I simply love noodles, nothing amazing about them, but astonishing if served with the right ingredients.
The Pho is a vietnamese kind of ramen, usually a best seller for street food lovers, also a staple breakfast for locals. It’s packed with all necessary nutrients, a complete meal to start off the day.
Making this oriental classic is all about the broth. A bit labor intensive yet such a cooking lesson! You will soon see why.
First and foremost, go by your best butcher or meat purveyor and get some beef bones, if they like you, best chance you will get them for free. Buy about 2 kilos.
Now, this trick isn’t a novalty, but I guess many people don’t usually use it – cleaning the bones. Boiling them in water for about 10 minutes will extract a large quantity of impurities. Discard the water and wipe off any leftover scum (do not touch the marrow). Set aside, and prepare the vegetables:
– 2 large onions, skin on
– 1 garlic head, cut in half
– 5 slices of ginger (about 1/2 cm thick and 4 cm long)
– 1/2 bulb of fennel
Toast the veggies on an open flame, with some tongs. Careful not to burn the skin of the onion and garlic, if by any chance you find this difficult, use a torch and finish off in the oven (180ºC), do not burn the garlic, and take the ginger out before the other ingredients.
Mix the veggies with the bones, top with water (triple the water to the amount of solids) and add the following spices:
- 3 cloves star anise
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1/2 tablespoon of peppercorns, corriander and mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon of cloves
- 5 cardomom seeds
- brown sugar
Now, you can grab a beer and relax! Four hours of waiting until this baby starts to smell brothy. The best solution is to make it ahead of time, like the day before, or doubling the batch and freezing for future nosh.
By the end of the cooking process, add the fish sauce, and make sure the flavors are balanced. Look for the sweety, salty, tangy aromatic broth. Now, it will look quite dense, which is normal, the next step is to purify the broth. First strain it, to remove veggies, bones and spices. Then you can do one of two processes: strain again through a kitchen cloth (like a cheese cloth) or use egg whites (gently warm up the broth with raw egg whites, when coagulation point is reached, strain it again with some kitchen towel). I can’t assure which process works best, although I have heard the egg white might remove flavor, but it’s an amusing experience to do, the difference between the before and after broth is outstanding!
The before broth
The after broth – looks like a consommé
Vietnam, like most oriental countries, uses rice as a primary staple food, this goes for the noodles as well. I advise the ones that kind of look like taglietelli, very yummi and soak up more flavor from the surrounding. Be careful cooking the noodles, it’s a very quick process, so use already boiling water, and as soon as they are done, pass through cold water to prevent mushiness. You will also need to prepare the following:
- stir fry mung bean sprouts
- thinly slice some tender beef (against the grain people! Always!)
- slice fresh chillies
- pick fresh herbs (cilantro, basil and mint), chop half, keep some whole leaves for decoration
- cut up one lime into squeezable wedges
Plating: stack some noodles in a bowl, top with raw and possibly cooked meat (leftover from the bones), pore on hot broth, finish with stir fried (or raw) mung bean sprouts, fresh herbs, chilli and lime.