II’m usually a purist when it comes to cooking. You know, making bone broths and homemade stocks, storing quart tubs of them in the freezer to use for various dishes. But when it comes to making Vietnamese Beef Pho broth, I’ve decided to take a short cut by not making the beef stock from scratch. That’s because it requires 10 pounds of beef bones, a beef brisket for the stock – and THEN, a choice piece of beef to thinly slice and place on top of the Pho before you add the broth (a kind of inverse Shabu Shabu way to cook the raw beef.
As a first step, I trimmed the bone off of a beef strip steak and put it in the freezer to harden up so as to make it easier to make very thin slices with a sharp knife to serve on top of the Pho. I put the bone into two cups of spring water and cooked it for about 45 minutes, skimming off the scum that rises to the top. Once that was cleared, I added one box of Emeril’s organic beef broth. To this combination, I added some Vietnamese Pho spices in a cheesecloth bag and set the heat on low.
After simmering the beef broth spice mixture for an hour, I let it cool a little and tasted it. Disappointingly, it tasted watery and lacked flavor. I added a half gelatin of Knorr beef flavor and it still tasted very bland. So in the rest went. After that, I added about half a teaspoon of instant Dashi granules – (probably substituted for fish sauce which I couldn’t find in the fridge.) After these additions, the broth started to taste quite a bit better – especially after the dashi was added. Next time, I might try College Inn robust beef flavor and see how it does. In any case, it tasted more robust than the tepid pho broth I had in a restaurant a few weeks ago.
Anyhow, I sliced up the semi-frozen beef strip steak and it looked appetizing. Running the hot water, I soaked a section of Vietnamese rice noodles which will be boiled briefly when soft. On a platter, I set out rinsed Thai basil with purple edges, fresh bean sprouts, a lime, hoisin and siraicha sauces to dip the beef slices in the hot bowl.
So. Would I do this again? Definitely – but I would look for a more robust starting beef broth than the Emeril brand I tried this time. And who knows, maybe I’ll take on the multi-hour task of making making the beef broth after all, but not in the summertime. I’ll do another run at this again soon – and see if I can capture what hours of cooking produces without actually doing it.
Footnote: After all the hand-wringing about the broth, the dish, with the sliced beef on top was surprisingly tasty – the fresh bean sprouts, lime and condiments all added to this light supper on a warm night.