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Pho Broth: The Soul of Vietnamese Pho  

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Dave
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 Dave
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Just my .02 cents, and as in brewing beer, in this soup
one of the main ingredients is the water. When I attempt
to make my Pho, I believe that I am going to utilize some
water that would similiarly brew the finest beer i.e. a
Light Pilsner where no flaws have room to hide....

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J-DuB
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 J-DuB
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@Dave

Absolutely TRUE! It is ideal to use at least filtered water (through a Brita or similar) and it DOES make a real difference. Also, one really should invest in stainless or stainless clad stock-pots. The best have a HEAVY diffusing disc of layered/ composite metal at the bottom and thinner walls; like the Italy Made Centurion line (not inexpensive but worth it).

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chuynh
Posts: 448
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Pho Restaurant Consultant
Joined: 12 years ago

@J-DuB: You are way too technical for my grandma (and many Vietnamese) to understand or care ;), but what you shared is very helpful for many others, including newbies. From generation to generation and between family and friends, it's always been "add this and cook that until this soft and add that and simmer the other for so and so hours until tender and until it tastes like this," etc. But now that Vietnamese pho is "out of the bag" so to speak, many non-Viet start to take interest in pho and the way it's done, so I'm glad that together we can bring this great comfort food to a much larger mass.

@Dave and @J-DuB: I understand your view, though I am not convinced filtered water will do much to pho broth, not the way it can do for beer anyway. In fact, if you don't get the rest of the broth correct, filtered water will be a waste. In a restaurant, I'd rather they make the broth right, and I can drink the filtered water instead of the tap water they give me.

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J-DuB
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 J-DuB
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@Cuong: The whole idea with "filtered" is to just continue to use the best ingredients possible and realize the every ingredient; including the water you use or the pot you choose, makes a difference. Even if it's very subtle in taste. As for technique; one wouldn't necessarily have to even "boil/blanch bones/meats" first if you start your pot:

With COLD water, cover your ingredients and bring to simmer (160 F) and leave it at that for about as long as you want. So yes, one could even do this in a Crock Pot on LOW and let it go.

When making stocks/ broths, it's very simple understanding of chemistry as well as a bit of physics.

Agitation and excessive heat... BAD. That's why one ends up with cloudy stocks. When you heat up bones/ proteins/ connective tissue TOO much, you 1) break down the collagen too far and 2) you are dissolving other proteins that bind, say the calcium, in the bones and so leads to cloudy appearance as well as muddy flavor.

Once CAN clean up the broth by patient filtering through cheese-cloth. Then clarifying with; eggwhites whipped with Knox powdered geletan and some ground meat, but it's a total pain in the ass.

Starting COLD, bringing up the target temperature s l o w l y, holding that target at 160F is a LOT easier than: Blanch and Wash and then make or trying to RUSH the process; taking the extra steps to correct.

Digital thermometers are CHEAP and very useful.

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chuynh
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Joined: 12 years ago

Pho Restaurant Consultant
Posts: 448

@J-DuB: Ok this is where we part way on agreement. Blanching the bones and meats quickly before the broth making process begins serves a very important purpose in pho broth, and it may not be necessary in making other broths or soups. If you understand pho and the importance of its broth, then you'll want to understand the importance of keeping the broth clear, and this is achieved through a combination of blanching the bones and meats before the actual simmering begins. Blanching is needed to take off impurities, tissues and blood on the outside of the bones and meats which don't contribute to flavors but also make the broth dirty. You may or may not know of this clear broth requirement, but if you do then you do want to blanch.

The rest of what you say, of course one can do at home whatever one wants to. But I'll just put things in perspective here:

In Vietnam, hardly anyone makes pho at home, only restaurants and pho shops make pho. Pho is best made in very large quantities to serve large number of people, and is not normally made to personal portions. In the U.S. nowadays, the convenience and technologies and higher income levels allow many people the chance to make pho at home and experiment with it, but these are at best made to personal tastes to serve a few. The way to judge pho is the mass population who eat them at pho shops that produce large quantities. The good shops will survive and the mediocre ones will vanish, while the so-so will just linger. When you do not boil or blanch bones and meats before making pho broth, you'll end up with a so-so pot of pho at best.

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J-DuB
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 J-DuB
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Oh and @Cuong... I LIKE your "pointless bs" and your "dumb long; unnecessary info"

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chuynh
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Joined: 12 years ago

Pho Restaurant Consultant
Posts: 448

@J-DuB: Not sure what you meant by this comment

I LIKE your "pointless bs" and your "dumb long; unnecessary info"

so I'll assume you're just trying to be funny. You come here to our site as a guest and I'm happy to have you as a guest. Otherwise if I have offended you in any way, then please let me know and I'll have the issue corrected.

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J-DuB
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 J-DuB
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People above have made those comments. I was poking fun at the previous comments, not at you. Some of those previous comments are a little old and certainly did not mean to have it come across as "you have offended me" or I am trying to offend you". I have respect for your blog/ articles.

I do know about "clear broth" and what it takes to achieve that. There are ways to simplify the process and still achieve a "clear broth". The only thing one cannot do is: RUSH the simmering process.

Personally, I hope that people DO give a shot to making Pho at home, at least ONCE. The making of which helps to build good fundamental cooking skills and maybe people will be more "picky?" of what they eat.

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chuynh
Posts: 448
(@chuynh)
Pho Restaurant Consultant
Joined: 12 years ago

@J-DuB: I got your points now. Thanks for clarifying. And thank you for the point of the message.

With respect to making pho at home, no doubt I agree with you here. People should know that making pho at home is very easy especially if you live in the U.S. or metro area where decent Asian supermarkets exist. When there is no Asian/Viet food ingredients is when you will have to resort to substitute ingredients and end up with "fusion" pho; which is totally ok to get your pho fix. This was exactly what my family and many Viet families had to do circa 1975 -1980 when the only choices were Chinese markets in distant cities from where we ended up in the U.S.

By the way, my friend and founder Brian Nguyen at Quoc Viet Foods has the same goal to help people make pho at home, and he has turned it into a successful business. His approach is somewhat different, where he provides good quality broth bases to help those too impatient or less knowledgeable to make pho from scratch. Unlike other soup bases on the market, Brian's stuff is high quality and gives authentic flavors. Another beautiful part of his concept is he literally takes the ingredient availability factor out of the equation and provides pretty much everything in one package. This ensures all important flavors are there even if one cannot find the correct ingredients and spices in his/her locality. Anyway, it's another way to make pho yourself at home.

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jenn
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i shall try making.. I have made tons of bone soup.. the longer you boil it, regardless of par boiling first, the milkier it looks and leaves the clear zone. this is the bone breaking down and is quite good for us with glucosamine etc

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