In Hanoi’s Old Quarter, there’s a simple, unassuming pho restaurant where locals and tourists sit together crouched on tiny plastic chairs at small plastic tables that spill out on to the sidewalk. Peter first ate the beef pho at this particular restaurant nearly 7 years ago and when he brought me for a bowl last April, I was hooked.
So when Peter and I were deciding where to travel to over the Christmas holidays, we knew it needed to be somewhere relatively close by (unfortunately no Christmas in Texas for me this year). And so with pho on my mind, we booked two tickets to Hanoi and decided to figure out the details of the trip later.
Christmas Eve Dinner in Hanoi
When we finally landed in Hanoi last month, Peter and I hopped in to a taxi to our hotel, dropped off our bags, and hurried out the door to the most magical Christmas Eve dinner– hot, savory, beef pho.
We grabbed two bowls of beef pho and a plate of fried bread sticks and spooned in chili sauce, vinegar, and fresh chilies before spending the next 15 minutes in near silence.
If you’ve been to Hanoi you know that the Old Quarter is far from silent (more details on that in later blog posts) and the restaurant was bustling as usual, but there was nothing that could distract me from this bowl of pho.
Not even my fiance. On Christmas Eve.
Don’t worry– I think the feeling was mutual.
It was a classic Christmas Eve scene. Two lovers, crouched on tiny plastic chairs, slurping up soup and sweating from a combination of chili peppers, chili sauce, hot soup and an unusually warm winter.
In fact surely last April it was this lovely image of me wiping sweat off my face while completely forgetting any conversational talking points other than “oh my god this is so f-ing good” that reaffirmed to Peter that he truly wanted to propose marriage to me just a few days later.
We had our fill of this pho while we were in Vietnam (over the course of 2.5 days in Hanoi, we had this pho 4 times–at every opportunity!), but were still missing it when we returned home.
Homemade Beef Pho
While I certainly can’t compete with Pho Gia Truyen (also often known as Pho Bat Dan), this recipe is more than enough to tide me over until I can get back to Hanoi. I topped our servings with fresh herbs, onion and chili peppers from our neighbor’s rooftop garden along with homemade chili sauce that we brought back from Sa Pa in Northern Vietnam (photos to come).
Peter made the mistake of underestimating the spice level of this homemade chili sauce from Sa Pa
Your broth simmers for 3 hours after parboiling the beef bones so you’re left with a nice clean soup. If you prefer, you can also take the extra step to “skim the broth” — i.e. using a spoon to remove any fat that rises to the top of the soup. But Pho Gia Truyen doesn’t bother and neither do I.
By parboiling the beef there is little scum to skim so to speak and I still found the beef pho to be fresh and light and very flavorful.
This recipe is from Steamy Kitchen
- 2 onions, cut in half, skin on
- 4 in piece of ginger, cut in half lengthwise
- 5-6 pounds of beef bones
- 6 quarts of water
- 1 pound of beef brisket, chuck or rump
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 5 star anise
- 1 cardamom pod
- 6 cloves
- 1/4 cup fish sauce
- 1 tbsp palm sugar
- 2 lbs of rice noodles, cooked (sub thick potato vermicelli noodles for a gluten free option)
- 1/2 lb sirloin, sliced thinly (hot pot beef is great for this)
- handful of mint, cilantro, and Thai basil
- green onion, sliced
- 2 limes, sliced
- 2-3 chili peppers, sliced
- chili sauce
- Turn broiler on high and move rack to the highest level (closest to the top of the oven)
- Add a thin layer of oil to the flesh side of the onions and ginger and place face up on a baking sheet
- Place in oven and broil on high for 7-8 minutes until onion and ginger are lightly charred
- Flip and repeat, broiling for an additional 7-8 minutes
- Add beef bones to a large pot
- Cover bones with water
- Boil over high for 10-15 minutes
- Drain and rinse bones and the large pot
- Refill pot with 6 quarts of water and boil over high heat
- When water begins to boil, lower heat
- Add ginger, onions, beef, cinnamon, coriander, fennel, star anise, cardamom, cloves, fish sauce, and sugar to pot and simmer for 90 minutes
- Remove cooked beef and save for serving
- Simmer for additional 90 minutes
- After simmering, strain broth and return to pot
- Add fish sauce as needed
- For serving, place noodles. previously cooked beef and thinly sliced sirloin (uncooked) in bowls
- Ladle hot broth over noodles to cook sirloin
- Top with mint, cilantro, Thai basil, green onion, lime juice, chili peppers and chili sauce
Recipe adapted from http://steamykitchen.com/271-vietnamese-beef-noodle-soup-pho.html