Pho (Thai Style)
1 lb cheap cut of meat * (I use venison) cut into bite size pieces. (or raw thinly sliced expensive meat- let the hot broth cook it)
1 Bunch of fresh cilantro
6 Green onions chopped
1 Tbsp Beef Paste** (Pho)
Lots of bean sprouts (I like the crunch in the soup)
Red Chili pepper (Asian chili) powder
Soy sauce, if you prefer
Mei Fun rice noodles
4 Garlic cloves minced after roasting them over flame until burnt on the outside.
Fill a 3 quart pot half full of water then heat to boil then add: Beef Paste (per directions on jar) an the bite size meat to the pot then turn down to low.
Use 4 large soup bowls and fill them with equal portions of: Chopped cilantro (stems removed), bean sprouts, tsp chili pepper powder (NOT Mexican style) and scallions.
Take a 3 or 4 cup screen strainer and add a bunch of Mei Fun noodles then place in the pot. Cook the noodles until soft (a few mins) with the garlic.
Once the noodles are ready, use a ladle to remove broth and a portion of the cooked meat then pour over fresh ingredients in a bowl.
Add Sriracha and balance with vinegar to taste (the vinegar will remove the heat from the hot stuff, to taste. Add a squirt or 4 of fish sauce to taste.
You can also just place all of the noodles (after breaking them up into 4 units – this makes them easier to serve individually) and forego the strainer. THis will make only 4 servings. Following the directions above will allow you to add beef paste to the broth( and water) to continue serving soup although you would need more fresh ingredients.
The key here is to add the ingredients to your liking. I usually leave all of the ingredients on the table and allow guests to add as much of each as they like. If they never tried pho before it is in your best interest to make it for them the first time they are served.
My buddy Nok Kamperngai used to invite me over to his Thai Mothers house for dinner every Sunday when I lived in Easton, PA. I was able to sample all sorts of her Thai food and eventually went home with her recipe that I’ve posted here.
I miss those dinners! This is “Southern style” Pho that is more ingredient oriented vs broth-centric. The dish is a 100 yr old Vietnamese that varies from the skinnier noodle version of the south than the less ingredient thicker noodles in the north,
*Inexpensive meat works best because the soup will soften it up. Americanized Pho uses higher grade \ cuts of meat but I’m a purist when it comes to this dish. Tough venison works great for making broth and softens while cooking.
**Beef paste can be purchased at most Asian grocery stores. You can use beef bouillon in a pinch but it won’t have that hardy Asian flavor.
***Beef Tendon meat balls from an Asian Store can also be added in addition to the meat \ beef.
Finally, you can use shrimp or even chicken if you are adventurous. You would have to skip the beef paste and either make chicken stock with bones and fat or use it out of the can.
The History of PHO
Phở Bo was born in Northern Vietnam during the mid-1880s. The dish was heavily influenced by both Chinese and French cooking from traders of each country. Rice noodle and spices were imported from China; the French popularized the eating of red meat (Bo). In fact, it is believed that “phở” is derived from “pot au feu” a French soup. Vietnamese cooks blended the Chinese, French and native influences to make a dish that is uniquely Vietnamese.
From North to South
The popularity of pho spread southwards starting in 1954 when the country was divided into North and South Vietnam. As the dish moved south, cooks infused it with additional ingredients until it evolved into the version that is commonly served today. Thai Pho is obviously the southern version that I prefer.
Regional Pho Variations
The origins of pho as a Northern dish that spread South explains the key differences between the Northern and Southern variations. Northern style pho tends to be simpler and is made with less ingredients. There are fewer cuts of meat and small slices of ginger are laid on top of the soup. The pho is served without bean sprouts or herbs. Instead, it is accompanied by green chilies and lime only. Southern style pho is a complex dish made from a dozen ingredients. Bean sprouts, fresh basil and Viet saw herb culantro* (not to be confused with cilantro \ coriander) are typically served with each bowl. As with the Northern style pho, green chilies and lime are used as condiments. Yeah, Culantro is also known as “stinkweed” and is stronger than the more well known variety, cilantro. Imagine ordering a bowl of Pho (pronounced Fu, Fa or Fua)Bo (beef) with a side of stinkweed. Call me nuts but it makes my mouth water thinking about it.
Pho in the United States
Refugees fleeing Vietnam in the Spring of 1975 brought with them their hopes and dreams of a better life. They also brought their cultures and cuisine, of which pho has become the most popular among Americans. Today there are almost 2,000 pho restaurants spread across the United States and Canada. One typically finds Southern style pho served although a few outlets also serve Northern style pho. Typical establishments sell pho and other Vietnamese dishes like goi cuon (spring rolls) and cha gio (eggrolls).
Commonly known as culantro in English-speakingCaribbean countries, Eryngium foetidum is also referred to as shado beni (from French chardon béni, meaning “blessed thistle,” not to be confused with the similarly named Cnicus benedictus or bandhaniya (Hindi: बन्धनिय, meaning “shrub cilantro”). Other common names include: culantro coyote (Costa Rica), recao(Puerto Rico), cilantro ancho (Dominican Republic), long coriander, wild or Mexican coriander, fitweed, spiritweed, stinkweed, duck-tongue herb, sawtooth or saw-leaf herb, and sawtooth coriander.