This popular Vietnamese beef noodle soup [pronounced fuh] has become a foodie phenomenon. Not sure when the internet caught wind of it, but if you Google it, you’ll likely see a search trail of 60-million avid followers in pursuit of its come-hither, addictive flavors. This soup, like many Thai and Southeast Asian soups, isn’t stewed the way traditional Western soups are. Instead, the steamy hot broth is poured over fresh, raw vegetables, retaining their nutrient integrity and vibrant color. The restorative broth can be sipped on its own like tea or poured over a bed of rice noodles, fresh vegetables, herbs, and thinly sliced beef, or a meaty medley of forest mushrooms. Though I haven’t tried making a veganized version, I am working on a mushroom-based stock that I hope will imbue a similar flavor profile as the original broth, minus the bones; I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
If you’re watching your carbs, omit the rice noodles and substitute with spiral sliced zucchini [zoodles]. Vietnamese restaurants offer Siracha chili and Hosin sauce as condiments, but I prefer the chili garlic vinegar sauce I added at the end of the post; it balances the slight sweetness of the broth and brightens the flavors.
Serves -4. Recipe yields 1/2 a gallon of broth. Nutrient values are based per 16-oz bowl including rice noodles and 3 oz of beef. As a sipping broth, it weighs in at a svelte 62-calories with 10 protein grams, zero fat, and six carb grams per 2-cup serving.
Ingredients for broth:
- 4-5lbs beef leg or knucklebones par-boiled*
- 2-yellow onions unpeeled and halved
- 4-inch piece of ginger unpeeled, halved horizontally
- 2-tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/4-cup fish sauce or substitute with soy sauce
- 1-tbsp coconut palm sugar or brown sugar
- Spice sachet
- 5-star anise
- 6-whole cloves
- 1-3 inch cinnamon stick
- 1-Tbsp whole fennel seeds
- 1-Tbsp whole coriander seeds
- 1-tsp cardamon pods
- 1-sachet or cheesecloth
*Why par-boil the bones?
If you didn’t read the bone broth post, I’ll reiterate the point of why you should par-boil the bones. Bone scum! Ewww. Gross. That said, don’t skip the process. It only takes a couple of minutes to blanch the bones.
What you’ll need: 5-6-qt slow-cooker [Crockpot], sheet pan, and strainer.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Place bones in a 6-qt pot, add water to cover bones, bring to a boil, and continue boiling for 3-minutes.
- Remove pot from heat, strain through a colander, and rinse bones with cold water.
- On a foiled lined sheet pan, arrange blanched bones, onion, and ginger, and roast for 1-2hrs until caramelized, but not charred [charring will make the broth bitter]
- Place roasted bones and aromatics in a 5-6qt pot of a slow-cooker, fill with water, add vinegar, and let simmer 10-12 hrs or until bones are entirely stripped of connective tissue and marrow.
- Strain into a clean, shallow pot and discard bones and aromatics.
Cool and degrease broth
Add 2-cups of ice to quickly cool broth. DON’T skip this step. Your broth needs to cool. But you don’t want to put a steaming pot of broth in the refrigerator; you’ll run the risk of inviting bacteria to the pot and contaminating the contents of the fridge. After a few hours, a cap of fat will develop. Skim fat. Now your broth is clean and pure and ready to be transformed into that come-hither soup.
- In a dry skillet, lightly toast spices over medium heat until they begin to smell fragrant. DO NOT brown spices as they will become bitter. Place spices in the sachet or bundle and tie in cheesecloth.
- Add fish sauce, sugar and spice sachet to the broth and simmer for 1-hr. Turn off heat and let steep for another hour. Remove and discard sachet. I don’t recommend leaving the spices in past this point as it will overwhelm the broth. At this stage, you can pour the broth into ice cube trays and freeze for a later date, or if using right away, continue on and prepare the ingredients for the bowls.
- 1-lb flat rice noodles. If using packaged dry noodles, soften in hot water and drain or for a low-carb substitution, spiral slice zucchini or summer squash. BTW: I love, love, love my spiral slicer. Best kitchen gadget since the can opener.
- 1-lb sirloin, London broil, or tri-tip steak thinly sliced across the grain or 1lb-assorted forest mushrooms: woodear, shitake, enoki, oyster, and maitake fresh or dried. If dried, rehydrate.
- 2-carrot, cut into matchsticks or thinly sliced into strips.
- 1-red bell pepper, thinly sliced.
- 2-scallions thinly sliced green and white part
- 1/2 lb fresh bean sprouts
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves chopped
- Fresh mint
- Lime wedges
Traditionally, the recipe calls for Thai or serrano chilis to be added to the bowls, but I prefer the chil garlic vinegar sauce listed below.
- Prepare Pho bowls or arrange the noodles, vegetables, thinly sliced rare beef, or mushrooms, and herbs in separate bowls buffet-style and have your guests prepare their own.
- Pour steaming broth into bowls and serve. Garnish with lime wedges and a side of chili, garlic vinegar—condiment can be prepared ahead and stored in the fridge.
Chili Garlic Vinegar
This condiment is a kind of Southeast Asian chimichurri. Naturally fat-free and low-carb, it’s bursting with flavor. Excellent for spooning over beef, chicken, fish or to spice up soups, dressings, and dipping sauces.
- 1/2-cup water
- 1/2-cup rice wine vinegar
- 1/4-cup fish sauce or substitute with soy sauce
- 1 1/2-tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar
- 1/4-cup minced serrano peppers,
- 1/4-cup minced garlic
- 1/4-cup minced shallots
- 1/4-cup minced ginger
- 1/4-cup chopped cilantro, including stems,
- 1-tbsp chopped mint
- Heat the water, fish sauce, vinegar, and dissolve the sugar.
- Pour over minced peppers, garlic, shallots, and ginger.
- Allow mixture to cool completely before adding herbs.
- Transfer ingredients to a blender, add herbs, and process to a smooth paste or leave it chunky. If you prefer a thinner consistency you can increase the amounts of water and vinegar.
- Pour into a glass jar and refrigerate.