Pho is seen as Vietnam’s ‘gift to world’
Vietnam. A country I have travelled to a number of times over the years and have never tired of.
Steeped in history, a unique culture, and, of course, incredible cuisine, you would think it to be the perfect holiday choice. But like many of its South East Asian counterparts, some feel that travel there has been negatively affected by mass tourism and prefer to travel off the beaten track.
However, the beaten track is popular for a reason. The magnificent chaos of Hanoi, the stunning beauty of Halong Bay, the glorious World Heritage site of Hoi An to name a few, once there, you will understand why hordes of people head to these popular tourist hot spots each year.
The infamous Pho, or Vietnamese noodle soup, in this week’s recipe has some calling it Vietnam’s "gift to the world". It is one of the most deliciously fragrant soups I have ever come across.
My feeling is there are two key ingredients in this dish which are ‘‘must haves’’ to ensure its authenticity . . . star anise and cinnamon quill. The broth is created with layers of flavours, resulting in a hugely aromatic and restorative dish.
I have discovered many of my favourite dishes during my backpacking adventures many moons ago. I first tasted Pho while visiting Vietnam with two good mates in the late 1990s. We ate our way through the country with such zeal we left several kilos heavier I am sure! Chefs from high-end restaurants to street-side vendors in Vietnam cook this divine dish. It is a summation in a bowl of all that Vietnam cuisine stands for, with its mixture of textures, aromatics and plethora of mixed fresh herbs.
Below is a simple, yet very similar version of this complex dish. Many of us lead busy lives so do not have the hours it takes to create their own beef stock, but if you use a good quality stock from the shops and the aromatics listed below, you will achieve a similar flavour and feel like you have been transported to Vietnam. Enjoy!
Prep Time – 15 mins Cook time – 15 mins Serves 4
1.5l good quality beef stock Half onion, sliced thinly 6 whole star anise 1-2 cinnamon quills 1 thumb size peeled ginger that has been sliced into 3-4 pieces 1 pinch of ground cardamom 2 whole cloves 1 tablespoon lime juice 1 tablespoon fish sauce 400g fillet steak thinly sliced 1 pack flat rice noodles (I prefer Trident)
1 big handful of Thai basil, leaves plucked off stalk 1 small handful coriander 2 red chilli thinly sliced 2-3 spring onion sliced thinly 1 lime, quartered 100g bean sprouts
1. Place the beef sock in a pot and bring to the boil with the onion, star anise, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves and fish sauce. Simmer for about 10 mins then add in your lime juice. Use a serrated spoon to remove the solids from the now fragrant broth. 2. Cook the noodles following the instructions on the packet. The Trident ones take only two to three minutes. One pack serves 4 adults for this dish. 3. To serve, place the noodles evenly across four bowls. Place the raw thinly sliced beef on top of the noodles, then pour over the boiling hot fragrant broth. This will cook the meat enough to eat. 4. Garnish with the Thai basil, coriander, chilli, spring onion and bean sprouts. Place a piece of lime on each dish also.
Pho: Vietnamese noodle soup.