Anyone who’s ever attempted making pho at home knows that it’s no stroll in the park. But as a pho fanatic, I’ve never quite appreciated the complexities of the dish until actually trying the recipe at home with nothing to go on but blind faith in my chosen recipe.
Armed with a bag of spices and a prime selection beef bones, I was determined to make a success of my homemade pho.
Most recipes I found on Google required 3-4 hours of simmering on a stove. Instead, I decided to make use of my slow cooker and let it boil away overnight. Waking up to the tantalising smell of stock the next morning was quite an experience!
I ended up using an adapted pho recipe designed for slow cookers from Steamy Kitchen. The portion of ingredients in this recipe were all spot on, although I added oxtail to my beef bones for extra flavour. The resulting soup was rich, full bodied and mellow. It was slightly on the thick side (must’ve been all that fantastic marrow!), so I had to dilute the stock before serving.
2 kgs beef bones
1 kg oxtail
2 medium sized onions
4 inch section of ginger, sliced
1 packet of Pho Spices (or as many of these spices as you have: 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons whole coriander, 1 teaspooon fennel, 3 whole star anise, 3 whole cloves, 1 cardamom pod)
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
1 packet fresh rice noodles
250gr round or rump steak, sliced as thinly as possible.
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Fresh coriander, basil and shallots
2-3 chili peppers, sliced
2 big handfuls of bean sprouts
Half an onion, sliced
Sriracha hot chili sauce
1. Bring a large stockpot with water to boil over high heat. When it comes to a rolling boil, add the beef bones and boil vigourously for 10 minutes.
2. In the meantime, heat a frying pan on medium-low heat. Add the Vietnamese Pho Spices and toast until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Dump the spices to the empty slow cooker immediately.
Return frying pan to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is hot, add the ginger slices and the onion half. Cook until the ginger is browned on both sides and the onion half is nicely browned and softened. Add the ginger and the onion to the slow cooker.
3. When the bones have been pre-boiled, drain, discard water and rinse bones briefly to clean them. Add the bones to the slow cooker. Fill with cool water to just 1-1/2 inches below surface, add the fish sauce and sugar. Cover and set the slow cooker to cook on low for 8 hours. Taste and season with additional fish sauce if needed.
4. When you are just about ready to eat, you’ll prep the rest of the ingredients for the Pho bowls. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to package instructions. If you are using fresh noodles, all they need is a couple of minutes. Drain immediately.
5. Strain the stock with a fine meshed sieve. Discard the solids.
6. Line up 4 large bowls on counter. Distribute the noodles and thin steak slices evenly amongst the bowls. Ladle the hot Pho stock into each bowl. The hot stock should cook the thin steak slices. Serve with lemon wedges, fresh herbs, chili peppers, Hoisin sauce and Sriracha hot chili sauce at the table.
…..And there you have it, a satisfyingly hot bowl of pho that’s just as good as any other – only you made it yourself!