For winter warming, there’s not much that beats a hot bowl of soup. In my neighbourhood, there are several great spots to enjoy pho, the Vietnamese soup that has entrenched itself as a worldwide favourite. I feel inclined to add my voice to those who insist on proper pronunciation – say FUH (rhymes with DUH), not FOH, please and thank you. While it takes a little bit of time to prepare the fragrant, beefy broth, this recipe makes a big batch so you can freeze it in smaller portions and then you’re just minutes away from enjoying a warming bowl of soup whenever the mood strikes. While the method to make the broth may seem a little complicated, it really works and gives you that deep, rich taste that makes pho so satisfying. I’m no pho expert, but I think this version is super delicious.
For the broth
- 1 pound (454 g) lean ground beef
- 2 onions, cut into sixths
- 12 cups (3 L) low-sodium beef broth
- 1/3 cup (90 mL) fish sauce
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) thinly sliced ginger root
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 8 whole cloves
- 8 whole star anise pods
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) white sugar
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) salt
- 1 teaspoon (5 mL) black peppercorns
For six large bowls of soup (decrease quantities if just making a bowl or two)
- 1 pound (454 g) boneless striploin steak, trimmed
- 1 pound (454 g) rice noodles (1/8 inch wide ‘pho’ style)
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh cilantro leaves
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped green onions
- 2 cups (500 mL) fresh bean sprouts, rinsed
- Hoisin and sriracha sauces
- Lime wedges
- To make the broth, cut the ground beef into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces and place in a large, heavy pot (big enough to hold at least 5 – 6 litres).
- Add just enough water to cover by about an inch (2.5 cm) and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 2 minutes then pour mixture through a colander, discarding liquid. While ground beef is in colander, rinse under hot running water for a full minute. This step gets rid of impurities that will cloud the broth.
- Rinse out pot well, then return rinsed ground beef to the now-clean pot.
- Add the onions, broth, 3 cups water, fish sauce, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, sugar, salt and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer the broth, with the pot just partially covered, for one hour.
- Strain broth first through a colander set over a large bowl or second clean pot. Discard beef, onions and seasoning.
- Strain the broth a second time through a sieve or strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth.
- Measure out broth as you return it to a clean pot; add water as needed to make 12 cups of broth. Taste and adjust sugar or salt if needed to suit your preference.
- At this point, the broth can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to six months.
- To assemble soup, place steak in freezer for up to an hour so it firms up; this will make it much easier to slice.
- While steak is chilling, prepare all the other ingredients. Put them on a platter if you want to invite guests to assemble their own bowls of soup.
- Heat broth, covered, to the boiling point then reduce to a simmer to keep warm.
- Also while steak is chilling, put rice noodles in a broad, shallow dish (a ceramic or glass baking pan works well) and cover with very hot tap water. Let soak for 15 minutes, stirring gently once or twice with a fork as they soften to ensure they are not sticking together.
- Thinly slice frozen steak and lay out slices in six portions, slices overlapping.
- When ready to serve, drain noodles and divide among six deep bowls that can hold about 3 cups each. Lay portions of steak over the noodles.
- Immediately ladle hot broth over top. The raw steak will immediately cook to medium rare in the broth.
- Garnish with cilantro, basil and green onions.
- Serve soup with lime wedges; offer guests little dishes to which they can add hoisin and / or sriracha for dipping.