Pho....how I have missed you. Your sweet essence, tantalizing herbal flares, and your pure uniqueness. This is one dish I have TRULY missed. I have not dared enjoy my favorite soup as there are so many ingredient variables that could contain gluten or corn. Corn especially. Another fear is the language barrier trying to ask for item ingredients and such.
So.....I embarked on an experimental Vietnamese journey :) Now what sparked this desire is my recent trip to a local Asian supermarket. Now I am lucky enough to live in Utah's cultural melting pot. There are SO many ethnic dining and markets round about. It's so fun to browse and see all the interesting eats or items they have for sale. What caught my eye in the spice isle is a package of pre-packaged Pho seasoning and a handy dandy tea bag. How cool is THAT!?
So with spice packet purchased, next was the herbs that are served fresh in the hot broth. Now, you CAN get most of them at a culinary store or higher end grocery. Why pay more though? I was able to get my Thai Basil, Cilantro, and mung bean sprouts all for about $1.50 at the Asian market. I also was able to get my beef bones there for a whopping .79c a pound. Not bad eh :) I also found the red chili pepper paste was much cheaper there and BOY it was delish. I did spend a bit more $$ getting my fish sauce and hoisin sauce at an upper end grocery store as they offered labeled GF options. I just was a bit wary of possible cross contamination or hidden gluten ingredients with the Asian brands.
Before we get TOO far into this blog, here is a list of items you will need:
Package of Pho seasoning with teabag or use a tea ball
Small fry pan
Fish Sauce (Thai Kitchen offers a premium gluten free product)
Hoisin Sauce (Sun also offers theirs as gluten free)
Red chili paste
1 bunch of cilantro
1 bunch of Thai basil
1/2 lb mung bean sprouts
Rock Sugar (find it at the Asian market)
Vermicelli rice noodles
5 lbs beef bones (find them at an Asian market)
1 4" piece of ginger peeled and sliced in half
1/2 medium onion sliced in half
With ingredients purchased and a 5lb bag of beef bones, I was ready to start. Start with pre-heating your oven to broil. Next, you will want to par-boil your bones. This will remove any impurities, blood, and keep a clearer purer broth. In a LARGE kettle, boil about 6 cups of water. Once boiling, add in the bones one at a time with a pair of tongs. This will keep the water from splashing up and burning you. Once your bones have been added set your timer to 10 minutes.
While bones are boiling, heat up a small fry pan and toss your spices in. Roast them while stirring constantly for just over a minute. This brings out the aromatics of the spices and will lend a fuller flavor to your broth. This was my favorite part. The spices smell incredible together and roasting them REALLY brings that out. Once roasted pour into your teabag or teaball.
Once your bones have boiled a good 10 minutes drain the water, rinse out your kettle, add the bones back to the kettle, add 1/3 cup fish sauce, about a large Tablespoons worth of rock sugar, top with water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer your stock. Now at this point, the oven should be ready. Add your sliced and peeled ginger root and sliced onion to a tinfoiled baking sheet.
Place on the top rack and broil for 15 minutes or until the edges are nicely charred :) I like saying that word....Charrrrrrrred :) Sorry, couldn't resist hehehehe.
Once charred, add to the broth, cover, and simmer. The next steps will need to be repeated for the next 3-4 hours. Every so often, lift your lid and skim off any grease then give the spices and stock a good stirring to incorporate flavors.
After your 3ish hours of simmering, skimming, pour broth through a sive into a large bowl then place into the refrigerator for a couple hours. This will solidify any remaining fats. Spoon out any solid grease, then pour back into a soup crock and heat to a rolling boil then reduce to a simmer. Time to slice your meat. Once again it is MUCH easier to slice the super thin pieces of beef by partially freezing it. I placed it in the freezer about 3 hours before planning on slicing.
Once the meat was sliced, I boiled my vermicelli noodles, drained and set aside. Now get out your sauces and herbs. Traditionally you season the broth with fish sauce, hoisin sauce, and red chili paste and add fresh herbs like mung bean sprouts, sawtooth leaves, Thai basil, cilantro, jalapenos, and limes. I was not able to find the sawtooth leaves, but thankfully found everything else.
Place a wad of noodles in your bowl, add a couple raw beef slices, then pour on your broth. The heat of the broth will cook the beef to tender perfection :) Next add your desired garnishes and ENJOY :)