Pho, pronounced “Fuh,” is everywhere these days. Pho is a popular Vietnamese street food and is now considered the national dish there. Pho, a relatively simple noodle soup, has captivated many by its overall simplicity but rich, memorable flavors. Pho consists of broth, rice noodles called “banh pho,” herbs and meat, typically beef (pho bo) or chicken (pho ga). Pho is believed to have originated from an area of Northern Vietnam sometime in the early 20th century but made popular by Vietnamese refugees after the Vietnam War. Others believe that Pho is an adaptation from the French soup “pot au feu” (or beef stew), based on French colonization of Vietnam until the middle of the 20thcentury.
Pho is most known for its richness. The flavor intensity is traditionally achieved through simmering marrow-rich beef bones on low heat for hours. Layered with herbs and spices, contrasted with soft noodles, tender beef slices and crunchy bean sprouts, this soup does not need anything else to make up a filling and flavorful meal. That said, not everyone wants to spend three hours just to make just the broth. So this is my recipe for quick beef Pho.
My recipe is not traditional: in fact I don’t use bones to make the flavorful broth at all. That is what makes this recipe “quick.” I use a spice mixture of black peppercorns, coriander, cinnamon, star anise, ginger, garlic and cloves to create a full-bodied broth. As a result, this quick Pho beef recipe is bursting with flavor and I think comes close to the flavor profile of Vietnam’s beloved soup perfect for a cold winter night.
One if the secrets for enhancing flavor enough to compensate for not using bones is oven-charring the onions, garlic and ginger, which brings out their flavors tremendously. My husband, the real Pho connoisseur, loved this dish. I had to tweak the intense peppery flavor a bit until I found a good balance, but I’m pleased with the outcome. I have not yet been to Vietnam, but it is on my list of places to visit. And when I do, I look forward to enjoying many wonderful bowls of this famous soup.
Quick Beef Pho
- For the Broth:
- 1 large yellow onion, sliced
- 2 garlic gloves, peeled
- one 4-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut in half
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 1/4 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
- 1/2 tablespoon who black peppercorns
- 3 whole cloves
- 2 whole star anise
- 2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 6 cups good quality ideally low-sodium beef broth, plus 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon agave
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- To finish the Soup:
- 8 ounces fresh rice noodles, cooked per instructions
- 3/4 pound boneless ribeye, or sirloin steak, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon Extra Virgin olive oil
- salt, as needed
- 1 cup bean sprouts or fresh mung beans
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 lime, sliced, for garnish
- chili sauce or Sriracha sauce (optional)
- Step 1 For the Broth: Turn the oven to the broil setting.
- Step 2 Place the onion, garlic and ginger on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the vegetable oil and lightly toss to coat. Place in the oven and char for about 5 minutes. Stir the mixture and continue to char for an additional 5 minutes until you see nice coloration all over. Remove from he oven and cool slightly.
- Step 3 Place a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds and black peppercorns, lightly toast, stirring occasionally, till fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
- Step 4 Add the cloves, star anise, carrots, beef broth, water, agave, fish sauce, soy sauce, and cooled charred vegetable mixture. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil.
- Step 5 Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the broth to cool slightly. Once cool enough to handle, strain the broth in a fine mesh strainer and discard the solids. Place the strained broth into a saucepan and heat over a medium flame. Add the cooked noodles.
- Step 6 To Finish the Soup: Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and when hot, but not smoking, add the sliced beef in a single layer. Season lightly with salt and quickly sear one side of the beef. Remove from the heat.
- Step 7 Divide the broth-noodle mixture among serving bowls. Add a generous amount of bean sprouts, sliced scallions, jalapeño, seared beef, cilantro leaves, lime slice and a dollop of chili sauce. Serve immediately.
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