Here I have taken two of the best-loved classic soups of both France and Vietnam and combined them. This is not fusion cooking — history and culture made it happen.
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 5 large brown onions, thinly sliced
- 250 ml (8 fl oz/1 cup) white wine
- 2 slices sourdough bread, toasted and torn into large bits
- 100 g (3 oz) Emmental cheese (see Note), grated
- 6 beef shin bone pieces
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise
- 2 cloves
- 5 cm (2 inch) knob of fresh ginger, cut in half
- 1 large onion, in its skin, cut in half
- 50 g (1 oz) sugar
- 40 g (1 oz) rock salt
- 75 ml (2 fl oz) fish sauce
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Start by making the broth. Put the shin bones in a large saucepan and cover with 4 litres (135 fl oz/16 cups) cold water. Wrap the cinnamon, star anise and cloves in a piece of muslin (cheesecloth), add to the pan and bring the water to the boil over high heat. As the water comes to the boil, constantly skim the impurities from the surface, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 hour, continuing to skim regularly.
Heat a chargrill pan to medium. Chargrill the ginger and onion for about 8 minutes, or until nicely browned.
Add the chargrilled ginger and onion to the broth, along with the sugar, rock salt and fish sauce. Cover and cook at a very low simmer for a further 3 hours.
Remove the muslin bag and allow the stock to cool. Strain through a muslin cloth and set aside.
Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook the onion for a further 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the onion is golden.
Pour in the wine and 2 litres (68 fl oz/8 cups) of the pho broth. (Any leftover broth will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 days, or in the freezer for 1 month.) Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, or until the onion is tender.
Heat your grill (broiler) to high. Take four heatproof serving bowls and fill each one two-thirds full of the soup. Divide the toasted sourdough bits among the bowls, then sprinkle the cheese over the bread. Place the bowls under the hot grill for 2–3 minutes, or until the cheese has melted nicely and you have a nice crust. Serve immediately.
• Emmental is a yellow, medium-hard cow's milk cheese that originated in the Emmental region of Switzerland. It has distinctive holes and a buttery, nutty flavour, and is sometimes known as Swiss cheese.
Recipe from Luke Nguyen’s France, by Luke Nguyen, with photography by Alan Benson (Hardie Grant, hbk, $59.99).
View our Readable feasts review and more recipes from the book here.
For recipes and web-exclusives from Luke's French adventure, visit the Luke Nguyen's France website here.