Filming the Spice Race with Beef Pho Recipe

Few months ago when I was in Melbourne, I got a phone call from a friend of mine inviting me to film a cooking competition. Except this was no ordinary competition. The dishes are cooked by a bunch of models who might or might not have the first idea about cooking. I wasn’t briefed beforehand (intentionally I think) and found out on the day I was suppose to co-host and also judge the dishes. Well judging I could do (who doesn’t like eating free food… ha!), not sure about the other role. It was fun though getting to know these girls and hanging out with Michael and crew.

How to judge a bowl of pho while looking good. Well... the messy table is a dead giveaway isn't it?
How to judge a bowl of pho while looking good. Well… the messy table kind of spoil it a little…

The dish for them to cook was a very traditional Vietnamese recipe: Phở Bò (Beef Pho). Pronouced as ‘Fuh”, it’s a steaming hot bowl of rice noodles in beef soup that has been cooked with various spices, garnish with fresh herbs and vegetables. There are several regional variations including a chicken version (even vegetarian version too). Either way, Phở reigns in its simplicity, and is perfect anytime of the day. *cough* Especially when you are hungover.

If you are interested to see me attempting to host a show for the very first time and basically running around with the pretty models while they do their groceries shopping. Here’s the YouTube video!

Click to view Part 2, Part 3. Part 3 is probably the best in terms of audio quality as it was filmed inside the restaurant, less street noise. Thank you Michael for the opportunity! By the way Michael used to run a Vietnamese restaurant himself so he definitely has a lot to share!

While tagging along the crew for the groceries shopping, I also managed to get myself a couple of packs of these:

Pho spices! How convenient!
Pho spices! How convenient! And only AUD1.80

I’ve been waiting to cook this dish for ages and finally managed to do so this week. I was introduced to this dish the first year I arrived in Melbourne. Thanks to the large Vietnamese community there is definitely no shortage of decent Vietnamese food in or out of the city. I used to dine at Vietnamese restaurants as often as once a week! Phở is definitely one of my first choices, along with Broken Rice (Cơm tấm). In Kuala Lumpur, Pho is not as readily available (and not as good), so whenever I return to Melbourne I actually make a point to satisfy my pho craving.

Apart from charring the spices, ginger, onions and garlic, there really wasn’t much to it. The recipe I used was adapted from Luke Nguyen’s, and his version includes garlic whilst most don’t.

Perfection in a bowl.
Perfection in a bowl.

Phở Bò (Beef Pho):

Feeds about 6-8 people.
1 kg Beef Bones (chopped to smaller pieces)
4 tablespoons salt
1 unpeeled Garlic bulb
2 large unpeeled Onions
100g unpeeled Ginger
500g Beef Brisket
50 g Rock Sugar
150g Rice noodles (dry or fresh) per portion
200 g Sirloin, thinly sliced
3 spring onions (scallions), sliced
Coriander (cilantro) sprigs
1 handful of bean sprouts
1 bunch Asian basil (omitted due to unavailability)
2 bird’s eye chillies, sliced
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Hoisin sauce (optional)
Chili Oil (optional)
Spice pouch:
1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
8 whole cloves
5 star anise (I have about 100 of those lol)
2 cassia bark, about 10 cm (4 inch) in length
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
40 cm (16 inch) square piece muslin cloth

In a large pot, submerge the beef bones in cold water, bring to a boil, and drain after 5 minutes. Rinse them a few times until the water runs clear. This will ensure you get a clear soup.

Beautiful Spices
Beautiful Spices

To make the spice pouch, dry roast all the spices in a frying pan over medium heat until fragrant. Cool, then add the ground spices to the muslin cloth and tie up in a knot. Set aside.

The fun part!
The fun part!

Grill the unpeeled garlic, onions and ginger evenly over the stove fire (you can also use the grill function in the oven, though it will take a little longer) until all sides are blackened. Now peel the blackened skins and discard them, and then roughly chop. By doing this, the garlic, onion and ginger becomes sweet and fragrant, releasing more flavour into the stock.

All in!
All in!

Put the beef bones, brisket into full pot of cold water bring to the boil. While the stock is boiling, constantly skim any impurities off the surface, reduce the heat to a low simmer for 15 minutes. Add salt, rock sugar, garlic, onions, ginger and spice pouch. (If you are using fish sauce, add it at this point too)

Cover and simmer for 4 hours, or until the stock has reduced to almost half.

Strain the stock through a muslin cloth. Remove the brisket, set aside to cool, then thinly slice.

Cook rice noodles to the packet’s instructions. Drain, then transfer to a serving bowl. Place three or four slices of brisket on top of the noodles, followed by three or four pieces of raw sirloin. Pour over the hot stock to cover the noodles and beef.

Garnish with spring onion, coriander, chili, bean sprouts, basil (I omitted this) and a squeeze of lemon (or lime). Some might also like to add Hoisin sauce and chili oil (like me).

The way I serve mine, minus the basil. The aroma is unbelievable!
The way I serve mine, minus the basil. The aroma is unbelievable!

This was actually my first attempt and I’m glad it turned out great. The soup was tasty with great depths of flavours from the onions, ginger, garlic and spices. The fresh herbs and lemon provides the much needed lift. I’ll be honest, I had this 3 days straight and I could probably have another one soon! I don’t think I’ll ever order this in a restaurant again since most of them are full of MSG. You can always freeze the leftovers so you’ll always have some stock ready whenever you crave Pho!

So what do you like to add to your Phở Bò?

16 Comments Add yours

  1. theragingcook says:

    Love it!!!! Lemon, Vietnamese Basil, Beanspeouts!

    1. kellysiew says:

      No chili?? BTW I’ve been meaning to ask: Is Thai Basil and Viet Basil the same thing?

      1. theragingcook says:

        Yeah they are, look EXACTLY the same to me, but I am no expert – going
        off experience cooking at home and eating out at Thai places and seriously they look the same AND taste the same (but there is always the chance I am wrong hahaha)

      2. kellysiew says:

        I’ve always thought that thai basil is a little on the purple side.

  2. Phong Hong says:

    Kelly, love this beef soup! I can have it straight for a few days too 🙂

    1. kellysiew says:

      Soup noodles is the best~! 😀

  3. The Yum List says:

    I bet you make a great host. Funny that they didn’t tell you before hand. 🙂

    1. kellysiew says:

      Hahaha… He only got to know that I was in Melbourne the night before, The day we arrived, actually.

  4. love the look of the beef in the pho. cooked with precision, right 😀 hmmm, i’ve always wondered if adding a poached egg into pho might work. or not, heh 😀

    1. kellysiew says:

      The rare beef was actually added in raw. The hot soup was enough to cook it.

  5. Esther says:

    I absolutely love Pho…used to go to springvale and ate and ate!! The closest we get here is Vietnam House, and thats not very close to the real thing, so sad isnt it. You didnt buy loads of those spice packets back? :p

    1. kellysiew says:

      I only bought 2 packs. Actually it’s not hard to source invididual spices. I didn’t think I’ll cook it so many times hahaha.

  6. You look gorgeous Kelly! I enjoy watching the videos. You are so natural too and maybe this can be your another profession. 🙂 Love pho and eat at least once a week. I have been wanting to make at home (but lazy). Thanks for the recipe!

    1. kellysiew says:

      I think I could do better if there was some form of script and if I wasn’t so nervous haha. Thanks though.

  7. Love Pho… I get my cravings at Pho Hao in the Curve!! Used to eat a lot of this when I studying abroad… I like mine with lots of fresh herbs and beef tripe! 😉

    I can never make Pho at home cos my family dont take beef… and its just not the same with other meats… lol

    1. kellysiew says:

      Could you make a smaller portion for yourself and freeze the rest? I agree the other version is just not the same!

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