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VIETNAMESE SPICY BEEF SOUP

March 27, 2012 3:12 pm 0 comments

Vietnamese spicy beef soup is a classic and popular soup usually served with beef or chicken. This soup is also known as Pho in Vietnamese cuisine. This spicy and authentic soup includes noodles made from rice and is often served with Asian basil, mint leaves, basil leaves, lime and bean sprouts that are added to the soup just before serving.

Pho is said to be originated in the early 20th century in northern Vietnam. History states that the specific place of origin appears to be from southeast of Hanoi in Nam Dinh province, then a substantial textile market, where cooks sought to please both Vietnamese (with local rice noodles, of Chinese origin) and French tastes (cattle were beasts of burden before the French arrived, not usually a source of beef).  It was first sold by vendors from large boxes, until the first pho restaurant opened in the 1920s in Hanoi.

The spicy beef soup is an exceptional mix of aromatic flavours like star anise, cinnamon, basil leaves etc and spiced with some fiery sambal paste.  Who doesn’t love soups? Almost all of us love having soups during rainy and winter days. In Vietnamese repertoire, Spicy beef pho noodle soup is an authentic and classic dish. It is one of the quintessential Vietnamese foods in most of the families living in Vietnam.  Making pho noodle soup takes time but most of it is passive cooking. And remember, you can freeze pho broth for future bowls of steamy hot pho noodle soup! There are enormous varieties of soups that one can make such as Caldo De Res (Beef Soup), Chicken noodle soup, Chow mein soup, Manchow soup etc.

Some believe that pho may have come from the Cantonese rice vermicelli hofan, which are interchangeably abbreviated as either fan or phan in Tu Han Viet. Both fan (phan) and pho refer to the same rice noodles found in Vietnam and Guangdong, China, suggesting rice noodles may have been brought to Vietnam by Cantonese immigrants from Guangdong province in the early 20th century. The noodles are cooked the same way in both places and are likewise often seasoned with fish sauce, garnished with bean sprouts, and served with meatballs and sliced beef. Vietnamese phở, however, is further garnished with fresh mint, cilantro (coriander leaves), basil, bean sprouts, limes, sliced chili peppers and sliced raw beef;  this is especially true of Saigon-style phở. Furthermore, the broth of phở is made from beef bones and fresh onion, whereas the Cantonese broth of fan is made from dried flatfish and other seafood. In some regional varieties, the Vietnamese broth may also have a mildly sweet flavour from Asian yellow rock sugar, but the Cantonese version does not.

The variations in meat, broth and additional garnishes, such as lime, bean sprouts, ngò gai (cilantro), húng quế (Thai/Asian basil), and tương (bean sauce/hoisin sauce) appear to be innovations introduced in the south.  Phở is served in a bowl with a specific cut of white rice noodles (called bánh phở’) in clear beef broth, with slim cuts of beef (steak, fatty flank, lean flank, brisket). Variations feature tendon, tripe, or meatballs in southern Vietnam. Chicken phở is made using the same spices as beef, but the broth is made using only chicken bones and meat, as well as some internal organs of the chicken, such as the heart, the undeveloped eggs and the gizzard.

Traditionally cooking of the broth for beef phở is generally made by simmering beef bones, oxtails, flank steak, charred onion, charred ginger and spices. Seasonings can include Saigon cinnamon or other kinds of cinnamon as alternatives (may use stick or powder), star anise, roasted ginger, roasted onion, black cardamom, coriander seed, fennel seed, and clove. The broth takes several hours to make. The soup is typically garnishes with onions, chili peppers, cilantro, lime, bean sprouts and Thai basil.

To prepare this exceptional Vietnamese spicy beef soupt, firstly in a big pot, place the 2 beef shanks and 2 lbs oxtails and slightly brown them. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and then add 1 onion, 2 whole cloves, 6 clove garlic, 1 bay leaf, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp whole coriander, 1 cardamom pod, 6 whole star anise, 6-inch piece ginger sliced, (browned with the beef), 2 tbsp sugar and 3 quarts water (some will evaporate, you’ll have about 2 quarts strained). Cook simmering on low heat for about 5 to 6 hours till the beef is well cooked and to allow the flavours of the spices to permeate into the stock.. To check if the broth is ready, check the marrow bone and the whole marrow gets cleared is when the meat is fully cooked.

Strain the stock and cut the beef into thin slices and again put them back into the stock. Add 1 tbsp soy sauce and 2 tbsp fish sauce and simmer until the broth tastes perfect. Taste broth and adjust seasoning – this is a crucial step. If the broth’s flavour doesn’t quite shine yet, add some more of fish sauce, large pinch of salt or 1 teaspoon of regular sugar.

Follow the directions on your package of noodles – there are many different sizes and widths of rice noodles, so make sure you read the directions. For some fresh rice noodles, just a quick 5 second blanch in hot water is all that’s needed.

Serve in the bowl some prepped rice noodles, bean sprouts, sliced jalapenos, sambal chili sauce, fresh lime wedges, and fresh herbs such as basil, mint and cilantro and over this slowly pour in the hot spicy beef broth.

It is always best that you arrange all other ingredients on a platter and your guests assemble or garnish their own bowls according to their tastes. This is pretty easy and is perfect for summer and winter. It has a nice clean taste and all that cilantro, basil and mint makes a good summer soup. This is way easier than authentic Pho.

Tip: Leg and knuckle bones are the best to make the stock. That’s pure flavouring that makes your Pho taste full, meaty and rich. But let’s say that you can’t find leg/knuckle bones. Go ahead and use whatever beef bones your supermarket has and just supplement with some oxtail bones or a pound of beef meat (rump, chuck, brisket, etc.) for extra flavour.

Enjoy Cooking!

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