I just LOVE Pho, which is a Vietnamese noodle soup, typically made with with beef (Pho Bo) or chicken (Pho Ga). I order this soup for lunch several times a month from a local Vietnamese restaurant and finally took the plunge to make it myself.
The soup base for Pho soup typically requires hours and hours of cooking beef and chicken bones, among other things. After scouring the internet for a variety of “mock” pho soups, I have come up with this version that only took about an hour, using my homemade beef broth as a base and adding the aromatics to that. The best part about this soup is that all the garnishes you can add (or not) offers a different tasty sensation in each bite.
I got mixed reviews from my family on this one. The raw meat kind of freaked out my daughter (even though I showed her how it “cooked” when I poured the hot broth over it), and her young taste buds didn’t seem to enjoy the aromatic broth base, which is also the entire “essence” of the soup. She only ate half of her bowl, but my husband ate every last drop of his, saying it “was good” but I didn’t get raves. Oh well, their loss. I got to enjoy the leftovers for lunch the next day. I guess this will become one of of the lunches I indulge for myself when the rest of the family is not around.
Oh and as for the star anise and spice cloves… I picked packages of those up in the Mexican aisle of our grocery for only 78 cents apiece. And the steak I used was a frozen one leftover from a buy-one get-one free special last month. Combining that with the variety of Asian sauces I already had on hand, this also made for a very frugal meal, indeed!
Cheater Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)
2 or 3 star anise
3 spice cloves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 3-inch cinnamon stick
2 garlic gloves, peeled, smashed and sliced
1 3-inch-long piece fresh ginger peeled and cut in half lengthwise
6 cups homemade or quality low-sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
4 ounces dried rice noodles
1/2 pound top loin steak, or any other steak, partially frozen and sliced very thin
2 or 3 green onions, sliced thin
Handful of fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
Handful of fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1/2 small onion, sliced very thin
1 cup or so bean sprouts, rinsed
1 lime, cut into wedges
Sriracha or Sambal Oelek chile paste (or both!)
Fresh jalapeno, sliced thin
Fresh serrano, sliced thin
First off you should prep all your garnishes and steak and set them out on a large platter or board on the table. Next, add the star anise, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, and garlic to a dry Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Toast the ingredients, tossing around occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 or 3 minutes. Add the beef broth, soy sauce, and lime juice. Bring up to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer for about 30 or 40 minutes.
Meanwhile pour boiling water over the rice noodles in a glass bowl, cover, and soak the noodles for about 10 or 15 minutes. Drain the noodles and portion them and the steak into individual serving bowls.
When ready to serve, strain the broth then pour the simmering beef broth over the steak and noodles using a cup with a spout (such as a glass Pyrex measuring cup). Let each person add any or all garnishes to their bowl. I put everything in mine! I ate this with chopsticks alternating with a spoon, but you could use a fork and spoon instead.