As soon as hubby stepped into the house last night, he knew what we were having for dinner. The warm, heady fragrances of star anise, cloves and cinammon had filled the house as the pot of stock had been simmering on the stove for most of the day.
I love having hot, steaming bowls of noodle soup on cold, blustery days, though this isn’t always easy when one is working all day. So while I’m still at home with bubs, I took advantage of being able to cook pho bo (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) which requires only a quick glance into the pot every so often, once you have it going. Most of the work happens once the stock is ready to go, but by then, bubs had gone to bed for the night.
The recipe below comes from a book I bought a while ago, called Vietnamese Food & Cooking, by Ghillie Basan. I have changed some of the quantites a bit – for instance, I’ve used less onions and spring onions than they have to serve the dish. Also, when I was cooking the stock, I used less water than they did and less beef, but that’s because I only wanted to make enough for four (instead of six). I’ve included the original quantities of water and beef below though. As well as all this, I used shin bone and chuck as this was what was available when I went to the store. Also, I didn’t go through the process of finely slicing the sirloin. I bought a bag of frozen, thinly sliced beef from the Pork Mart & Poultry in Greenlane (I mentioned this before in my Steamboat post a while ago) and just used that.
In the book, they also note that you can leave this to stand overnight if you want the flavours to develop fully.
250g beef sirloin
500g dried rice noodles
1-2 spring onions, sliced
2-3 red Thai chillies, sliced (and seeded if you wish)
1/2 C beansprouts
1/2 onion, finely sliced
1 large bunch each fresh coriander and mint, stalks removed, leaves chopped
2 limes, cut in wedges
hoisin sauce, nuoc man or nuoc cham to serve (optional)
For the stock
1.5 kg oxtail (or shin bone), trimmed of fat and cut into thick pieces
1 kg beef shank, brisket (or chuck)
2 large onions, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, cut into chunks
7.5cm fresh root ginger, cut into chunks
2 cinammon sticks
6 star anise
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3-4 Tbsp fish sauce (nuoc mam)
Take one of the quarters of an onion and finely slice. Set aside for serving.
To make the stock, put the oxtail (or shin bone) into a large, deep pan and cover it with water. Bring it to the boil and blanch the meat for about 10 minutes. Drain the meat, rinsing off any scum, and clean out the pan. Put the blanched oxtail back into the pan with the other stock ingredients, apart from the fish sauce and salt, and cover with about 3 litres (12 cups) of water. Bring it to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 2-3 hours.
Remove the lid and simmer for another hour, until the stock has reduced to about 2 litres (8 cups). Skim off any fat and then strain the stock into another pan.
Cut the beef sirloin across the grain into thin pieces, the size of the heel of your hand. Bring the stock to the boil once more, stir in the fish sauce, season to taste, then reduce the heat and leave the stock simmering until ready to use.
Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet. Divide them equally among six wide soup bowls. Top each serving with the slices of beef, finely sliced onion, spring onion, chillies and beansprouts.
Ladle the hot stock over the top of these ingredients, top with the fresh herbs and serve with the lime wedges to squeeze over. Pass around the hoisin, nuoc mam or nuoc cham for those who like a little sweetening, fish flavouring or extra fire.