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Pho Broth: The Soul of Vietnamese Pho  

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K
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 K
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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?

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

@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.

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Alek
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 Alek
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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?

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chuynh
(@chuynh)
Joined: 12 years ago

Pho Restaurant Consultant
Posts: 448

@Alek: I'm not sure what recipe you're using, what it's telling you to do and what ingredients to use, but 12 hours seems excessive. Not that it's not doable; many have done it successfully (see Chung's comment). If you do go for this long, then you'll want to make sure to do these two things: keep skimming the scum and maintaining proper water level.

With respect to your question about the spices, it has been discussed before. You can read Roy's comment about spices, and also check out my post on How Long To Cook Pho Spices In Pho Broth.

Working as a pho restaurant consultant, I see restaurants do all kind of things with the spices depending on the owner's preference. My recommendation for using the spices is just as written in the post referenced above.

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chieko
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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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chuynh
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Joined: 12 years ago

Pho Restaurant Consultant
Posts: 448

@Chieko: If you can make pho at home that suits your taste and have the time to do it, then as I've suggested elsewhere, it's still better to make the broth in bulk, then freeze what you don't need, and use just what you want when you want it. This way you can avoid wasting money with such bad takeout pho. In the end we should vote with our reviews and more importantly, with our wallets. By definition, the bad restaurants will have to improve or risk going out of business. But as you said, many restaurant goers can't tell the difference, which is how bad restaurants still stay in business.

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John Nguyne
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 John Nguyne
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you can buy sa sung in the states now from a company in San Jose. www.sasungusa.com

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chuynh
(@chuynh)
Joined: 12 years ago

Pho Restaurant Consultant
Posts: 448

@John Nguyne: Wow, I know what sa sung is, but the vast majority of people do not, so if you're trying to promote something, at least give the audience some useful information so they care, right? Just saying.

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

@Phil: Yes when it comes to pho broth, attention to detail is required; the right detail that is. In the grand scheme of things, parboiling correctly and simmering properly are probably two of the biggest factors that will give you clear broth. Hope you achieve your goals there. Best of luck.

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