25, Dec 2007

My last attempt at pho was pretty good but, I thought, needed a bit more depth and complexity to the broth. I decided to look for other recipes, and think about simmering the broth overnight instead of just for 90 minutes. What I ended up trying this time was sort of a combination of that recipe, suggestions from E (roasting the bones first), and some other recipes: this one (esp. charring the onion and ginger, and parboiling the bones), this one (charring, and toasting the spices, though I didn’t try that this time), this one (similar to the others), and this one (peppercorns, roasting the bones ahead of time).

5 quarts (20 c) water (+ additional water, see below)
3 lb beef shank bones
1 white onion
2 medium shallots
3″ piece ginger
1/8 c fish sauce
2 tsp salt
4 stars anise
1 3″ cinnamon stick
8-10 cloves
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
rice stick noodles
thin-sliced beef
white onion, sliced thin
white mushrooms, stemmed, halved and sliced thin
basil, mint, thai basil, and/or cilantro
sliced red jalapenos, pickled jalapenos, pickled garlic
lime wedges
fresh bean sprouts

making the broth
Char the ginger, shallots, and onion on the grill, whole and unpeeled, as well as the beef bones, on an open grill on high, for about 15 minutes, until charred in places, turning every few minutes. Meanwhile fill a stockpot with enough water to cover the bones and heat on high. Put the bones in the water and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes, then remove the bones and rinse in a collander (this will make the broth much clearer without losing any flavor). Empty and clean the pot, then replace the bones and add the 5 quarts of water and put back on high heat. (NB: you can also start the 5Q in a second stock pot, and then just rinse and transfer the bones). Meanwhile, peel the skin, ends, and any charred bits off the ginger, shallots, and onion, and chop or smash a little. Bring the water to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer and add the ginger, shallots, and onion, as well as all the other ingredients. Simmer uncovered at medium-low (not boiling, but there should be movement) for about three hours. Remove and let cool briefly. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate (ideally overnight). Once the fat has solidified on the top, remove and discard.
preparing the soup
bring water to a boil. add rice-stick noodles and cook for 3-5 minutes. drain, rinse, and put in bowls. add beef, onion, mushrooms, and green onions. bring broth to a boil and pour over the noodles. add lime juice, bean sprouts, basil, etc to taste.
good, better than the last time, but still not quite there. the broth tasted a little too much of cinnamon/anise and not enough of meat. I think next time I will increase the amount of water and meat bones (maybe adding a piece of meat, as some recipes suggest) and maintain or decrease the amount of star anise etc, then simmer for longer and reduce it further. still, it made for an excellent christmas morning breakfast,