I discovered Pho in my early 20s when I was working in a predominately Vietnamese area in Perth. I would often finish work late and the only place open was a little unassuming Vietnamese restaurant. The restaurant was tiny, white tiles on the floors and walls and only 4 tables with plastic chairs. Despite the sparse decor the aromas that would come from the kitchen were captivating. Here I tried Pho for the first time and really fell in love with this noodle soup. Pho is light yet it has an incredibly complex flavour thanks to the broth which slowly cooked over many hours.
Over the years I have altered this recipe many times and while my version of Pho isn’t exactly traditional, it’s a good option when you are craving a light, healthy, fragrant soup.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes / Cooking Time: 6 hours / Serves 6-8
- 2kg soup bones
- 1kg oxtail
- 5cm ginger, cut into slices
- 2 brown onion, cut in half
- muslin cloth and string
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 15g whole coriander seeds
- 15g fennel seeds
- 6 cardamon pods
- 6 whole star anise
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 3L water
- 30g coconut sugar or brown sugar
- 30-60g nuoc mam
- 1 soft boiled egg per portion, halved
- 1 bunch mint or perilla
- 1 bunch coriander
- 1 bunch thai basil
- 50g bean sprouts
- 250g rice noodles, cooked as per the packet’s instructions
- 2 birds eye chillies, sliced
- 2 limes, quartered
- 1 spring onion, sliced
- 30g fried shallots
- oyster mushrooms (optional)
- Hoisin sauce
- Heat a dry frying pan
- Add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, star anise and fennel. Dry roast for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove the spices from the pan and place them on a piece of muslin.
- Gather the muslin around the spices and tie with string to form a bundle. Set aside.
- Place the ginger and onion into the pan and cook for 5 minutes.
- At the same time, add the soup bones and ox tail to a large pot. Brown the meat for 4-5 minutes.
- Add the muslin bundle, water, onion, ginger and garlic to the pot.
- Boil for 30 minutes.
- Skim the top of the soup to remove any soup scum.
- Reduce to a simmer for 5 hours. Skim the soup every hour.
- After 5 hours add the sugar and wait for it to dissolve.
- Remove the broth from the heat.
- Discard the bones, onion, garlic, ginger and muslin bundle, however retain any meat that may be in the broth.
- Add the nuoc mam (fish sauce) a little at a time, tasting the broth as you go to obtain the level of saltiness you want.
- To serve, place some rice noodles in a bowl, add whatever combination of toppings from the list above you would like. Add a few ladles of broth and enjoy.
If skimming the pot is a little to time consuming, you can complete the first skimming then wait until to the broth has finished boiling. Remove the bones then allow the broth to completely cool. Once it has cooled down you will be able to easily scoop off the fat layer which has formed on top. Then you can return the broth to heat and warm it through. Then continue with Step 14.