My name is Julie and I am addicted to pho. I could eat it every day. For those of you who haven’t had it, pho is a Vietnamese rice noodle soup. There are lots of variations but my favorite is a beef broth version with a shavings of sirloin. So, I know what you’re thinking. Beef noodle soup? She’s a beef noodle soup junkie? Ah, but there is so much more to it than that! Pho is to the Vietnamese like a secret marinara sauce is to an Italian family. Recipes are guarded and competition is fierce among pho restaurants.
Living in northeastern Montana does not allow me to fulfill my pho cravings unless of course I make it. Even then I don’t have all the necessary ingredients or time to make authentic pho. Still, I’ve been on a mission to make the best faux pho I can with what I happen to have quite a bit of – venison! This week I made my best bowl EVER with pronghorn steak! Here’s the recipe…
In a large pot add 2, 32 oz cartons of 98% fat free beef broth. To give it that authentic flavor add 4 star anise “stars”, 1 inch of ginger root, sliced thinly and 1 packet of Gia Vi Nau Pho spice. You can find the spice at Amazon. A bit of advice on these packets – DO NOT OPEN. I learned this the hard way and had some gritty soup the first time. I have found I get enough flavor if I just drop it in as is. Cover and cook on high. When it boils, drop the heat down so that it’s still very hot but not at a full on boil.
I like to cook these while the broth is heating. I use the flat, fat ones that look like fettuccini. You can find them in Asian grocery stores or if you are super lucky your local store has them. I have also used ramen noodles when desperate but this is NOT ideal. The directions on the package for the noodles are pretty simple. When finished just strain out the water and let sit.
Chop up a bunch of fresh cilantro. Mint and Asian basil are often common as pho garnishes, but I can never get them at my grocery store so it’s cilantro for me. Next chop some green onions. Red onions also work well but be sure to slice thinly if you use these. Quarter a lime and then set all this aside. If you can get fresh bean sprouts (rare for me) I suggest washing/rinsing a pile and placing them on a plate with the limes.
Once the veggies are done it’s time to slice the meat. The goal is to slice it as thinly as possible so that it cooks in the broth upon first contact. Due to the high protein content, venison is most tender when it’s cooked hot and fast which is one of the reasons I really like it in pho. How thin is thin? Paper is ideal but nothing over 1/16 of an inch.
This recipe makes 2 large bowls (think medium size mixing bowls) or 4 appetizer size servings. Divide rice noodles and place at the bottom of each bowl. Next in the bowls, distribute the cilantro and onions. The meat goes on top of all this. I like to spread the meat out so that it all cooks evenly upon instant contact with the broth. Finally take a soup ladle and add very hot broth (key word: VERY) to each bowl. Fill with enough broth to cover the meat to fully cook it.
Personalizing your pho:
Bean sprouts, limes to fresh squeeze and additional herbs like mint and Asian basil are common add ins. Putting these on a plate in the middle of the table allows everyone to make a bowl of pho just the way they like it. Oh, and don’t for get the Sriracha!