This is my second time trying to create Vietnamese pho in my kitchen. The first try was an utter failure. I used the pre-packaged pho spices in a mesh bag as suggested by a Vietnamese food blogger but probably it was my fault for keeping them too long in the broth. In the end the spices overwhelmed and tasted like herbal medicine.
For the second try, I used as inspiration a recipe from the Costco cookbook which I got last year while shopping at the store in Monterey. I got lucky because I don’t think they gave it away in the stores in Illinois. This time all it asked for was to use 2 tablespoons of Hoisin sauce in their chicken pho recipe.
My friend likes the pho she orders in the Vietnamese market (Argyle) in Chicago and they use skirt steaks with ligaments (not fat) intact. I saw them at the market last weekend and a grabbed one to try. Some pho restaurants use thinly sliced sirloin which could have made the cooking time even shorter. But that’s for another time.
I must say I was very happy with the result. From my standpoint, it rated a 7 out of 10. There’s plenty of room for improvement.
2.5 lbs. of skirt steak with ligaments, cut into 1.5 inch cubes
1 large onions, sliced
1 thumb-size ginger, sliced thinly
4 cloves garlic
fish sauce (patis) or salt to taste
1 cinnamon stick
6 cups of water (replenish if they evaporate)
4 tablespoons of Hoisin sauce
1 package of Vietnamese noodles for pho
2 jalapeno peppers, sliced
2 cups of fresh bean sprouts
1/2 bunch or 2 handfuls of Vietnamese basil
1 bunch of watercress
Wash meat thoroughly and fill pot with water – enough to cover the meat. At first boil, discard the water to remove the scum from the meat and wash it once again.
Return beef to pot and cover with 6 cups of water. Add the garlic, ginger and onions. Boil until the ligaments are tender. Add the cinnamon stick during the last 10 minutes of boiling. At this point, you could stop the process and let it cool overnight if you want to remove the fat that coagulates on top of the broth. Season according to taste.
Remove the cinnamon stick before continuing the process. Add the hoisin sauce and let it boil for another 10 minutes to meld the flavor.
In another pot, boil water for the noodles. Read instruction on the package then drain.
Wash the fresh vegetables and assemble them in a plate. Trim the basil of hard stems. Most don’t use watercress but I like this vegetable because it can be eaten raw and goes very well with the soup.
In a deep bowl, place some drained noodles and ladle the hot soup over it.
As seen in Vietnamese restaurants, you add the fresh veggies over the soup, add a teaspoon of chili oil according to your spice tolerance and squeeze lime.
Next time I will try chicken or the sirloin or even add some wonton dimsum in my pho. But that’s in the pho-ture!