First thing’s first. Pho is pronounced “fuh”. We’ve been arguing over this for years, it’s pronounced “fuh” and that’s that. Don’t believe me? Check this.
Now that that’s settled, let’s talk about what Vietnamese Pho Soup is.
Pho is a noodle dish first, and a soup second. It is also considered Vietnam’s national dish. The soup is traditionally made using rice noodles served in a beef or chicken broth. The concept itself is simple, but there are hundreds of variations to it. To add to that, many argue about whether the one true Pho Soup is the one prepared in the South with a simple, clear broth, or if the Pho Soup from the north with its intense flavors of Star Anise and spices is the one Pho to rule them all.
Truthfully, I have no answer as to which Pho is the real Pho. What I do know is that I prefer to make a northern style Pho due to the bold flavors the spices and herbs bring to the table. Since I also prefer to serve this for breakfast, the aroma of the spices serves to wake us up. The heat from the bird’s eye chilli helps too.
I realize beef for breakfast may sound a little strange, but hear me out. Pho has enough liquid to hydrate you, noodles which’ll help fill your energy reserve, heat to make you feel awake and alert, protein from the beef, and best of all – the smell will make you feel glad you woke up in the first place. It’s no wonder some call Pho the dish that built a nation.
Before I dive into how you make Pho Soup and what you’ll need, I will add that a good home-made beef stock would elevate this dish into something else entirely. If you don’t have some stock, and you don’t intend to make it at home, you should at least make sure to buy a high quality stock cube.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 1 small shallot, peeled
- 1 clove of garlic, bruised but whole
- thumb sized chunk of peeled ginger
- 1.3L (5 1/2 cups) good quality beef stock
- 1 Star Anise
- 1tbsp Fish Sauce
- 1.5tbsp brown sugar
- 350 grams (9oz) rice noodles
- 300 grams (11oz) thinly sliced beef
- 3 red chillies, chopped
- 2 spring onions, chopped lengthwise
- 1 small red onion, sliced into rounds
- handful of mint chopped into strips (chiffonade)
- handful of basil chopped into strips (chiffonade)
- Lime wedges to serve
- Place the garlic, ginger, and shallot in a small saucepan over high heat until charred. This will create a depth of flavour which would otherwise be missing.
- In a larger pot, add the charred ingredients, star anise and stock. Simmer for 15 minutes. During this time you can cook the noodles and strain them.
- Once the 15 minutes have elapsed add the sugar, and fish sauce to the stock. Strain the solids out of the stock, and remove from heat.
- In a deep plate begin to assemble. Start from the noodles, and form into a nest. Add the spring onion, red onion, red chilli, and the raw beef on top. Then fill with broth, ensuring that the broth is poured over the beef. The broth will cook the beef as it’s poured (see note below). Sprinkle with basil, mint, and squeeze the lime over it.
Note: The beef is cooked by pouring broth over it when it's plated.
If you're uncomfortable with this, cook the beef slices carefully by poaching it in the broth.