Vietnamese Bo Pho
There is no point in attempting pho, the famous noodle soup of Vietnam, if you don’t take trouble with the stock. It is best to make it 24 hours ahead so that the flavours mature and the fat can be thoroughly skimmed off.
The crystal-clear stock is poured over ready-prepared rice noodles, pieces of beef from the stockpot or wafer-thin slivers of fresh steak (or both) that cook in moments in the soup. A bounty of add-ons, all separately presented for diners to help themselves, include sprigs of coriander, mint and Thai basil, sliced chillies, spring onions and beansprouts. Some people include scraps of peeled tomato and finely sliced fennel or celery. Pho is fresh and aromatic, light and healthy and endlessly variable. My recipe is based on one served at Naga (www.nagarestaurants.co.uk) in London’s Kensington.
|For the stock:|
|1||whole bulb of garlic|
|2kg||marrow, knuckle and/or beef shin bones|
|A few||chicken wings, optional|
|500g||piece shin, chuck or other stewing steak, optional|
|30g||rock sugar (from Chinese/ Asian stores)|
|4 tbsp||Thai fish sauce|
|For the soup:|
|200g||dried tagliatelle-style rice noodles (rice sticks)|
|250g||rump, sirloin or fillet beefsteak|
|125g||bunch of spring onions|
|2||long red chillies|
|sprigs of coriander|
|sprigs of Thai basil|
|sprigs of mint|
Heat the oven to 220 C/gas mark 7. Place the unpeeled onion and garlic in a small oven dish and roast for about 25 minutes until the skin is black. Meanwhile, cover the bones with water and bring to the boil. Discard the scummy water, rinse the bones and return to the pan.
Flake away the blackened onion skin, trim the ends, break apart the garlic and place in the pan with the bones, chicken wings and stewing steak, if using, plus sliced ginger and carrots, star anise, sugar, cinnamon, salt and peppercorns. Add 4 — 5 litres of water to cover generously. Simmer, skimming regularly, for 4 hours. Add 3 tablespoons of the fish sauce, then more salt and fish sauce to taste. Strain. Set aside the stewing steak, if using, let it cool and wrap it in clingfilm. Cool and chill the stock overnight.
Skim off the fat. Reheat the stock. Soak the noodles in boiling water for 20 minutes, then drain. Slice the steak very thinly into bite-size sheets — 30 minutes in the freezer makes this task much easier. Rinse the beansprouts and shake them dry. Slice the spring onions. Halve the limes. Trim and slice the chillies into thin rounds. Place all of these items and the shredded stewing steak, if using, in bowls for people to help themselves.
To eat pho, place a mound of noodles in a deep bowl. Pour on some boiling stock, then add slivers of steak, scraps of stewing steak, if using, beansprouts, spring onions, chilli and herbs. Squeeze a half-lime over the top.