Famed chef Charles Phan of San Francisco's beloved The Slanted Door starts his version of Vietnam's ubiquitous noodle soup with a beef stock that's enriched with beef bones, charred onion, ginger and warm spices. The broth is ladled over rice noodles, brisket and thin slivers of raw beef, and is finished with a spoonful of beef fat. A platter of accoutrements and sauces lets slurpers season as they like.
Note: Before serving, warm your bowl in a 200-degree oven for 10 minutes. This helps maintain the soup's temperature.
To learn more, read "Looking for a Pho to Give."
Pho Bo: Beef Noodle Soup
Recipe adapted from "Vietnamese Home Cooking," by Charles Phan
Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes plus cooling time
Cook Time: 4 hours and 45 minutes
Total Time: 5 hours and 30 minutes plus cooling time
For the Beef Stock:
1 medium yellow onion, unpeeled
One 2-inch piece fresh ginger
1 pound oxtail, cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces
1 pound beef neck bones
1 pound beef shank bones
1 pound beef marrow bones
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
One 2-inch piece Chinese cinnamon
1 whole star anise pod
1 whole clove
For the Beef Noodle Soup:
1 pound beef brisket
3 quarts beef stock
Fish sauce, for seasoning (optional)
One 16-ounce package dried rice stick noodles, cooked according to package directions
¾ pound beef top round, sliced very thinly against the grain
3 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
½ cup finely chopped cilantro
12 sprigs Thai basil
2 cups bean sprouts
2 limes, each cut into 6 wedges
2 jalapeños, stemmed and thinly sliced into rings
1. Make the beef stock: Preheat the oven to 350°. On a rimmed baking sheet, roast the onion and ginger until the onion is very soft, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Peel the onion and cut in half. Slice the unpeeled ginger into ¼-inch-thick coins.
2. While the onion and ginger are roasting, blanch the bones: In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add the oxtails, neck bones and shanks, and boil for 3 minutes. Drain and rinse the bones with cold water and return to the pot. Add the marrow bones.
3. Add the onion halves, ginger slices, sugar, salt and 6 quarts of fresh water to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any foam that forms on the surface. Reduce the heat to medium, so the liquid is barely at a simmer, and simmer for 3 hours, skimming as needed.
4. Add the white pepper, cinnamon, star anise and clove. Continue cooking for 1 hour longer.
5. Remove the beef stock from the heat and using a spider or a slotted spoon, discard the solids. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Allow the liquid to sit at room temperature for 1 hour to cool slightly, then skim most of the fat from the surface and reserve for a later use. Let the beef stock cool completely, then transfer it to airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Makes 3 quarts.
6. Make the beef noodle soup: Place the brisket in a large pot and add the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer over medium heat. Cook the brisket for 30 to 45 minutes or until cooked through.
7. Prepare an ice bath. When the brisket is done, remove it from the pot and submerge it in the ice bath for 3 to 4 minutes or until the brisket has cooled completely. Remove, pat the meat dry and slice it thinly against the grain. Set aside.
8. Return the stock to a boil over medium-high heat. If the broth needs a bit more salt, season it with fish sauce.
9. On a platter, arrange the basil, bean sprouts, lime and jalapeños, along with bottles of Sriracha and hoisin sauce.
10. To assemble the beef noodle soup, divide the cooked rice noodles among warmed soup bowls. Top with the brisket slices and then with the raw beef slices. Ladle the hot stock over each bowl and top with scallion and cilantro. Finish each bowl with a spoonful of the reserved beef fat. Serve immediately, along with the platter of garnishes.