There are many, many recipes for Pho (Phö, pronounced “Fér” or “Fur”). It seems that every household has their own unique recipe, no doubt passed on from Elder to Younger.
Pho, being the great dish that it is, is special in many ways. No matter how you make the basic recipe, it is one of the dishes that will be “Póon” (Seasoned) by the person it is served to. This varies depending on how “You like your Pho”.
Some add Fish Sauce, Chilli Sauce, Lime or Lemon Juice, Fermented Cabbage, Powdered Chilli, Garlic Oil, Sugar (OMG!) etc… the list is endless.
Add to the fact that each person has their own liking with herbs, you can see Mint, Coriander, “Pak Pell” (somehow a.k.a. Vietnamese Mint), Purple Basil etc… Lets not forget the condiments like Pickled Garlic or Chillies, Ka Pí (Shrimp Paste) etc…
I have never seen a dish that changes so much when it reaches the table. You could say that Pho is “Personal”.
At the Laocook Kitchens, we thought it would be fun to make a “Pho Amuse Bouche”. We didn´t want to get complicated with the “Póon”, so we decided (after much debate) to make it Neutral, yet flavoursome, which was achieved by simply adding a touch of Fish Sauce, Mint, Spring Onion and Coriander.
Making the Stock (or Broth) is easy. Below is a list for a basic Stock, that can be changed according to preference.
1 whole Ox Tail, cut in to segments
1 Chopped Beef Shin
1 Split Knee Joint
1 Onion, skin removed and halved
1 Ginger Root, halved
1 Head of Garlic, washed and pierced all over with a fork
3 Sticks of Cinnamon
5 Star Anise
Dry Fry over a low flame the Onion and Ginger, meanwhile fill a Stock Pot with Water and add the Ox Tail, Shin and Knee. Bring to a boil.
When the Onion and Ginger are blackened (this gives the Pho a nice brown colour and aroma) add to the pot along with the Garlic, Cinnamon and Star Anise. Return to the boil, then simmer, skimming when necessary. Leave semi-covered for about 4 to 5 hours, depending on the amount of water you used, you should let it reduce by half.
When the Ox Tail is tender (or according to personal taste), turn off the heat and allow to cool. Strain and remove the debris, reserving the Ox Tail.
When thoroughly cooled, place in to the fridge for a few hours, you will notice that all the fat has risen to the top, remove. If you are short of time, you can always do an “Old Chef´s Trick” and drape a paper towel over the surface, this will collect most of the fat. (We leave a “little” fat behind on purpose.)
Once the fat is removed, bring back to the boil and reduce by a third. Allow to cool, if not using immediately you can freeze in manageable sizes until needed.
This is a basic recipe, that can be changed according to taste (if you want a “Heavy Pho”, try adding a Calf’s foot). We find that the more bones that we use, the better the end result.
(We remove the meat from the Ox Tail, and return the bones to the stock, and reduce further)
For those with a Sweet Tooth, below is our “Fruit Spring Roll with Mango and Tangerine Sorbet”
Most fruits can be used to make the “Roll”, but make sure you make it just before serving, otherwise the wrapper will become soggy and break up when frying, an alternative is to “squeeze” out the juices. We found that Apple and Banana work well.
Our Rolls are served with Mango and Raspberry Coulis, the sweetness of the Mango cut with the Acidity of the Raspberry.