crock pot pho last year and it was quite an experience. Crock pot cooking sure has its benefits but I much prefer cooking on the stove top. Maybe I have OCD in the kitchen but I can not leave something cooking on it's own for that long without tasting it. It'll probably work if I started measuring everything precisely but I know that's not going to happen!
Living so far from my parents, I've develop a love for pho more than ever before. While living in Vietnam, my dad and I were pho buddies. I didn't really have a choice, but it was our daddy and daughter time together. After pho we would walk around and my dad would catch up with his friends and neighbors. When we moved to the states, there were no pho shop and no friends to visit. We still had our daddy daughter time though, grocery shopping in 3 feet of snow. Those early years were tough!
Despite her busy schedule, my mom always made sure there was a pot of pho every Saturday morning. It was something we all look forward to every weekend. Now that I no longer live at home, I miss my mom's cooking more and more especially her pho. It's definitely her best dish!
I have tried cooking pho in many different ways, believe me I've tried all the techniques! And I don't think one technique is better than another, it's all about what you are comfortable with! And these are the techniques I love and I hope they will help you on your next phoventure!
1. Root Vegetables
2. Beef Bones
I love love my bone marrow but you have to use a variety of bones and meat. Bones alone will not produce a great broth, that's why we use beef shank as well. Look for beef neck bones or any bones with a little bit meat to it.
One of the worst pho turn off for me is the over use of spices. I definitely got this from my dad. He hates pho that has a very strong aroma of spices, he feels it takes away the beef flavor. There are pre-package pho spices at the Asian market but I tend to stick with only a few. I usually only use cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. You want the spices to be subtle to linger but not to overwhelm.
While my mom feels roasting the ginger and onions are not needed, I love this step. It takes these ingredients to a whole another level of sweetness. You can also roast the spices as well but spices burn a lot faster so be careful.
5. Clear Broth
Certain soups you can get by without have a clear broth but murky pho is not as inviting. I take the extra step to get my bones and shank very clean. You'll want to par-boil your bones and then rinsing them with cool water right after. I even use a different pot par-boil my bones. The only thing that goes in my pot of pho are clean bones, fresh water, and clean meat.
3-4 lbs of bones
2 yellow onions
2-3 knob of ginger
2 cinnamon stick
5-6 star anise
thinly sliced beef
green onions/cilantro/sliced yellow onions (garnish)
bean sprouts/basil (optional)
Total cooking time: 5-6 hours
1. Par-boil beef bones/shank, thoroughly rinse both with cool water and set aside.
2. Fill a new 10 qt. pot with water and add the beef bones only. Let the bones simmer on low-med heat for about 1-2 hours. Occasionally check on the broth for scum and remove.
3. Roast the ginger/onion in the oven or grill. Remove the skin and then add to the broth. Add the leeks to the pot as well. Add rock sugar about the same size as a knob of ginger. Add 6-7 tablespoon of salt, 3 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning. Remove scum when necessary.
4. Add the shanks to the pot. Cook until tender and remove from pot.
5. You should see fat at the top from the bones/shank, remove as much as you can or if you like the fat you can leave it. Continue to let pot of pho simmer for another 1-2 hours. Add additional water if too much has reduced.
6. Taste the broth, add additional salt/sugar/fish sauce if needed.
7. Lightly wrap the spices in aluminum foil and add to the pot for about 20 minutes or so.
8. Prepare sliced beef, noodles, vegetables
and garnish for eating.
9. When your pot of pho is done I like to remove all bones in to one bowl for munching. Discard ginger, onions, leeks, spices. So you are left with only the broth. You can also take the extra step of straining your broth.