Most recipes for Vietnamese-style pho begin with charring and/or roasting pork or beef bones for broth. From there, the broth typically has to simmer overnight – making it a multi-day project. However, I recently gave this quicker recipe from America’s Test Kitchen a try and was very impressed. It brings the cooking time for the pho broth down to under an hour. Give it a try if you love pho.
1 pound 85 percent lean ground beef
2 onions, quartered through root end
12 cups low-sodium beef broth
¼ cup fish sauce, plus extra for seasoning
1 (4-inch) piece ginger, sliced into thin rounds
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for seasoning
6 star anise pods
6 whole cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 (1-pound) boneless strip steak, trimmed and halved
14 – 16 ounces (1/8-inch-wide) rice noodles
⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 scallions, sliced thin (optional)
Sprigs fresh Thai or Italian basil
Note from the Test Kitchen: Use a Dutch oven that holds 6 quarts or more. An equal weight of tri-tip steak or blade steak can be substituted for the strip steak; make sure to trim all connective tissue and excess fat. One 14- or 16-ounce package of rice noodles will serve four to six.
Look for noodles that are about 1/8 inch wide; these are often labeled “small.” Don’t use Thai Kitchen Stir-Fry Rice Noodles since they are too thick and don’t adequately soak up the broth.
1. Break ground beef into rough 1-inch chunks and drop in Dutch oven. Add water to cover by 1 inch. Bring mixture to boil over high heat. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring once or twice. Drain ground beef in colander and rinse well under running water. Wash out pot and return ground beef to pot.
2. Place 6 onion quarters in pot with ground beef. Slice remaining 2 onion quarters as thin as possible and set aside for garnish. Add broth, 2 cups water, fish sauce, ginger, cinnamon, sugar, star anise, cloves, 2 teaspoons salt, and peppercorns to pot and bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.
3. Pour broth through colander set in large bowl. Discard solids. Strain broth through fine-mesh strainer lined with triple thickness of cheesecloth; add water as needed to equal 11 cups. Return broth to pot and season with extra sugar and salt (broth should taste over-seasoned). Cover and keep warm over low heat.
4. While broth simmers, place steak on large plate and freeze until very firm, 35 to 45 minutes. Once firm, cut against grain into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Return steak to plate and refrigerate until needed.
5. Place noodles in large container and cover with hot tap water. Soak until noodles are pliable, 10 to 15 minutes; drain noodles. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add drained noodles and cook until almost tender, 30 to 60 seconds. Drain immediately and divide noodles among individual bowls.
6. Bring broth to rolling boil over high heat. Divide steak among individual bowls, shingling slices on top of noodles. Pile reserved onion slices on top of steak slices and sprinkle with cilantro and scallions, if using. Ladle hot broth into each bowl. Serve immediately, passing bean sprouts, basil sprigs, lime wedges, hoisin, Sriracha, and extra fish sauce separately.
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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