The key to good Beef Pho is in the stock. I made this once years back and I was not entirely too satisfied with the flavour of the soup. This time round, I read up a lot more and I added in 2 other ingredients and used a different 'parts' for the soup stock - charred onion and ginger. :)
:: The gathering list
- 2 packets of flat rice vermicelli (we used Ipoh Hor Fun) sold in regular supermarkets here. If yours is the dried version, you will need to soak them in hot water for a few mins based on the instructions on the packaging.
- Bone marrows (I got this from Giant, frozen section, 2 packets)
- Tendons cut into thirds, length-wise (Similarly, I got this from Giant, frozen section too)
- 2 Yellow Onions
- 1 old ginger (about 4" in length)
- Rock sugar (a 'crystal' of about an inch)
- Fish sauce
- Cinnamon sticks (about 3)
- 6 Cloves
- Peppercorn (I used about 1.5 table spoons)
- 5 Star Anise
- Asian basil (I used at least 10-12 leaves)
- Beef slices (I used those we use for Shabu Shabu as they are sliced up nicely)
- Condiment: chili padi (bird's eye chili), mint leaves, lemon wedges, spring onions
- Optional: Beef stock (In the interest of time as I have only 5 hours to spare, I added in a 500ml packet of beef stock)
Now, I happen to chance upon a shop at the Grandstand which sells spices and they pre-packed the Beef Pho herbs into a bag like this, so this is another option which you can consider. The same thing goes in there - cinnamon sticks, star anise, peppercorns and cloves.
:: The Cookout!
Step 1: Boil a pot of water (mine was a 2 litre pot) and place in the bone marrows (washed). You can use other parts which you like such as oxtail and rump, etc, but I personally like the taste and the broth to be just a bit sticky and thick and for this, I prefer to use bone marrows. Note: it will be a tad oily so you will need to skim away the layer of oil)
Step 2: Add in the herbs (best to place in muslin cloth and tied up) and basil into the soup (or use the packet as shared above).
Step 3: Add in beef stock. After about 30 mins of boiling, you can start to scoop out the brownish residue floating at the top of the soup.
Step 4: Add in the tendons. (Note: tendons do not require much attention just that it takes a long while to soften and in my case, 5 hours with the first 1 hour over medium fire and the remaining 4 hours on low fire.)
Step 5: Char the onions and ginger (this took as long as 20-30 mins for me) using a pair of tongs to 'flip' sides so that they do not get totally burnt. The aim for charring the onions is to release the flavours and to get the outside soft but the core still hard and has that 'bite'. For the Ginger, it was the other way, the outside was dry but the core was full of the wholesome "ginger goodness". (It is ok if the skin is charred as you can peel that away later.) Here's how mine looks like:
Step 6: Add the charred onions, ginger and rock sugar to the broth and simmer on low heat for the next 3 - 4 hours, checking from time to time (if tendons are soft). Add in beef balls (we used a mix of the ready ones as well as our own handmade minced beef bowls as I am not a big fan of using processed meat for Dumpling. But for the minced beef balls, we only added them to the broth just before serving so that they would not be overcooked and turn 'tough'.)
Step 7: Add Fish Sauce - I added about 5 tablespoons. You can add on more according to your preference.
Step 9: Cook the beef slices by dipping and quickly swishing them in the broth (so that they are not overcooked) and then place them in bowl above the vermicelli. (If you are serving this to young kids, please ensure that the meat is properly cooked without any hint of pink to it.) Add on beef balls.
(I do not enjoy raw bean sprouts so I did not add this to the dish but these are widely served and added to the broth along with the condiments so you can add this in too.)