Recipes: The Cheater’s Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodles)

My boys love Pho – all three of them. As mother and wife, I am expected to learn how to make it. And it’s got to be as good or better than the one at the shop. For someone like me, that’s a big ask. But I gave it a go anyway. The first attempt was a bit of a disaster… Not enough bones and not enough meat flavour to the soup. The recipe I followed was the one from Steamy Kitchen but modified based on the ingredients that I had and simplified to require less effort. Yes, I shamelessly admit it – I’m all about what I can make in the shortest amount of time with the least effort required – but it has to still look like I slaved over it.

I learned this little secret from my late aunt some time back when I was watching her cook for my Uncle – Mr Uber Fussy Eater. When she broke the “good wife’s” cardinal rule by using pre-packaged sauce, I exclaimed, “I thought uncle won’t eat anything cooked with packet sauce?” To which she replied, “You have to know how to make it taste like it didn’t come out of a packet.” So that’s been my inspiration ever since…

Recently, I found a way around the problem of finding the right bones to make an authentic soup stock for Pho Bo. Here it is…

knorr beef stockIngredients for the Soup Stock:

  • 1 nub of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • spices (in a bag) – 1 cinnamon stick, 1 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tbsp fennel seeds, 5 star anise, 1 cardamom pod, 6 cloves
  • beef meat and bones (how much? I’ve no idea – whatever you can get your hands on)
  • beef stock cubes (if you can’t get enough bones to flavour the soup adequately, this will fill in the gaps) or something like Campbell’s beef stock or Knorr beef stock
  • 1 piece of rock sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • water (fill half a large pot)
  • salt to taste – if you use beef stock, this won’t be necessary

Ingredients for Pho Bo:

  • vermicelli/rice noodles, cooked
  • bean sprouts
  • thinly sliced lean beef

Notes:

You know the rules for making meat soup:

  • Before making any soup, the norm is to boil the meat in water for a few minutes to remove the “meat scum” (or albumin). After that, you wash the meat and put it back into fresh water. If you can’t be bothered, the easier way is to boil the meat in water, skim off the meat scum, then add your remaining soup ingredients.
  • If you can’t wait around for the cooking time, you can always throw everything into a slow cooker in the morning before you head out for the day.

About the noodles

I have been searching for a good rice noodle for a long time. Most of the ones we’ve used to date tend to get soggy very fast. If there is anything my fussy eaters can’t tolerate, it’s soggy noodles. My SIL discovered that if you use Pad Thai noodles, you can get around the soggy noodle problem.

pad-thai-noodles

Method:

  • Put everything (except the salt and beef stock) into the pot and bring to the boil.
  • Reduce the flame and simmer for a long time. What’s a long time? At least 3 hours.
  • Add your salt or beef stock to adjust the flavour of the soup.

Once your soup is ready, add it to the noodles, beef sprouts and beef. If you’re a traditionalist, you’ll probably want to add all the other garnishings – fresh mint, cilantro, basil, and lime. We usually do without it.

Pho Bo

Update: The Super Cheater’s Recipe!

Just when you thought you couldn’t possibly cheat any more…

Ingredients for Soup Stock:

  • 1 nub of ginger, peeled and sliced (if you don’t have fresh ginger, 2 tsp of ground ginger powder works pretty well, too)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • spices (in a bag) – 1 cinnamon stick, 1 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tbsp fennel seeds, 5 star anise, 1 cardamom pod, 6 cloves
  • 2 cubes of beef stock
  • 1 piece of rock sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 3L water

Everything else is the same as the recipe above.

5 thoughts on “Recipes: The Cheater’s Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodles)

  1. I’m all about what I can make in the shortest amount of time with the least effort required – but it has to still look like I slaved over it.
    I can totally relate to the above sentence. I love to play cheat & hack my way through things esp food.
    I recently bought a pack of rendang pre pack sauce, added onions & garlic & seasoned it with my chicken then baked it in the oven. It was tasty!!

    Like

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