"I fell for pho in Ho Chi Minh city in 1996, when Karen and I went there as backpackers. It was still a very raw Vietnam and I recall it was hard to find accommodation. We paid the royal amount of USD $25 for the best room in town. The tourist boom was just beginning. We were instantly taken by the food and coffee. There were many food experiences that have stuck with me like the cao lau from Hoi An, it is the best there because of the minerals in the well water, or the prawn omelets in Da Nang, but pho was everywhere and it was wondrous. The fire generated from the chillies, the beautiful freshness of the herbs and the crunch of the bean sprouts was irresistible." Peter Kuruvita, Peter Kuruvita's Coastal Kitchen
- 250 g (30 mm wide) dried or 500 g fresh ‘banh pho’ noodles
- 300 g topside steak, fat trimmed and very thinly sliced against the grain
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- ¼ cup chopped coriander leaves
- 2 kg beef knuckles, hip or leg bones
- 2 medium onions, quartered with skin on
- 10 cm piece ginger, halved lengthwise
- 1 handful star anise
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp cloves
- 1 black cardamom pod, bruised
- 1 small handful green cardamom pods, bruised
- 3 long fresh red chillies, halved
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1½ tbsp salt
- 60 ml (¼ cup) fish sauce
- mint and/or Thai basil sprigs
- bean sprouts
- thinly sliced red bird’s eye chillies
- lime cheeks
- fish sauce
- hoisin 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.
To make the broth, place the bones in a stockpot or a 10-litre capacity saucepan. Add enough cold water to cover the bones, then bring to the boil over high heat.
Meanwhile, preheat a grill to high and place an oven rack in the highest position in the oven. Place the onion and ginger on a baking tray lined with foil, then grill for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally until charred and browned on all sides.
Place the spices in a dry frying pan and shake over low heat for 5 minutes or until fragrant. Place the toasted spices on a small piece of muslin or cheesecloth, then tie securely with butcher’s twine to make a bag.
Once the bones have come to the boil, simmer for 3-5 minutes. During this time, skim off any impurities and foam (or scum) that rise to the top. Drain the bones and discard the water. Rinse the bones with warm water and scrub the stockpot clean to remove any residue that has stuck to the sides. Return the bones back to the pan and cover with 4 litres of cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low, add the charred onion and ginger, the bag of toasted spice and all the remaining ingredients. Simmer gently for 3 hours, skimming any scum that rises to the surface during cooking.
Using tongs or a wide, slotted spoon, remove the bones, onion and ginger from broth, then strain broth through a fine mesh strainer. The broth will have a layer of fat at the top and there are two ways to remove this. First, if you plan to enjoy the broth straightaway, skim the fat from the top of the broth using a spoon. If you don’t mind waiting, then pour broth into containers and refrigerate overnight. As the broth cools, the fat will solidify, making it very easy to remove.
To assemble the pho, bring the broth to a gentle simmer over medium heat.
If you are using dried noodles, place the noodles in a bowl, cover with hot water and soak for 15-20 minutes or until soft and opaque, then drain. If you are using fresh noodles, place in a colander and rinse under cold running water.
To cook the noodles, bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil. Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook for about 10 seconds or until they collapse. Drain the noodles then divide between bowls. We like to fill each bowl by one-third with noodles. Divide the thinly sliced raw meat among the bowls, then fill with hot broth. Top with sliced onion and coriander, then serve with a plate of garnishes on the side.
• Make sure you buy beef bones or knuckles with lots of meat on them as the broth will be richer.
Photography by Dan Freene. Food preparation by Peter Kuruvita/Cody Fahey.