After my first ever contribution to this blog, some of my friends demanded that I do a post on Pho. I’m sorry it took so long but alas, here it is. I truly believe that in order to reinvent a classic, one must first understand exactly why it is a classic in the first place. Therefore, what you see below is a pretty classic execution of Pho. Eventually I’ll attempt to modernize this classic.
Pho is essentially just beef noodle soup. However it tastes more magical than my inadequate mastery of the English language can describe. The secret is in the broth. It is packed with umami and other compounds that boost the flavour of meat proteins making the beef taste better than it does elsewhere. One can find many different recipes for Pho however the two key steps that will separate your Pho from everyone else’s are easy to remember.
The first trick is to use dried sea worms when making the broth. This may seem unappetizing to some people however dried sea worms are some of the most umami dense foods. Adding this to the broth will make your beef taste that much better without having to use MSG. Another trick is to stab the onions with star anise before roasting them in the oven. When onions and star anise are cooked together they produce compounds that further boost the meaty flavours of the dish. Adding this to the broth will take the soup to new heights.
The beef used in the dish above are beef tenderloin, chuck beef balls, and oxtail. Traditionally, the Vietnamese eat Pho with many herbs including mint, basil, and coriander however I’ve just finished it with some thai basil and thinly sliced red onion here.