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.
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:
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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).
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?