Thursday, June 9, 2016

Pho Bo, fo sho

Having only just written about pho I thought it highly appropriate and relevant to write another post about the subject, Pho Bo this time, and well we had guests so what better time to try out something new and untested, no pressure at all, and it’s not like it’s a quick process, only a few hours, not standing in front of the stove though. That wasn’t enough pressure for me though, I also decided it was a great time to wire in a panel heater, I didn’t electrocute myself and I learned how to wire up a loop switch and install a power socket. I don’t want to make it sound hard, it’s not, it’s not even that time consuming, pretty much set and forget for an hour, add something, wait an hour, repeat a few times, so I broke the recipe down to a pretty manageable timeline which I’ll outline below. Adapted from Lucky Peach, which they adapted from somewhere, I forget and I don't have the issue in front of me.

3–4 kg Beef bones
500 g Brisket
200 g Fillet or topside, something lean and tender
3–4 Brown onions
Ginger, a hand sized root
1 Tbsp White Pepper
30 g Palm Sugar
2 Star Anise
2 inches of Cinnamon
4 pods Cardamom
2 Cloves
Fish Sauce

Day before
  • Season the brisket with a tablespoon of salt and place on a rack over a sheet pan and refrigerate.

  • Set oven to 180ºC
  • Get a large stock pot full of water and bring up to the boil.
  • Arrange onions and ginger on a sheet pan.
  • Blanch bones in the water for 3 minutes.
  • Dump bones into a clean sink.
  • Clean the pot.
  • Rinse the bones thoroughly with cold water and add back to pot.
  • Fill up the stock pot with enough water to cover the bones by an inch.
  • Put the pot on a high heat and bring to a simmer.
  • Skim off any scum that forms.

Hour 0 (Start)
  • Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, add 1 tablespoon of salt. Skim off any scum that forms.
  • Put the onions and ginger in the oven.

Hour 1
  • Remove the brisket from the fridge.
  • Remove the onions and ginger from the oven. Remove the skins from the onions and slice the ginger into 1 cm slices.

Hour 2
  • Add the brisket, onion, ginger, sugar and white pepper to the pot.
  • Half cover with the lid.

Hour 3
  • Add the cinnamon, star anise, cloves and cardamom.

Hour 4
  • Get an ice bath set up.
  • Remove the brisket and put in the ice bath for 20 minutes. Pat dry and set aside until ready to serve.

Hour 4.5 (4 hours 30 minute)
  • Remove the bones with a strainer, and pass the broth through a sieve.
  • Adjust the seasoning with salt and fish sauce, I like to go in first with the fish sauce, pretty heavy I must say and then tweak it off with salt.
  • Either let it cool and refrigerate until you’re ready, which makes removing excess fat easy, or serve straight away. If the later just keep the broth on a low heat while you get everything else together.

You can build up bowls of soup for each person, or, as I did, have everything central on the table and have each bowl just contain rice noodles and broth. In either case, Make sure the bowls are HOT and the broth is HOT, lukewarm ain't gonna cut it.

Rice Noodles: I like the medium thickness rice noodles. I put them in a pot, roasting pan for a large crowd, cover with boiling water, put the lid on and leave for 5–10 minutes.

Rare Beef: Slice the topside or fillet as thin as you can, freezing it for 15 minutes or so to firm it up can help, arrange on a plate.

Brisket: Slice thin, arrange on a plate.

Other fixings you can and should have on the table:
Hoisin Sauce
Vietnamese mint
Regular Mint
Spring Onions
Chillis, sliced
Mung Beans