A quick beef stock simmers with aromatics and warm spices and is served over rice noodles and thin beef.
The best soups start with a great stock. Vegetables, rice, proteins, or noodles are good, but for me, the test of an outstanding soup is the broth. For my money, one of the world’s best soups is Vietnamese pho, and we’re highlighting this dish as our National Soup Month celebration continues.
The national dish of Vietnam, pho (pronounced fuh) is a late 19th-century invention that first showed up in northern Vietnam during French colonial times. This beautifully fragrant and restorative soup traditionally takes two days to make and involves among its steps roasting beef bones for the broth.
At least once a year, I treat myself to a bowl of traditional pho at Mai Lee Vietnamese and Chinese restaurant. I savor this treat. But I—like many people—will not spend two days making pho at home. There are loads of quicker recipes out there—one of my favorites comes from chef Jet Tila.
For this recipe, however, I’ve tweaked something from an old Weight Watchers cookbook. For my Pho-inspired Beef and Noodle Soup, quality, organic beef broth is steeped with fresh ginger and a sachet of wonderful warm spices to create an intoxicating dish that will warm your tummy and soul. Let’s get cooking!
To make Pho-inspired Beef and Noodle Soup, which makes four servings, you’ll need these ingredients:
¾ pound lean, trimmed sirloin
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 medium onion
2 nubs fresh ginger
4 cups low-sodium organic beef bone broth
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise pods
10 black peppercorns
6 whole clove
1½ tablespoons fish sauce
4 ounces dried rice noodles, preferably rice vermicelli
3 scallions, sliced on bias
4 lime wedges
Non-stick cooking spray
If you’ve not cooked with fish sauce before, two things: First, a little goes a long way, and second, fresh fish sauce should be clear and a pretty amber color.
Look for thinly sliced beef in your butcher’s case. Another method is to put a sirloin steak in the freezer for 35 or 40 minutes until it’s nearly frozen and slice the meat super thin. If there’s an Asian market near you, I encourage you visit. A world of food will be revealed to you in addition to the convenience of finding all ingredients pho in one place.
For the beef stock, you can use a box or make the stock with jarred beef base. I like Penzeys beef soup base that’s available through their stores or online; Better Than Bouillon is a brand available almost everywhere and is a good substitute.
Instructions for Pho-inspired Beef and Noodle Soup
Pour the beef stock into a Dutch oven. Peel onion and cut into chunks. Add to the pot. Cut ginger into large slices (no need to peel) and add to the pot. Combine cinnamon, peppercorns, clove, and star anise in a square of cheesecloth and tie securely to make a spice sachet. Lower into pot and heat over medium to medium-high heat until it comes to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 30 minutes.
As the stock simmers, spray a skillet with non-stock and bring to medium-high heat. Quickly sear the thinly sliced beef (about two minutes). Turn off pan and set aside.
When stock has finished simmering, remove the sachet, onion, and ginger. Broth should be gently infused by aromatics and spices. Salt and pepper to taste and stir in fish sauce and keep warm while you prepare noodles.
Soak rice vermicelli in a large bowl filled with room-temperature water for 5 to 15 minutes. They will be ready when limp. Divide noodles into four portions. Transfer a serving into metal mesh noodle/dumpling strainer and dip the basket into a pot of boiling water for 3 to 5 seconds. Shake off excess water and transfer to a bowl.
Place slices of beef on top of noodles and ladle hot broth into bowl. Garnish with slices of scallion and serve with a lime wedge.
Condiments—yes or no?
It's a personal choice. At Mai Lee, pho is served with a small plate of wonderful things including sliced peppers, fresh cilantro, bean sprouts. A small cup of hoisin sauce is included to dip beef before eating. Personally, I don’t like cilantro, so fresh basil or parsley might work as an accoutrement.
How to store pho
The broth will keep a few days in an air-tight container and freezes well, too. The noodles should be made only when it’s time to serve the pho.
About the blog
Three Women in the Kitchen is an award-winning food blog offering today’s home cooks comforting, hearty recipes with a personal touch. The website also pays tribute to Deborah’s mother, Katie Reinhardt, and paternal grandmother, Dorothy Reinhardt (the “three women” in the kitchen). Whether you’re an experienced or a novice cook, you’ll find inspiration here to feed your families and warm your heart. Subscribe today so you won’t miss a single delicious detail.