Eating Well Made Easy: Pho

A Recipe for Summer Ingredients

As the weather warms up for summer, I find myself naturally craving lighter, greener foods to accompany my choice of protein. Instead of consuming root vegetables like those found in parsnip pie or braised beef roast, I am now looking to cook with a wider variety of greens and fresh herbs. While my taste for vegetables may change seasonally, I find that I crave a good, hearty beef stock no matter the temperature outside. This is why I found myself turning to Pho as a summer soup.

What is Pho?

Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is a traditional Vietnamese soup consisting of rich, flavorful beef stock, rice noodles, thinly sliced beef, and a wide variety of garden fresh vegetables and herbs. Honestly, I’d never made Pho before developing this recipe, but I thought it might be a new way to let beef stock, in all its goodness, mingle with summer produce. I read a ton of online Pho recipes to prep for this, many traditional Vietnamese, and some adaptations less than traditional. In all, I learned that the beef stock is the star of the show. And how perfect is that? Because the truth is, beef stock is a good staple to have in your diet year round.

The Benefits of Beef Stock

Beef stock and its cousin bone broth both promote digestive health and overall well-being. Stock and bone broth deliver easily digestible minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and sulphur. They also contain compounds known to reduce joint inflammation and promote a healthy immune system. The collagen content of real, homemade stock nourishes skin from the inside out by forming elastin, which is known to keep skin looking young and healthy. So with all its benefits, why not enjoy stock year round?

Pho Stock vs. Traditional Stock

While I already have a recipe for beef stock on the website, stock for Pho is a bit different. In most recipes, along with high quality bones, you will find spices such as star anise, cinnamon, whole cloves, and fresh ginger. I’ve also seen the additions of fish sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce (or coconut aminos), and sometimes sesame oil. Often, fresh lime juice is added to individual bowls upon serving. All of these additions create a vastly different flavor profile when compared to traditional beef stock.

How to Serve Pho

Generally, the stock for Pho is created separately from all other ingredients. Rice noodles are ladled into a bowl with very thin, raw slices of beef cut from a sirloin or flank steak placed on top. As the very hot broth is ladled over each individual bowl, the thin beef slices cook slightly. Fresh vegetables and herbs are then added to the top of each bowl. While this is the traditional method, it’s not well suited to batch cooking, which is generally what happens in my kitchen. So while the traditional serving method is an option, this recipe includes the option to mix the thinly sliced beef into the stock once it’s done cooking. This is better suited to leftovers, and we’re a household that thrives on having a refrigerator stocked with ready-made meals, especially in the summer when we want to spend all our hours outdoors.

Cut the sirloin against the grain while slightly frozen. If the meat is thawed completely, return it to the freezer for about 30 minutes before attempting to cut. A very thin cut ensures that the meat cooks upon contact with hot stock.

Veggie and Herb Options

Traditionally, you’ll find Pho served with bean sprouts, green onions, jalapeños, cilantro, basil, mint, and lime juice. In perusing recipes online, I’ve also seen it served with red onions, shiitake mushrooms, baby bok choy, spiraled zucchini, thinly sliced radishes, and long, thin shoots of baby broccoli. The lesson I’ve taken away is serve it with the vegetables of your choosing. Use what you have in your garden. Use what’s in season. Use what appeals to you.

Useful Tips to Consider

Tip One: Whole star anise is considered a gourmet ingredient and was nearly $8 on the spice aisle at Walmart. I found it (packaged differently) on the ethnic foods aisle for $.87.

Tip Two: If you can’t find Pho rice noodles at your local grocery store (I found them at Aldi), head to your local Asian market. They’ll definitely have what you want. If you don’t have an Asian market, try Amazon.

Tip Three: To save time, cook the Pho stock in large batches and freeze it for future use. You can freeze it in glass jars as long as you leave at least an inch at the top of each jar for expansion.

Tip Four: Should you find it too hot by midday to enjoy a bowl of soup, try Pho for breakfast. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, a warm breakfast will ensure that your digestive system works most efficiently.

Enjoy the recipe! Adapt and make it your own!

Pho

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is a traditional Vietnamese soup consisting of rich, flavorful beef stock, rice noodles, thinly sliced beef, and a wide variety of garden fresh vegetables and herbs.

Ingredients


For the stock:
– 1 pound beef marrow bones
– 1 pound “meaty” soup bones
– 1 pound oxtail
– 5 quarts filtered water
– 2 star anise
– 1 cinnamon stick
– 3 whole cloves
– 2 inches ginger, unpeeled, sliced
– 2 large onions, halved
– 3 tsp. sea salt
– 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
– 2 Tbsp. soy sauce (or alternative)
Additional Beef:
– 1-2 pounds sirloin or flank steak, thinly sliced

Soup Additions as pictured:
– 2 pkg. Pho (flat) rice noodles
– green onions
– cilantro
– basil
– mint
– radishes
– limes
– jalapeños
– sriracha sauce

Directions

For the Stock:

  1. Place all of the bones on a roasting pan. Roast at 425 until the bones and meat begin to brown (about 15 minutes). Flip the bones and roast the other side (about 5 minutes).

  2. At the same time, on another pan, roast the halved onions, open side down. Also roast the star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick and ginger on this pan. Roast until all begins to brown and becomes fragrant (about 10 minutes).

  3. Add the roasted bones, onions, and spices to a stock pot or instant pot. Pour the water over all ingredients. Add salt. If using a stock pot, bring to a boil and then simmer for 8-10 hours. If using an instant pot, pressure cook for 1 hour.

  4. When the broth is done cooking, pour it through a strainer into a separate bowl or pot. Add the fish sauce and soy sauce. Additionally, you can add more salt to taste (I added at least another tsp).

In the hour before stock is done:

  1. Before the stock is done cooking, begin prepping the rice noodles. Soak in filtered water for one hour. Bring a large pot of filtered water to boil. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Remove the rice noodles from the soaking water by hand and place them in the boiling water for only one minute, then drain through a colander. Run cold water over the noodles until they are thoroughly cooled to the bottom of the colander.

  2. To prep the thinly sliced beef, freeze a thawed piece of meat (sirloin or flank steak) for 20-30 minutes. Remove from the freezer and slice very thin against the grain.

For serving (Choose one option):

  1. You can serve Pho by placing cooked rice noodles into a bowl, and layering raw beef on top. You may then ladle the finished broth over the top and finish with the toppings of choice.

  2. As an alternative to step 7, I choose to add the thinly sliced beef to the pot of finished broth and then ladle that over the rice noodles, and finish with the toppings of choice.
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Here on SpringForestFarm.com, Jennifer Taylor Schmidt writes beef recipes for the busy, natural homemaker. It is possible to seek optimal health with limited time and money. Join Jennifer in future posts as she explores the possibilities found in a 1/4 and a 1/2 beeve. You can also find her thoughts and personal health journey on RealFoodRealHealing.com.

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