Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

PhoThis Pho, pronounced ‘Fuh’, is such a gift of a recipe! It is the answer to so many prayers from people struggling to lose weight. The next time you hear anyone complaining about their diet or that there are no filling, satisfying, delicious, low-calorie meals out there, just say “Pho it!” If they are anything like me they just won’t give a Pho . . . to anyone else because they will want to eat it all themselves!

This soup really is worth doing, whether you’re trying to lose weight or not. Making the Asian beef stock is a bit of hassle, I’ll admit, as you’re really supposed to boil marrow bones and shin beef for hours and hours with all the vegetables and spices below. I have simplifies this my using shop-bought beef stock and Asianed it up with the stock ingredients below but it is still a few hours effort. The best thing to do is to make a massive pot of stock, portion it out and freeze it in Tupperware or freezer bags and use when needed. The good part though is that the stock is the only cooking you need to do, besides steeping the dried noodles in boiling water for 10 minutes. Everything else is just assembling. Even steeping the needles can be side-stepped by buying fresh ones in the supermarket.

The beef, I know, is expensive but a little of it goes a very long way and, unfortunately, I think you do need to use beef fillet. It’s leaner than other cuts, first of all, so you’re not adding any extra fat here. Also it is so incredible tender it will cook and become melt-in-the-mouth when just covered in the hot stock. If you are on a budget and cannot afford fillet steak as often as you would like to have this Pho, you could replace it with some grilled minute steak or chicken breast.

Pho (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

Ingredients

  • 3 L beef stock
  • 4 star anais
  • 2 10 cm cinnamon sticks
  • 0.5 tsp fennel seeds
  • 300 g finely sliced shallots
  • 60 g peeled ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • 8 cloves
  • 4 small carrots, peeled & roughly chopped
  • 2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
  • 2 red onions, roughly sliced
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 fillet steak, about 250 g, finely sliced
  • 9 spring onions, finly sliced, white and green parts separated
  • 300 g dried rice noodles
  • 200 g bean sprouts
  • For the Garnishes:
  • 20 g fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 20 g fresh Thai basil, or basil, roughly chopped
  • 20 g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 5 birds eye chillies, red or green, roughly chopped and deseeded

Instructions

  1. Toast the star anais, cinnamon and fennel seeds in a hot dry pan for a minute or two until they become aromatic and remove from the pan.
  2. Add the shallots and ginger and dry fry for 10 minutes on medium heat until they are toasted and lightly browned.
  3. Add your toasted spices back to the pan with the peppercorns, cloves, carrots, celery, onions and beef stock. Bring to the boil.
  4. Allow to boil for 10 minutes and clamp the lid on and bring it down to a simmer and let it simmer for 3 hours. If making the day before, leave covered overnight.
  5. Chop your coriander, basil, chillies, mint and limes and add them to individual bowls.
  6. Heat the stock up gently and pass it through a sieve. Bring the smooth stock up to the boil again and add the white parts of the spring onions and the fish sauce.
  7. Steel the noodles in boiling water for 10 minutes and strain.
  8. Assemble the soup by adding the rice noodles to soup bowls, add a few slices of raw steak to each bowl, scatter with the green parts of the spring onions and the bean sprouts and pour over the hot stock.
  9. Serve and let people sprinkle on their own garnishes to taste.
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