Quick — and Easy — Beef Pho

As you can see, there’s been a change in programing. I had planned to share my cousin’s meatball recipe but the return of winter sent me back to Comfort Food Land. While I was preparing today’s dish for my dinner, I realized that I could just as easily share its recipe. So, I pulled out the camera, snapped a few photos, and wrote the post. (Then I spent the next 4 days editing but never mind that.) Perhaps some of you may find the recipe useful in the weeks ahead, while others in the winter yet to come.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed that judging by the photo trail, I’ve grown quite fond of pho, ramen, and hot-pots. Throughout much of fall and all of this past winter, when out-and-about on a chilly/frigid day, I was likely to stop for lunch at any one of a number of nearby restaurants specializing in these delicious bowls of comfort. It wasn’t long before I began to wonder whether I could prepare any of them here at home. Discovering an Asian super-mart only fueled my curiosity. One afternoon, while searching Vietnamese cookbook summaries, I came upon “The Pho Cookbook: Easy to Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam’s Favorite Soup and Noodles.” Written by Andrea Nguyen, it has become my go-to reference book whenever I need information about my newfound loves.

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Cooked noodles first

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Ms. Nguyen offers a wealth of information to go along with her great recipes. Believe me. This neophyte Asian cook can use all the help that I can get. Virtually every aspect of the cooking process and ingredient list is explained. Not only will you learn the secrets to pho preparation but she also shares methods for preparing a number of the sauces common to Asian cooking. Not to worry. She also gives suggestions for the commercially produced versions. If you’ve ever stood before an Asian market’s soy or fish sauce-filled shelves, you’ll realize the value of these suggestions.

Aside from the wealth of information presented, Ms. Nguyen offers more than 1 method for preparing some dishes, If you’ve time, follow the standard method. In a rush? Pull out the pressure cooker. Still too long? She offers quick recipes for beef, chicken, and vegetarian pho that you can easily prepare in well under an hour. Today’s recipe is one of these. In future posts, I’ll share her recipes for chicken and beef broths. We’re talking “quick” here, however, and those broths will have to wait their turn.

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Add the beef

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No matter the country of origin, the heart of any bowl of soup is its broth and pho is certainly no exception. In fact, when I first saw that this recipe was labelled “quick”, I was skeptical — and I was proved wrong. This pho is both aromatic and deeply flavored. Easy to prepare, the recipe can be doubled or tripled with little problem. (See Notes)

One other point to make concerns the beef. Ms. Nguyen suggests using cooked roast beef or steak, very thinly sliced. If you like, in this recipe you can substitute thinly sliced roast beef that can be purchased at any deli counter. There’s even a third option. If like me, you live near a Korean market or well-stocked Asian market, you might find thinly sliced cuts of beef and pork. For today’s recipe, I used sliced rib eye steak, although I have used sliced beef brisket, as well.

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Now’s the time for garnishes

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Quick  Beef Pho Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3/4 inch (2cm) ginger, peeled and cut into slices.
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 cups (1/2 liter) low-sodium beef broth (see Notes)
  • 2 cups 1/2 liter)) low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 cups (1/2 liter) water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 oz ( 150 g) flat rice noodles (see Notes)
  • 4 to 5 oz (115 – to 150 g) cooked roast beef or steak, or, raw beef, all sliced very thin (see Notes)
  • 2 to 3 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sugar – optional (1 tsp maple syrup may be substituted)
  • 2 tsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • for garnish (optional)
    • Hoisin sauce, chili sauce, saté sauce (see Notes)

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Cover with steaming broth and serve

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Directions

  1. Bring the sliced beef to room temperature.
  2. Use the broad side of a knife to pound flat the sliced ginger.
  3. Trim off the green of the spring onions. Roughly chop the white portions and smash using the broadside of a knife. Thinly slice the green part and reserve for use as a garnish.
  4. In a medium-sized sauce pan, toast the star anise, cinnamon, and cloves over medium heat until fragrant — about a minute or so.
  5. Add the ginger and onion to the pot and stir until fragrant — about 30 seconds. Remove pot from heat.
  6. Briefly cool before adding the beef & chicken stocks, the water, and salt, Stir well and bring to a boil over med-high neat.
  7. Lower the heat and softly simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, prepare the noodles. Make sure that they are ready when the broth has finished simmering. (See Notes)
  9. Once finished simmering, pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer over a bowl. For especially clear broth, use a piece of muslin to cover the strainer. You should have about 2 quarts (2 liters) of broth in the bowl. Discard the strained solids.
  10. Add the fish sauce and taste the broth. Add the sugar/maple syrup, to taste.
  11. Season with salt & pepper, to taste.
  12. Reheat the broth, place the noodle-filled strainer (see Notes) into the hot broth, and leave until heated through — no more than 1 minute.
  13. Split the noodles between the 2 bowls.
  14. Add the sliced meat to each bowl in a single layer. To ensure even cooking, avoid “stacking” the pieces. .
  15. Garnish with the reserved sliced onion greens, chopped cilantro, and black pepper.
  16. Ladle the now-steaming broth into each bowl and serve.
 
Recipe may be found in “The Pho Cookbook” by Andrea Nguyen
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Notes

This is not the time to economize when buying the stocks. Be sure to choose your favorite stocks upon which to build the pho.

If doubling or tripling the stock recipe, freeze the excess for later use. Once thawed, you can prepare a bowl of beef pho in about the time it takes to prepare the noodles. This is why I always have a quart of this stock on-hand.

Follow the package directions for preparing the rice noodles but pour them into a strainer just shy of being done. When ready to assemble the dish, place the strainer into the hot broth to briefly re-heat the noodles before adding them to the bowls. (Truth in blogging: the noodles used in the dish pictured were not rice noodles. Due to my oversight — make that “lack of sight” — ramen egg noodles were bought instead of flat rice noodles.)

If you’re using thinly sliced, raw beef and you prefer your meat cooked well-done, you will probably want to pound the slices even thinner. This will ensure that the steaming broth cooks the meat to your liking. No matter whether you choose to pound the slices, trim off the fat and slice them into bite-sized piece before adding to each bowl. Not only will the beef be more appetizing but it will be far easier to use chopsticks when dining.

The garnishes listed are those indicated by Ms. Nguyen, although she encourages one to add whatever one prefers. I’ve grown accustomed to adding cilantro leaves, Thai basil, culantro, sliced jalapeño, bean sprouts, and a squeeze of  fresh lime.

Some chefs are insulted when a patron adds sauce(s) to their pho. Placing the sauces in a small bowl allows one to dip the cooked meat(s) into the sauces, leaving the pho/ramen just as the chef intended, Here I’ve combined Hoisin and Sriracha sauces.

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It’s déjà vu all over again …

Agnolotti Served

Hard to believe that it was 3 years ago when I shared an agnolotti recipe, the filling for which was prepared following the family recipe of a sous chef at a restaurant in Bologna. There’s a reason why my mind has drifted back to Italy but more about that in a later post. For now, if you want to see how these agnolotti were prepared, just click HERE.

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Coming soon to a monitor near you …

Marinella’s Meatballs (You aren’t the only ones kept waiting)

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58 thoughts on “Quick — and Easy — Beef Pho

  1. So glad you have developed his passion for pho, be it trying every pho restaurant In Chicago or creating your own magic . . . like the anise, cinnamon and cloves but male the stock only when I have about a dozen hours for a love affair and always, always use raw beef . . . hope it was worth the wait for Max . . . 🙂 !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Eha, I have other recipes the stock for which simmers for hours. I thought it best to start my Pho Tour with something easy. You would be surprised to see just how flavorful this stock is. I never would have thought it possible.

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      • *smile* John: you know I am a traditionalist in some matters! It is a wee ‘difficult’ for a gal to have made and eaten a national and favourite street-food dish for decades and decades to see it seemingly in a new dress! I love to make my own stock for this and slowly let it bubble overnight! Well, shall copy your recipe faithfully the first day able and sound back . . . promise . . . .

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        • Still got Vietnamese cooking on my mind! Love it so !! Is everyone aware this has always been regarded as breakfast food, being considered too insubstantial (!) for lunch or dinner . . . and that we pronounce it as ‘fuh’ because its origins supposedly lie in the French ‘pot au feu’ . . . . our Burgundian ‘soul food;!!

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  2. Ooo, scrumptious. This is definitely my kind of comfort food John. I have been doing a Keto diet the past 50 days, 10 to go before I can indulge in anything carb and this looks like just the thing.
    Would you look at that face having a staring competition with the meatballs. Sweet pup.
    Have a beautiful and happy week ahead.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, Mandy. Yes, there are diets that would allow this recipe as-is. Seems to me that there’s a little something not allowed by just about every diet out there. That’s probably why it tastes so good. And, yes, he never took his eyes off the meatballs. For that matter, he barely moved at all. “Fixated” doesn’t begin to describe him. 🙂

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  3. What a great job of teaching me how to make pho. I’ve never made it, as I thought it to be too involved, but you show me it’s not. As soon as I can get some broth made this ones going to get in the pot and in my tummy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Ron. To be sure, I’ve other recipes to share that are a bit more involved. This one, though, makes a good beginning. And once you see how quick and easy it is to prepare, like me you’ll be having pho for lunch much more frequently than you do now.

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  4. Now this is one delicious bowl of Pho! It is so nourishing and cozy on these not quite spring days with the snow falling… LOL We also think this is the perfect transitional meal from one season to the next. We hope you are doing well. Take Care

    Liked by 1 person

    • Howdy, Bobbi! Hope you and yours are all well, having survived the clock change.
      The best thing about this recipe, to my way of thinking, is how fast it can be prepared. Right now, I’ve 2 quarts of the broth in my freezer, as well, as thinly sliced beef in single servings. If I wake to another cold day, I can easily have pho for lunch or dinner without any problems whatsoever. For ages, pasta in bianco was my go-to meal. It’s got some competition now! 😀

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  5. Oh mercy that looks good and i loved your progression photographs – I am very visual and these images made perfect sense to me. I bet it is very aromatic with those spices – now I will go back and study it (and my post winter pantry) in more detail. Today we have snow flurries – sigh – pho sounds a perfect way to use that leftover beef! Have a good one. c

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s surprising, Celi. For such a quick preparation, the broth is really full-bodied and, yes, quite aromatic. When you visit Chi-town next, we’ll go to that Asian super-mart. Let’s see if it inspires you like it has me.
      Spring is coming! I actually have 2 crocus in bloom. Yippee!!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Pho is good stuff! And quick and easy pho is even better. 🙂 This looks really tasty — love the jalapeño garnish. And that squeeze of lime sounds wonderful. We got some snow yesterday. That and the indignity of the time change definitely has me craving comfort. So your timing with this is impeccable. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, John. Incredibly, we’re having average temperatures this week, although snow flurries are in the forecast for some nights. Even so — and I hate to say it — we may have turned the corner.
      One of the cookbooks I reference mentions that one shouldn’t add hot sauce to the pho pot, If more heat is what you want, use sliced jalapeños or Serrano peppers as garnish. I like the suggestion, for it allows me to have a spicy bite followed by one less hot. I admit, though, that I have been served pho that was obviously seasoned with Sriracha. It was OK but I prefer the sliced pepper idea.

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    • I hope you both enjoy this dish, Gerlinde. Learning that I could prepare pho so easily at home was truly a game changer for me this past winter. Lady Luck smiled upon me the day I found this cookbook. 🙂

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  7. Oh my goodness that looks and sounds so good. I love anything soupy and slurpy! But I’m just sitting here laughing at the photo of Max. Not sure my two would be so well behaved (and we won’t even talk about the pork pie incident at my mother’s a few weeks back). I might possibly have managed to take a photo like that but it would have been followed a millisecond later with several more of the pups with their little snouts in the meatball plate 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t let that innocent look fool you, Tanya. At 10 hears old, he’s not as impulsive as he once was but I never left him alone with those meatballs. It was either take them with me or put them on the floor to give easy access. There was just no way any would have been there when I returned.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You are a gem, doing the research and coming up with a solution of how while being too preocupied-disorganised to make my own broth -as yet- we can still have a pho-laden winter. I love the tip to make extra broth to keep at hand. I have homemade chicken stock, added good [organic] beef stock to my shopping list, and voila, I’m halfway there to having homemade pho to hand. Thank you ♡

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, you are set! I do hope you’l enjoy this pho, Dale. WIth the stock on-hand, I can literally have a bowl of pho before me in less than 15 minutes. To that end, I’ve 2 quarts of the stock in my freezer, along with individually wrapped servings of thinly sliced beef. When our temperatures drop again — and they surely will — I’ll be ready!

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  9. Australia is blessed to have a large Viet population, the food is so delicious and the ingredients available at every supermarket. Pho is such a regular in our diet, summer and winter that I now add the spices when making the stock. It’s my go-to quick and easy meal. After reading your post John I’ve decided it’s tonight’s dinner

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You know that Vietnamese food is my very favorite ethnic food. I adore it and Denver happens to have some very good Vietnamese restaurants. However I hate to say it that I don’t eat beef so I don’t eat beef pho,but I still love this recipe because I think Andrea is one of the best out there…though I do have a few other books that I really love! Good one John. Hope it warms up soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I’ve grown to really like this book and value her recipes, Abbe. I plan to buy other, as well.
      We’re about where we should be for this time of year, although flurries are flying right now. As always, it’s a slow crawl to spring — but we’ll get there! In the meantime, let them slurp pho! 🙂

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  11. As we head from Autumn into Winter (ugghh!) this recipe will definitely come in handy. Packed full of flavour and beautiful healthy ingredients… comfort food that doesn’t go straight to the hips! Thanks so much for sharing this one with us John! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This sure does sound like an exceptional Pho, you’ve got all the rice spices and flavours. I have had Pho with deli meat and to be honest, I’d rather pass, it just doesn’t do it for me. I have a batch of homemade veggie stock in the fridge, I’ll substitute it for the chicken and just get a good quality beef broth. I bet the broth made the house smell wonderful too.
    The cookbook sounds awesome, but the last thing I need is another cookbook! We just got a light dusting of snow last night, the sun is shining and it’s just around freezing, not bad for March.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Eva. You know I thought of you when I incorporated the raw beef in the post. I remember we discussed the use of deli meats last summer. Although I did use them initially, I haven’t for some time but I do have slices of raw beef wrapped individually and bagged in my freezer. Right next to them are 2 quarts of the pho stock. Like I said, I can prepare pho for lunch in minutes.
      As for the cookbook, I’m still on hiatus from buying cookbooks. I just don’t need another cookbook added to the pile. Kindle cookbooks, on the other hand, don’t take up any physical space, so, I don’t consider anything wrong with their purchase. 😀

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  13. You really have hit the comfort food trail! My daughter has recently made a very good chicken pho in the Instant Pot! It was so flavorful, and kick-started my interest. I am definitely adding this recipe into our personal “comfort food” options. I told my daughter, Aimee, that we needed to make more after she purchased all those gorgeous spices. I look forward to your meatballs (and I can see I am not alone!) but this is “soup” weather, and I like the trend you’ve been introducing. Your photography is excellent…I would be thrilled to have a bowl right now!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Debra. This was my Winter of Pho and I so enjoyed it! I have more recipes to share, all thanks to a couple of cookbooks. My pressure cooker is relatively new, having been bought just before Instant Pots hit. I know one is in my future but not until I get more use out of the cooker. Of course, if something untoward happens to my pressure cooker, I’ll have no choice but to upgrade. 😉

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    • Thanks, David. It is a surprisingly good recipe, considering one doesn’t have a pot simmering for the better part of a day. I cannot tell you how great it is to enjoy a bowl of pho for lunch that doesn’t include driving a cold car to a restaurant. 🙂

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  14. Wonderful. What a great recipe. I’ve made pho from scratch, and I can’t say it’s not worth it. I guess it’s definitely worth making when I live 100 miles from the nearest decent Asian of any kind restaurant. But it is an involved recipe, and took some time just trying to get my hands on ox tails!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Mimi. I, too, have made the more traditional pho and I’ll continue to do so. This recipe, however, suits me just fine. I can enjoy a bowl of pho for lunch that doesn’t require driving a cold car down frozen, snow covered streets to a restaurant. In that context, this is the best pho recipe ever! 😀

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      • Hahahahah! You’re lucky to live in such a diverse city. I’ve only been to Chicago once. We went to Charlie Trotter’s, Frontera, and Giordano’s for Chicago pizza. Didn’t even think about Asian places.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Loved Charlie Trotter’s and Frontera is one of my “go to” places when entertaining out-of-towners. I do not know if we’ve always had so many pho restaurants but we do now and I am so enjoying them.

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          • I bet. So sad about Charlie Trotter. I took my daughter for her 18th birthday, in 2004, and they took it seriously. CT brought up into his kitchen, we toured the wine room, etc., her name was on the menu, she got a special drink. He pulled Emma aside and gave her a pep talk in the kitchen, just because she was off to college that fall. She didn’t need one, but I thought it was adorable. And he allowed photos. I’ll always remember that.

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  15. Oh how I love a good pho, but I’ve never made one. You pictures have me ready to change that and now that I’ve perused the recipes, I think this is something I can do. Looks fabulous!

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