If you haven’t had Pho before, you are missing out. When the cooler weather starts creeping in, it’s definitely one of my favourite dishes. And the best part about Pho is that it is easy to make and highly customizable.
Pho is a Vietnamese style, noodle-based soup with a variety of proteins, topped with fresh, crunchy vegetables and peanuts. The delicate melange of spices brings a wonderfully complex taste of the East to your evening. Some cooks will adamantly claim that a full-flavoured Pho broth needs to take you hours. I am happy to disagree. With the right ingredients you can whip up this fabulous dish in very little time at all.
Whether you are looking for a warm and hearty soup for a cool autumn night, or you want to impress a date with your exotic taste and culinary abilities (and have fun assembling it together), then this recipe is a killer choice.
Undergraduate Pho in a Flash
Prep Time: 30 minutes (15 if you are good with a knife!)
Cook Time: 25 minutes (knife skills won’t help here)
Total Time: 55 minutes (Don’t quote me on that!)
Yield: 4 (leftovers!)
6 cups of Chicken Broth (low sodium!)
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp finely diced white onion
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 star anise
2 whole cloves
½ tsp fennel seeds
1 black cardamom pod
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp red chili flakes
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce (optional)
1 tbsp sriracha sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
Cheese cloth (or a wire strainer or ‘spider’)
For Individual Bowl Assembly
1 to 2 lbs noodles (udon, egg noodles or ‘banh pho’)
250g beef (sirloin or outside round) very thinly sliced
12 black tiger shrimp, deveined and shelled
2 mild Italian pork sausages
1 cup of shredded Napa cabbage
1 cup of bean sprouts
½ cup of crushed peanuts
1 carrot, julienned
1 lime (cut into wedges)
½ cup shredded cilantro/mint/thai basil (your call!)
Put a large pot of water on high heat to boil.
Place chicken broth, oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, lime juice, fish sauce, sriracha, ginger, garlic, chili flakes, brown sugar and onions into a pot and place on high heat. While you are waiting for the broth to boil, place spices (cardamom, cinnamon, star anise and fennel seeds) in a shallow pan and toast them on low heat, mixing often, until fragrant.
Both pots should be boiling. Place the toasted spices in a cheesecloth (If you do not have cheesecloth or a wire strainer, feel free to use ground spices) and add to the boiling broth. Turn the heat down on the broth to medium low, just above a simmer.
Place your noodles in the boiling water. Cook for 3-4 minutes (most Asian-style noodles don’t take long to cook, and they all have different cook times so check the package first). Once cooked, remove the noodles. Add the sausage and shrimp to the boiling water. The shrimp should only take a few minutes. When the grey color has turned pink, they’re ready to be removed from the pot. The sausages will take a little longer.
Now you have some time for your garnishes. Finely shred the Napa cabbage and your herb-of-choice. Julienned the carrot. Cut the lime into wedges.
By this point, both your broth and sausages should be ready. Remove the sausages and thinly slice them on a bias. Arrange your proteins and garnishes each on a separate serving dish and place the noodles into individual bowls (about 1/3 to ¼ of the way).
Now comes the fun part. Place some of the thinly sliced beef, shrimp, and sausage into the bowl. Using a ladle, top your noodles and proteins with hot broth.
Garnish with shredded Napa cabbage, julienned carrot, bean sprouts, shredded herb-of-choice, lime wedge, and crushed peanuts.
Giggle and dance around the kitchen with your date (I assumed you have music playing!).