Pho: A Complete Recipe for Beginners

My mother in law is Vietnamese and is one of those people who whips up these magical meals that simply drip with deliciousness. When asked how she made it, she invariably replies something along the lines of, “it’s EEEEAAAAAAASY! I just cut that, cook that, add that and [waves hands] – done!”

Well, I’ve been married to her son for 6 years now and neither he nor I have managed to make (edible) pho. I thought I should nab her during this visit and actually capture her pho recipe, Pioneer Woman-style, picture by picture, detail by detail. Because I honestly doubt there is any other way I will even remotely be able to make it without that level of instruction.

Here goes (Warning: my kitchen is messy and unglamorous!)

Pho – A Recipe for Beginners

Ingredients:

  • 1 small hunk of fresh ginger root (more or less according to your ginger-lovin’ taste)
  • 5 stars of star anise (you can buy it on Amazon)
  • 3-4 cubes of chicken bouillon
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 Tablespoon of salt (more or less – you decide how you like it)
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 lb beef bones WITH marrow inside
  • 2 lb beef short ribs or thick cut brisket
  • rice noodles (you can buy them on Amazon too!)

Condiments:

  • spring onion
  • thinly sliced fresh raw yellow/white onion
  • mung bean sprouts
  • cilantro
  • hoisin sauce
  • sriracha
  • spicy little chilli peppers that will knock your socks off
  • lime/lemon wedges to squeeze over
  • OPTIONAL: 1 lb of tender beef, thinly sliced (for raw beef on top of noodles that will be blanched by the soup)

– enough for a family of 4 or 5

*****

The first thing you need to do is boil out the impurities in the beef and bones.

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (12 of 12)

You place your bones and beef in a BIG POT, fill with water, then let it boil.

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (13 of 1)

This gross white frothy stuff will rise to the surface from the bones

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On hand you are like, “YAY!” that it’s all coming out, but on the other hand, it’s pretty disturbing to think what we might have been consuming all this time… ewwwwwwwwww

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (9 of 12)

Once it’s all really nasty and frothy, remove it from the heat and dump it into a colander with the cold water running on it.

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (8 of 12)

Take EACH PIECE of meat and EACH BONE and wash them individually and place in a bowl full of cold water, just like my Mother in Law is doing in the picture!

When that’s done, place the bones in the (cleaned) pot, and then put the meat on top of them.

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (6 of 12)

Like so. Then fill with water and put back on the stove.

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Then! Fun times.

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (4 of 12)

Burn the onion!

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And the ginger! Then add them along with the star anise, cinnamon and chicken bouillon and salt to the pot

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (23 of 20)

PLOP! just like that.

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (1 of 12)

Some more of the white frothy stuff will rise. Just scoop it out.

Meanwhile!

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (2 of 12)

Take your pho rice noodles and put in a bowl and cover with cold water. You want these babies to soak for a few hours – yes, a few.

You have some time to kill now….noodles are soaking, the soup is simmering…

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (32 of 20)Look! Baby alligator lizard. So cute. Guess he wants some pho too?

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (31 of 20)

while I was looking at that baby alligator lizard, my mother in law was busy chopping these guys up. Lots of spring onions and some leftover plain ole’ yellow onion

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (30 of 20)

Love us some condiments.

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The soup has now simmered for a couple of hours. My mother in law took the meat out and is slicing it

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (28 of 20)

She is explaining here to be careful to cut the meat AGAINST the grain because if you don’t, lordy, you are going to have some hella tough meat

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (27 of 20)

Cut, cut, cut

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (26 of 20)

She’s a pro

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (25 of 20)

The boys flock like ants to honey

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (24 of 20)

“pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed us!”

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (22 of 20)

Now! everything is ready so my mother in law just drained the noodles (which had been soaking for 3 hours in cold water), then dipped them LIKE WILDFIRE into boiling water. In and out, FAST!

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (19 of 20)

so fast I almost didn’t capture it

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but Moxie did, haha!!

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (20 of 20)

So then she added the noodles to a bowl

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (18 of 20)

Added broth, YUM!

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (16 of 20)

and some meat and fixin’s

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (17 of 20)

Add one very happy little girl

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (14 of 20)

All 3 chitlins inhaled it, I tell ya.

meriah nichols pho recipe september 2014 (13 of 20)

INHALED IT!

and you will, too.

Pho for Beginners:

Ingredients:

  • 1 small hunk of fresh ginger root (more or less according to your ginger-lovin’ taste)
  • 5 stars of star anise (you can buy it on Amazon)
  • 3-4 cubes of chicken bouillon
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 Tablespoon of salt (more or less – you decide how you like it)
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 lb beef bones WITH marrow inside
  • 2 lb beef short ribs or thick cut brisket
  • rice noodles (you can buy them on Amazon too!)

Condiments:

  • spring onion
  • thinly sliced fresh raw yellow/white onion
  • mung bean sprouts
  • cilantro
  • hoisin sauce
  • sriracha
  • spicy little chilli peppers that will knock your socks off
  • lime/lemon wedges to squeeze over

– enough for a family of 4 or 5

Recap:

Boil the impurities out of the bones and meat. When it is bubbling and filthy-frothy on top, drain the bones and meat into a colander in the sink. Wash each bone and piece of meat in water, placing them in a bowl filled with cold water. Clean the pot. Place the bones and meat (- bones first, on the bottom) in the now-clean pot, fill with cold water and allow to boil. Scrape the second round of impure filth-froth off.

Meanwhile, burn the onion and the ginger. Add to the pot with the bones and beef. Add the star anise, cinnamon, salt (to taste) and chicken bouillon*.

With everything in the pot, turn your attention to the pho rice noodles. Place them in a bowl with cold water covering them. They will sit in the cold water for as long as the soup is simmering, about 3 hours. The goal with the noodles is to pre-soak them, then you will dip them like lightning into boiling water and boom, bang! They will be done.

So, after the soup has simmered for a few hours, take the meat out and thinly slice it against the grain.  Set aside, along with the condiments (- cilantro, green onions, fresh onions, mung bean sprouts, lime/lemon wedges, thinly sliced raw beef).

Pho noodles soaked, boil water in a different pot, quickly place the noodles in and out, then immediately place in your eating bowl. Arrange cooked beef on noodles as well as raw beef (if raw beef is desired) and ladle the broth on top of the meat and noodles.

Then add the other condiments to taste – fresh cilantro! green onions! mung bean sprouts! squeeze your lime wedges over and add a splash of hoisin sauce and sriracha! a little tiny spicy pepper?! why not! it’s all goooooooooooooood.

********

* note: use chicken bouillon to keep the soup clear. Beef bouillon will change the colour to black or very dark brown. You can, however, use very high quality beef bouillon, without added colour – then it will stay clear.

 

 

 

 

Meriah

is a deaf blogger, global nomad, tech-junkie, cat-lover, Trekkie, Celto-Teutonic-peasant-handed mom of 3 (one with Down syndrome and one gifted 2E).

She likes her coffee black and hot.


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