a squirt of fish sauce and lime juice, and we’re talkin’ phở shizzle.

Phở bò (Vietnamese beef noodle soup)
Serves 2 or 3

6 cups oxtail, beef or veal stock (from scratch is the best!)
1 bouquet garni
1 small shallot, sliced
1 2″ piece of ginger, charred on stove
2 cloves garlic
3 star anise pods
1 3″ cinnamon stick
3 or 4 cloves
1 tsp peppercorns
some squirts of fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
salt to taste

Simmer broth gently for an hour or more, adding water as necessary to prevent broth from reducing too much. You should end up with 4 or 5 cups of broth at the end. Strain boiling-hot broth into bowls that contain:

rice noodles, cooked al dente
raw thinly sliced beef, such as eye of round or brisket

The meat and noodles will come up to proper doneness in the hot broth.

Serve with:
bean sprouts
fresh cilantro and basil (Thai basil, if you can get it)
lime wedges
sliced chiles
hoisin sauce
cock sauce (that bottled red sriracha stuff with the rooster on it)

I like to pile all the garnish on top for extra flavor and crunch, and I love to hit it with a bunch of cock sauce and hoisin. The people in Vietnamese restaurants probably think that I’m totally white trash for doing that, but I eat eggs with ketchup, too, so maybe I am.