Pho Broth: The Soul of Vietnamese Pho
Thank you so much for this article, I'm going to put it to good use when I next make pho. I've made my own pho three times now. The first was pretty bad, and I didn't even save it. I roasted the bones first in the oven. The pho came out murky and funky smelling. The next batch was okay. I parboiled the bones this time, and rinsed them after. I also only simmered it for 3 hours. It came out tasting very bland, and too fish-saucy. This last time I made it is so far the best. Parboiled the bones, added even more star anise and less fish sauce, and don't get me wrong, it's good, but it's not deep and intense like pho should be. And there's still too much of a fish sauce taste/smell. I'm wondering if I'm adding too many spices. I sort of just combined the spices from a bunch of different recipes, using star anise, cloves, a cinnamon stick, coriander, fennel, and a cardamom pod. I think after reading your article that I'm going to one, simmer my bones at a lower heat and uncovered, and two add the spice mix in after an hour and a half. If I may ask, do you have a preference when it comes to fish sauce? Can I omit it entirely? Also, do you have any other suggestions you can give a newb like me to help make legit pho? Thank you in advance!
Thank you so much! I did it!!! And it was delish!!! I wish I can post a pic. My broth was insane!!!
Great article! Thanks for sharing 🙂
I have a question about the spices. When I simmer the broth for a long time (6-8 hours), when do I put the spices in the pot? Do they need to cook as long as the bones?
My Mom's pho recipe does not include cloves or sugar and cinnamon is a huge no, no to her. She was originally from N. Vietnam, so maybe that is the difference. She also simmers her pho broth overnight (8-12 hours) with the onion , anise, and ginger. She adds the fish sauce and salt when it's done simmering. It's always delicious. Roasting the onions is key. To keep the broth clear, she brings the bones to a boil and skims the scum off the top before bringing it down to the simmer.
Hi korean recipes soak meat in cold water a half hour to remove blood and impurities before cooking to get a clear broth. Could this method be used for pho instead of parboiling and washing?
@K: Korean cuisine has many different recipes for stocks and broths for different dishes. I’m not sure what specific dish you’re referring to, but many Korean dishes actually do not require having clear broths. While some recipes do call for soaking meat in water (I assume you mean beef in this case), I don’t think soaking alone before cooking will give you a clear broth. It would be helpful to see your recipe and understand what it’s trying to accomplish.
For the clearest broth possible (which is what pho requires, and for dishes requiring clear broth), most well-trained chefs and other foodservice professionals would probably agree that parboiling and low simmering would give you a clear broth. This is exactly what I recommend as well.
Another consideration worth noting:
Supply chain for food ingredients are not the same in many Asian countries when compared to Western countries. Even by today’s standards, Asian meat products still have a much shorter time and distance between when a cow is slaughtered and when people purchase the meat from the market. This means the meat one gets to cook in his/her kitchen may be much fresher and at the same time not as “cleaned” as its Western counterpart.
As a result, people had to do further cleansing in their kitchen before actual cooking, initially out of nessesity then becoming a habit over time. This is still true in many rural areas in Vietnam and probably in many other places around the world. It is certainly true for any protein that’s not been done through a commercial slaughterhouse.
I’m sure “family” recipes that have been passed from people to people and from place to place may not have been properly updated to account for new or more modern food supplies, availability, and quality standards. For this reason alone, I always review recipes closely to ensure they make sense before going into full production for service in a particular restaurant. Anything that needs updating will be updated.
Bottom line? 1) Don’t always trust a recipe; 2) make sure it’s from a reliable source, and 3) understand why certain thing or technique is done.
Hey, maybe it will look stupid question but is it okey if I cook pho 12 hour or even more with all the spices like cloves and star anise or is better to throw them last hour or so. Is it even difference? How do they make in restaurants?
I sometimes make Pho if I'm serving several people and I enjoy preparing it but I live alone. So if I order Pho take-out/delivery, I always get it deconstructed. I want to see everything. I taste the broth first and go from there. So, last night, I had some delivery. Perfectly deconstructed. First thing I taste is the broth. Too sweet, no mouthfeel, no globules of happy fat floating on the surface. Obviously, this was made with pre-fab stock. There was no collagen (that's the mouthfeel part). I took some to refrigerate overnight to setup...nope, still liquid. I had to fix the broth by adding fish sauce, fresh ginger, garlic, and other seasonings until it tasted like something resembling Pho stock. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for the lack of collagen. After putting together a bowl, I decided I would salvage the noodles and turn them into a salad the next day then m/b adding some beef to the broth and ending up with a new stock? I don't think it's worth the effort for the broth. The thing is, so many restaurant goers don't have any clue as to how real Pho stock should taste. There's no one way of making it but there are certain qualities the stock should possess. Just a note: I use the terms stock and broth interchangeably. Lol.
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