If you live in the US and have visited Vietnamese restaurants, you are probably under the impression that Pho is Vietnam's national dish. You may be right. I've never been to Vietnam, but Pho is ubiquitous in this country. It is a flavored noodle soup, usually made with beef, but could be made with chicken, shrimp or almost any protein you can think of. If you want to make a truly authentic Pho, you need to make the stock from beef marrow bones, a process which essentially takes all day. You are welcome to do that, but this recipe, which takes 30 minutes, is 85% as good as the made-from-scratch version.
You can make this Pho with rice or wheat noodles, but be sure to prepare them separately, otherwise they will make your Pho cloudy. Some rice noodles merely need soaking and rinsing, so read the package instructions if you use them. Cook wheat noodles as usual in plenty of salted boiling water.
The Vietnamese use any cut of meat that can be cut thin, but as a general rule, I use flank steak which can be sliced very thin while partially frozen.
One of the hallmarks of Pho is the garnishes. The most common are bean sprouts, fresh cilantro, Thai basil, lime wedges, hot peppers like serrano or jalapeno and Southeast Asian hot sauce (sriracha). If you don't like heat, forget about the hot stuff. If you do include the hot stuff, make sure you have a supply of hankies to wipe the sweat off your face.
This recipe makes 2 large servings.
1 Quart Beef Stock
1 Onion, peeled and quartered
6 Garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
2" piece of fresh ginger, sliced
6 Whole cloves
1 Star anise, bruised
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tsp Vietnamese fish sauce
8 Oz Rice or wheat noodles
8 Oz Steak, thinly sliced cross-grain
Fresh Thai basil
Serrano or jalapeno chiles
Combine the first 9 ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain through a fine seive and discard the solids. Return the liquid to the pot and reheat to the simmer.
While the stock is simmering, make the noodles according to package directions. Put half the noodles in each of 2 large serving bowls. Pour the hot stock into the bowls and add the sliced steak. The heat from the broth will cook the meat. Serve immediately with all the garnishes on the side.