Beef broth for Vietnamese Pho is inspired by the family recipe shared by the owner of the Red Lantern, a successful Vietnamese eatery in Sydney. Pho is one of the common dishes in Vietnam and is in its simplest form a beef rice noodle soup. Compare it with the tonkotsu ramen in Japan (based on pork broth). While we know the principles of making broth as explained here, using the Asian spices and Vietnamese cooking skills makes for an entirely different tasting broth. As there are not many recipes for beef broths around that add sugar and fish sauce!
The art of making beef broth for Vietnamese Pho
Observe the general principles of making broth: use many bones, use a long time at low heat to simmer and in the beginning remove scum frequently. For this broth, the unique spices, herbs and vegetables are providing an excellent taste. While you need at the least a full day to make it, the result is rewarding. If you are brewing salt cured anchovies, you are lucky as you have access to fresh and usually excellent fish sauce. Otherwise try the best brand of fish sauce you can buy. There is a lot of under-appreciation for fish sauce in Western countries, unfortunately.
The filtration step, does help to remove solids from the broth. After cooling down in the fridge, a solidified layer of tallow will appear on top of the broth. I remove most but certainly not all of this. Because the fat does contain flavour! Traditionally in Vietnam the broth might never reach that low temperature. The resulting broth is a clear liquid full of taste and fragrance. Use the broth to make Vietnamese Pho.
- Large soup pan with lid
- cheese cloth to filter
- small piece of cheese cloth or old textile handkerchief and rope to close it
Ingredients for the broth
- 4 beef bones (3.5 lbs, 1.7 kg) may still contain meat
- 3 lbs beef flank (1.4 kg) breast meat
- 1/4 chicken (1 lb) include the bones
- 1/2 tbsp table salt
- 3.2 oz (90 g) dried ginger
- 0.7 oz (20 g) cinnamon bark
- 6 star anices
- 3 cloves
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 3.2 oz (92 g) sugar
- 2.2 oz (64 g) sea salt
- 4.2 oz (120 g) fish sauce
- 2.1 oz (60 g) halved and grilled fresh ginger
- 1.5 large onion (grilled on the fire or in the oven)
Making the broth
Place the bones, the beef meat and the chicken in a large pan and add so much water that all is submersed. Add the table salt and let stand for 2 h
After 2 h, discard the water and clean the bones under running water
Place the bones, beef meat and chicken back in the pan and add one and 6/10 gallon (6 litre) of water. Mark or measure the liquid level
Warm the cumin and fennel seeds in a skillet and grind them in a mortar and pestle
Place the dried ginger, cloves, cinnamon stick, star-anise, ground fennel seeds and cumin seeds in a cheese cloth and close it with a rope and place in the pan
Put the pan on high fire. Remove scum continuously and when the water is boiling (roughly after 30 min) reduce the heat and let the broth simmer for 1 h. Continue to remove scum
After 1 h, add the sugar, the sea salt and the fish sauce and continue to simmer for another 2 h
After a total of 3 h simmering, remove the beef meat and cover with some broth. Let it cool down and reserve for the Pho dish
Bring the liquid level to the original level by adding water and place the lid on the pan. Let very slowly simmer for 7 hours or over night. The broth should hardly move.
After the 7 hours, carefully filtrate the broth through a clean cheesecloth and discard the herbs and all bones. Chicken meat can be reserved
Place the charred onion without the peel and the grilled ginger in a cheesecloth and immerse that in the broth. Let the broth simmer for another 2 h
Thereafter remove the cheesecloth and let the broth cool down
Divide the broth in smaller portions and store in the fridge or freezer. The beef meat is sliced in 2 mm slices and used in the pho. Use 1-2 slices per bowl. Freeze the remainder until use.
Food allergy & intolerance information: traces of fish sauce (anchovy based)
- Of course you can further experiment with spices, but I stick as much as possible to the instructions here. If you have no opportunity to char onion and ginger on the fire or barbeque, grill them in the upper tray in the oven.