With much research, I discovered over the weeks the richness and diversity of this amazing cuisine with flavors that were foreign to me. Phở soup is a typical example.
The spices used to flavor the broth are just the perfect combination of spices: cloves, nutmeg, star anise, cinnamon. But by starting this of 196 flavors, I knew that sooner or later I would have to go past my preconceived notions about flavor combinations.
After tasting it, I realized that this soup could not be summarized to a beef broth flavored with spices. Herbs, scallions, cooked and raw meat help develop a complex balance of complementary flavors and aromas which form a very fragrant soup in the end.
For this recipe, the surprise was not only gustatory. Seeking the origin of this iconic Vietnamese specialty, I was expecting to learn that this soup was born centuries ago. I was completely wrong! Do not look for the translation of the word phở in Vietnamese, you will not find it. The term phở (pronounced feu-heu) probably draws its origin from the traditional French beef stew called pot au feu.
I was very surprised to learn that this soup was invented in the early twentieth century in northern Vietnam, and was served in restaurants in Hanoi until 1920, to satisfy the tastes of the French expatriates in order to westernize traditional Vietnamese soups and address the lack of beef in Vietnamese cuisine. Until then, cows were confined to agricultural work and not edible meat.
Recipe of Phở
Ingredients (for 6 persons)
For the broth
- 2 lb beef stew with bones
1 marrow bone (optional)
1 onion, halved
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
5 cardamom seeds
For the soup
1/2 lb of noodles or rice vermicelli
1/2 bunch mint
1/2 bunch cilantro
1/2 bunch Thai basil
2 lb fondue meat (tender cuts of beef)
Toast spices in a skillet (star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom) for a few minutes to develop their aroma.
Then place the spices in a tea ball. It is also possible to wrap the spices in a spice bag or cheesecloth.
In a large pot, place the onion, meat stew and marrow bone (optional) as well as the tea ball containing the spices.
Cover with water and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and cover without closing the lid entirely. Cook for 3 hours.
If necessary, skim fat occasionally while cooking.
At the end of cooking, filter the broth. Cut the cooked meat in thin slices and set aside.
Cook rice noodles in a large quantity of salted boiling water for 4-5 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.
Cut the raw fondue meat (tender cuts of beef) into very thin slices. The trick is to place the meat in the freezer 20 minutes before cutting. The meat is then firmer and it becomes easier to thinly slice.
Rinse and drain the bean sprouts.
Rinse, dry and coarsely chop the herbs (mint, cilantro, Thai basil). Chop the green onions more finely.
In individual bowls, divide the food in this order:
Pour the hot broth into each bowl and serve immediately after adding the juice of half a lime.
Mix ingredients for thirty seconds using chopsticks and enjoy.