The iconic Vietnamese Pho Bo and the Hungarian beef bouillon

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This iconic Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup or Pho Bo is probably one of the most well-known noodle soup to come from Vietnam. It features succulent medium rare beef slices on top of the pho or noodles, together with some wonderfully fresh vegetables and herbs that bring a fresh balance to the tasty and nutritious soup.

Pho bo 030

The History of Pho Noodle Soup

The exact history of these soup is not certain, as beef is not commonly part of Vietnamese cuisine. Some people believe that it was probably a fusion dish, influenced by the French colonialists. However, the Pho Bo is considered one of Vietnam’s sacred national dishes. Culinary experts generally agreed that the rice noodles were brought by Cantonese immigrants from Guandong province in Southern China. But some say that the soup itself was influenced by the French during their colonization of Vietnam, however locals dispute this theory. The Vietnamese claim that pho originated in the Nam Dinh province just southwest of Hanoi and then spread to other parts of the country. Refugees fleeing Vietnam in the 1970s carried pho to the West where it grew quickly in popularity. Even President Clinton enjoyed a bowl of pho during his historical visit to Vietnam at Pho 2000 – a small restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City.

 When I prepared first time the soup it reminded me ghostly to the Hungarian beef bouillon. However the Vietnamese version tasted more exotique due to its spices!

Ingredients: 1 chicken or beef stock, 2 lb beef bones, 1 lb beef brisket or rump, 1 old ginger root, 6 inch long, 1 peeled large onion, 4 star anise, 6 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 4 inch long, 2 Tbsp fish sauce, 1 tsp salt, 1 rock sugar, 1 inch or 1 tsp sugar, 1 Tbsp ground peppercorn, 10 cups water

Other Ingredients: ½ lb thinly sliced raw beef sirloin, 8 oz dried pho noodles, 1 thinly sliced medium onion, soaked in water for 20 minutes

Preparing the Beef Stock

Boil the beef bones together with the beef brisket or rump in a pot of water. After the water comes to the boil, allow it to continue boiling for 3 minutes, then pour away the water and flush the beef bones and the brisket or rump under water, making sure that all the impurities are washed away.

Pour 10 cups of water in over the beef bones and beef brisket or rump, and bring it to the boil again. When the water starts to boil, turn the heat down to the smallest possible flame and allow it to simmer. Remove any scum that rises to the top of the soup.

Ginger and Onion for the Beef Stock

Crush the ginger with a pestle and mortar, leaving it in one piece. The back of a big knife will do the job just as well. Grill the ginger and onion until they turn slightly brown and smell fragrant.

Cooking the rest of the Stock

Add the ginger and onion into the simmering pot of beef stock. Make sure all the scum from the beef has been removed from the stock before you do so. Add the star anise, cloves, cinnamon and peppercorn into the stock. Keep simmering the stock on very low heat.

Preparing the noodles

Before cooking soak the noodle in cold water for 10 minutes. Then in a separate pot, boil it for about 5 minutes, until al dante. Remove and rinse with cold water. Be careful not to overcook the noodles because when you ladle in the hot soup the noodles will cook a little bit more.

Simmer and Serve

Continue simmering the soup for about 1 hour. Remove the beef brisket or rump from the stock. Soak them in cold water for 15 minutes, so that they remain moist and retain their color after they cool.

Allow the soup to keep simmering for another 2 hours.

Strain the soup through a fine sieve.

Bring the soup back to a boil, then turn the heat down to low.

Add the fish sauce, salt and sugar into the stock. Adjust the taste to your liking by varying the amounts of these ingredients. Bear in mind that the noodles will reduce the saltiness of the soup.

Slice the beef brisket or rump into thin slices.

In a bowl, put some noodles, slices of the cooked beef brisket or rump, the raw beef sirloin and raw onions on top. Pour the boiling soup into the bowl, making sure that the raw pieces of beef are cooked to a medium rare state.

Serve with the Vietnamese Side Salad and enjoy!

Vietnamese side salad

These raw vegetables are added to steaming noodle soups just before they are eaten. As the cooking process does not take place over a flame and is a very gentle and gradual one, the vegetables retain their crunchiness and add a refreshing balance to the heavier meats. This basic side salad is an accompaniment to many of the delicious and fun-to-make Vietnamese starter recipes like the Cha Gio.

Ingredients: 2 lettuce leaves, 2 sprigs Thai basil leaves, 1½ cup bean sprouts, 3 bird’s eye chillies, ½ fresh lime or lemon

Preparation: Cut the bird’s eye chili in small slices. Some prefer to leave it whole as they like to chew on it while eating the noodles!

Use only the basil leaves. Discard the stems. Use as much of the vegetables and herbs as you like. Add more to your noodles as you go along. Squeeze the lime juice into your dish.


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