Easy Vietnamese Pho, pronounced [FUH], which has always been the biggest mystery to me…
My first introduction to pho soup came with a very authentic Vietnamese experience. My husband and I, brother and sis-in-law spent two months in Southeast Asia a few summers back, and our final destination was Vietnam.
Vietnam is a wild and raw experience for foreign travelers, especially when none of you speak Vietnamese. As Americans, we take for granted the expansive use of the English language. Many countries outside of the U.S. speak English, which makes traveling much easier. However, this is not the case in Vietnam. We spent two weeks playing a frustrating game of charades with Vietnamese hostel owners, restaurant owners, etc. But that also made our experience that much more authentic.
One evening, we wandered into a local restaurant in a little town and glanced at the menu. Just symbols after symbols of Vietnamese writing, describing who-knows-what types of food. So, we just closed our eyes and each pointed at a menu item, which we proceeded to order, crossing our fingers it would turn into a memorable and delicious evening.
Well, it was definitely memorable.
Our waiter brought us four different soups. Each looked similar to this Easy Vietnamese Pho we’ve concocted. But to our dismay, they tasted far from the rich, flavorful, beef-filled soups we were hoping for. More like someone had opened a can of tuna fish, poured the extra juices in a bowl with some rice noodles and slapped some cilantro on top. Gaaagggg.
Now, I don’t want you assuming that Vietnamese food is gross and their pho is full of tuna juice. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. We had many delicious meals there…you just need to know what you’re ordering.
But I promise you, there is no tuna juice in our pho. Not a drop. Instead, we’ve filled this rich, homemade broth with thinly-sliced beef, sautéed mushrooms, charred onion, ginger and all sorts of tasty things.
So, if you’re ever going to Vietnam, maybe do a little research beforehand. At least learn how to order pho soup…and the good kind, not the tuna juice. 😉
- 1 large onion
- 1 4" piece fresh ginger
- 1 6" cinnamon stick
- 3 cloves
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
- 3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 cups beef stock
- 1/3 cup cilantro
- Juice of one lime
- 5 oz. shiitake mushrooms (or other variety)
- 1 lb. sirloin steak
- 4 oz. rice noodles
- Fresh cilantro, basil and/or mint
- Jalapeno, sliced in thin rings
- Bean sprouts
- Peel onion and ginger. Cut onion into quarters and ginger in half. Char over gas flame or under broiler for about 5 minutes. (This isn't necessary, but gives the dish a richer flavor.)
- Place charred onion and ginger pieces in a dry pan on stove. Break cinnamon stick into a couple pieces and add that and the cloves to the pan. Cook for several minutes, until very fragrant.
- Add garlic and cook 30 seconds.
- Add fish sauce, hoisin, salt and pepper and beef stock and simmer 20 minutes.
- In the last 5 minutes, add cilantro and lime juice.
- While broth simmers, cut mushrooms. Slice beef into very thin strips.
- Strain broth liquid into large bowl. Discard solid pieces. In the same pot where it simmered, stir fry mushrooms and beef for 3-4 minutes.
- Add broth back into pot, along with rice noodles, and heat until noodles are cooked through and broth is very hot.
- Serve steaming hot with choice of toppings.
*Traditional Pho takes all day to develop flavors. We've tried to replicate that rich taste without having to monitor a pot all day. Charring the onion and ginger will help give the dish that intense flavor.
*There's no need to finely chop onions, ginger or cilantro. Just throw them in the pot and break up the onions a bit. You'll strain all this out anyway after the broth cooks.