Vietnamese Pho Bo rice noodle soup with beef

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  • Pho Bo is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles a few herbs, and meat, primarily served with either beef or chicken. Pho is a popular street food in Vietnam and the specialty of a number of restaurant chains around the world. Southern Vietnamese eat it for breakfast and occasionally lunch, whereas those from northern Vietnam consume it at any time of day.

Pho originated in the early 20th century in northern Vietnam, and was popularized throughout the rest of the world by refugees after the Vietnam War. Because pho’s origins are poorly documented, there is significant disagreement over the cultural influences that led to its development in Vietnam, as well as the etymology of the word itself. The Hanoi and Saigon styles of pho differ by noodle width, sweetness of broth, and choice of herbs. A related noodle soup, is associated with hué in central Vietnam.

Thanks to president Bill Clinton he made the soup world wide known. In 2000 of November Clinton visited the country which was the swan song of his tumultuous presidency, and he received a rock star’s welcome in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City as he worked the crowds. When it was about lunch time he entered a soup restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City. When the chef recognized him he shouted to the sous chef: Pho Bo soup for the president! (the restaurant can be found: Phan Chu Trinh, Ho Chi Minh City) And he liked it very much and the soup got a lot of media attention.

For the broth:5 pounds beef marrow or knuckle bones, 2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 2 pieces, 2 (3-inch) pieces ginger, cut in half lengthwise and lightly bruised with the flat side of a knife, lightly charred, 2 yellow onions, peeled and charred, 1/4 cup fish sauce, 3 ounces rock sugar, or 3 tablespoons sugar, 10 whole star anise, lightly toasted in a dry pan, 6 whole cloves, lightly toasted in a dry pan, 1 tablespoon sea salt

Noodle assembly:1 pound dried 1/16-inch-wide rice sticks, soaked, cooked and drained, 1/3 pound beef sirloin, slightly frozen, then sliced paper-thin across the grain

Garnishes: 1/2 yellow onion, sliced paper-thin, 3 scallions, cut into thin rings, 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, 1 pound bean sprouts, 10 sprigs Asian basil, 1 dozen saw-leaf herb leaves (optional), 6 Thai bird chilies or 1 serrano chili, cut into thin rings, 1 lime, cut into 6 thin wedges, freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

  1. In a large stockpot, bring 6 quarts water to a boil. Place the bones and beef chuck in a second pot and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil vigorously for 5 minutes. Using tongs, carefully transfer the bones and beef to the first pot of boiling water. Discard the water in which the meat cooked. (This cleans the bones and meat and reduces the impurities that can cloud the broth.) When the water returns to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Skim the surface often to remove any foam and fat. Add the charred ginger and onions, fish sauce and sugar. Simmer until the beef chuck is tender, about 40 minutes. Remove one piece and submerge in cool water for 10 minutes to prevent the meat from darkening and drying out. Drain, then cut into thin slices and set aside. Let the other piece of beef chuck continue to cook in the simmering broth.
  2. When the broth has been simmering for about 1 1/2 hours total, wrap the star anise and cloves in a spice bag (or piece of cheesecloth) and add to the broth. Let infuse until the broth is fragrant, about 30 minutes. Remove and discard both the spice bag and onions. Add the salt and continue to simmer, skimming as necessary, until you’re ready to assemble the dish. The broth needs to cook for at least 2 hours. (The broth will taste salty but will be balanced once the noodles and accompaniments are added.) Leave the remaining chuck and bones to simmer in the pot while you assemble the bowls.
  3.  To serve, place the cooked noodles in preheated bowls. (If the noodles are not hot, reheat them in a microwave or dip them briefly in boiling water to prevent them from cooling down the soup.) Place a few slices of the beef chuck and the raw sirloin on the noodles. Bring the broth to a rolling boil; ladle about 2 to 3 cups into each bowl. The broth will cook the raw beef instantly. Garnish with yellow onions, scallions and cilantro. Serve immediately, inviting guests to garnish the bowls with bean sprouts, herbs, chilies, lime juice and black pepper.

 

To char ginger, hold the piece with tongs directly over an open flame or place it directly on a medium-hot electric burner. While turning, char until the edges are slightly blackened and the ginger is fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Char the onions in the same way. Peel and discard the blackened skins of the ginger and onions, then rinse and add to the broth.

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