Happy New Year! I am so excited for a new year because every new year means new beginnings. I wanted to kick off the new year with a popular Vietnamese dish – pho. It’s the recipe all my friends ask me for. To be honest, I haven’t perfected it. The pho I made previously was word for word from my mom, and while she makes a killer pho, I knew I could take it up a notch.
I recently spent the holidays with my extended relatives in Michigan and I gotta say their pho game is strong. I had it the first 3 days of my trip from 3 different people, and it was all delicious! After coming back, I was definitely feeling inspired so I pulled out my old pho recipe, did a little research, and changed it up a bit.
To start off, my old pho broth was definitely a bit weak on flavor. The basis of any good broth is the meat. In this case, beef. In my old recipe, I only added beef chuck and ox tail. This time around I decided to add a pound of beef bones to the broth. I did some research and discovered that meat bones make for the best broth because the gelatin in the bone gives it that rich flavor. They do have a lot of fatty bone marrow though, so I had to make sure to scoop off all the fat from the top while I was cooking.
The next important part of a the broth is the spices. I normally only use star anise which works fine if that’s all you have, but if you really want that full body of flavor, you gotta add more stuff. In my research, I discovered an overwhelming amount of people added a cinnamon stick and cloves and to a lesser degree cardamom, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds. I decided to add all of them with the exception of the cloves. It definitely made a difference in the taste. So good. The only thing I discovered at the end was that some of the spices would end up in my bowl when I ladled the soup on the noodles. Next time it’ll probably be better to use a spice pouch for a clear and smooth broth.
The last change I made was charring my onion and ginger to give it more depth in flavor. I turned my oven up to broil and placed them in there for 10 minutes before placing them into my both. This change blew my mind a bit because it was never something my mom did growing up. But thinking about it, it does make sense! Roasting adds more earthiness and sweetness to ingredients, so it as a result adds those flavors to the broth.
I loved this whole experience of building on a recipe passed down from my mom. Building on the past and making it better is what a new year is about!
- 1 pound beef chuck
- 1 pound oxtail
- 1 pound beef bone
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
- 3 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 pound daikon (cut into big chunks)
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 tablespoon ginger
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 package of pho noodles
- bean sprouts
- green onions
- thai chilis (optional)
Put the beef bone, ox tail, and beef chuck in a large pot with enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil. Once the water boils, take the meat out and put it aside. Pour out all the water and put the meat back into the pot. Add water until it just covers the meat. Be careful not to add too much water as it will make the soup weak.
While the water is boiling in the step above, place the onion and ginger in the oven for 10 minutes on broil. Set aside.
Bring the water to a boil. Scoop away any impurities you see. Put the coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cardamom seeds, star anise, and cinnamon stick in a tea bag or spice pouch. Add the spice bag, daikon, onion, and ginger to the broth. Simmer for an hour. Continue to check on the soup every 15 minutes and scoop away any impurities you see. This will ensure that your soup appears clean.
Take out the beef chuck, beef bone, and ox tail out. Check that it is cooked. Cut all the beef into small pieces and set aside. Put the bones back into the broth. These will include the bone from the beef bone and bone portion of the ox tail.
Simmer for half an hour more. The soup should be done at this point.
Boil water and add in pho noodles. Let it simmer for about 2 minutes or until noodles are done.
Put some noodles in a bowl. Put fish sauce, bean sprouts, cilantro, and green onions on top. Add some of the beef chuck, beef bone meat, and ox tail meat you set aside earlier on top. Finally, ladle enough soup into the bowl so that it covers the noodles and toppings to your liking.
Before storing the broth, take out all the aromatics, bones, and vegetables from the broth. As you store it, these ingredients will cloud the soup over the time.