I woke up with a craving for pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) and after a quick google search found a Vietnamese restaurant in Johannesburg. We tried it out and the pho was absolutely pathetic, so I did what one must do when living abroad and made my own. If I do say so myself, it turned out quite good. It’ takes a bit of time but the result is sooo yummy. The ‘unusual’ ingredients can be found at your local Asian store or Chinatown, and since the shop workers at mine don’t speak English and I don’t speak Thai or Chinese I did a lot of Google image searching on my phone followed by gesturing, pointing and sweating. It all worked out in the end.
Pho bo (beef pho) for 8, adapted from Steamy Kitchen
1 kg beef bones
1 onion, halved
5 inch piece of ginger, halved
1 lb or about 500 grams of rump or flank steak
6 quarts of water
A bouquet garni made of 5 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, 6 cloves, 3 green card0moms, tied in a cheese cloth with butcher string
1 medium chunk of rock sugar, more to taste
1/4 cup fish sauce, more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
meat from broth
2 lbs rice noodles
1/2 lb or about 250 grams flank steak, thinly sliced (it’s easiest if you ask your butcher to use the deli slicer)
cilantro, thai basil, and mint plenty of each
3 big hand fulls of bean sprouts
2-3 limes, cut into fourths
3-4 chillies, sliced
1. Turn on your oven to broil on the highest temperature, put the onions and ginger (with a little bit of olive oil) into the oven on the highest shelf until the outside as charged. Turn over with tongs to char the other side.
2. Before making the broth, par boil the bones. Fill your biggest pot with as much water that will fit, allowing room for bones, bring a to rolling boil, add bones, boil for 10 minutes. Drain bones and rinse them. This will keep your broth more clear.
3. Add 6 quarts of water to a pot, with the bones, charred ginger and onion, bouquet garni, beef, rock sugar, fish sauce and salt. Bring it to a boil then simmer for 1 1/2 hours. While it is simmering it is EXTREMELY important to continually at first, then periodically skim the top with a spoon fine mesh strainer. After 1 1/2 hours, remove the beef and set aside, you’ll use it in the bowls later. Continue simmering and skimming the scum the rest of the ingredients for one and a half hours. After it’s finished, remove everything from the broth with your spoon, then pour it through a fine mesh strainer to get all of the gunk out. Taste the broth and add more rock sugar and fish sauce in small increments until the taste bowls you over.
4. Chop up all the herbs for the fixins’, thinly slice your raw beef if your butcher didn’t (freezing it for fifteen minutes will make it easier), and chop/shred the cooked beef. Follow the instructions on the package for cooking the rice noodles.
5. Right before eating, bring the broth back to a boil. Let guests fix up their bowls to their preference with the rice noodles as a base, then ladle boiling hot broth into each bowl. The broth will cook the raw pieces of meat. Use the Sriracha and hoisin sauces to your heart’s content.