Quick Beef Pho Recipe with Quoc Viet Foods' Pho Soup Base  

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Justin
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Hi Cuong,

I just finished cooking your recipe using the Quoc Viet Soup Base. My soup came out to be a little on the oily side. Any idea why? Thank you in advance for the help!

Justin

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Justin
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I'm thinking I need to blanch it more than once? I know when my mom cooks her Filipino beef soup dishes she blanches the meat 3 times.

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Cuong
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@Justin: The QV soup base does have oil in it out of the can/package. Whatever you use for beef (flank, brocket, etc.) will create additional fat in the broth. The layer of oil on top of the broth actually serves to preserve your broth; it prevents air from reacting with the broth and make it go bad faster. If you don't like much fat in your pho, then you would just not ladle the fat into your bowl when serving; just leave it in the pot with the rest. I'd recommend leaving the layer of fat there and not throw it out.

I'm not sure what you mean by blanching more than once. Do you mean blanching the pho noodle? Pho noodle should be blanched only once just before serving in the bowl. If you meant blanching the raw meat, then you shouldn't have to do that. The thinly sliced eye round should cook plenty fast when boiling broth is poured over it. Hope this helps.

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Justin
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Hi Cuong,

Thanks so much for the speedy reply. We left it in the fridge over night and some fat formed on top of the soup. We removed the layer of fat and the soup is no longer overly oily. It is perfect now. Thank you so much for the recipe!

Justin

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Francine
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Hi Cuong,

How much of the powder do I use for one spice pack? I'm so confused.

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Cuong
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Hi Francine: Assuming by "powder" you mean the soup base which is more like a coarse paste, you should be able to scale the soup base with the spice pack. I think there are 2 spice packs in one container, so it's one spice bag for each half of soup base. If you use the whole container at once then you use both spice bags.

The way they packaged the container, you have to either use the whole container at once with both spice bags, or half the container with one spice bag, saving the other half and other spice bag for a future batch. Obviously if you want to use 1/3 of the soup base, then you have to use one spice bag because you should not break open a bag. The spice particles in there will dirty up your broth.

Once you're used to this, how much spice you use depends on your own personal taste. The way to adjust how much spice is in the broth is by either quantity (a bag or 2 bags) and the timing (the longer cook time of the spices, the more pungent the pho broth will become). Hope this is not too confusing.

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Francine
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Thanks Cuong for the detailed response. It all makes sense now! I can't wait to use this and save time when making pho

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Cuong
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Glad to help out Francine. If the first batch does not quite meet your expectation (but I must tell you, it's very hard to mess this up), then your next batch will be much better after you get a feel for it. Good luck.

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Steven
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Hi Cuong, love your website. This is a true place for the elite pho eaters. I've always ate pho in restaurants but have been experimenting on the best method for cooking quality pho with consistency at home. So far, its been good but not as I'd prefer it to be. With regards to spices, I've had a few recommendations from people that cooks pho, some are restaurant owners as well. The recommendations from these people range from putting the spices in the broth for 15 minutes to to 1 hour. I find that with 15 minutes it is impossible for me to accept the fragrant of the broth. I've tried 45 minutes and it was acceptable. I wanted to leave it in longer to extract more fragrant but I was afraid it might give it too much of a kick that the taste may turn out tangy. My question is then, should we double or triple the amount of spice and remove it sooner to give it a good kick without the tangy taste? For example if I use little amount of spice, I'll just leave it in there much longer, lets say maybe 2 hours or more. Or is the amount of spice not as important as to the amount of time its in the broth?

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Cuong
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@Steven: Great question. Spices for pho are critical ingredients that can make or break your pho pot. In general, yes it makes sense that the longer you cook the spices, the more you get out of it. And conversely, the quicker you cook them, the less flavor and fragrance you will get. The trade-off is just as you described: time versus quantity. But there's also another dimension: method of preparation.

But first let's look at an analogy. Think of cooking your spices like steeping your coffee grounds in a French press. The reason why it is not recommended to go past 4 minutes in the French press is because the resulting coffee will taste bitter with longer time. Four minutes would be just right for coffee in the French press. So in a similar way, after being cooked too long in the broth, I would expect that you would not get much more out of the spices, plus they may even give you undesirable tastes.

There's also another reason why I mention steeping coffee grounds in a French press: the coffee ground. Regardless of the spice combination you use (depending on the recipe), you can do one of at least 4 things with your spices:

1. Cook them whole in the broth,
2. Roast/broil them whole (in a sauce pan) before cooking in the broth,
3. Grind them before adding them in the broth (preferably in a bag), and
4. Grind and roast them before going in the broth (also in a bag).

The grinding releases fragrance of the spices and gives you more surface areas of spice to cook in the broth. The roasting action by itself also releases the fragrance of the spice as you heat it up. So as you can see, combining grinding and roasting in option 4 above will give you a very strong and quick kick of spice flavors at the shortest time possible.

So with all that said, and taking into account all other variables, I'd recommend you test to see what works for you. If you decide to use option 4, I would say 30-45 minutes should be a good start, without knowing your pot size and other variables. Sorry for the long answer, but I hope this helps.

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Steven
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Anh Cuong, thanks for the detailed answer. That was a lot of pho wisdom. I might give the 4th option a try. The previous trials, I only roasted the spices as most recipe suggested. The problem that I have is that my mom complains that the broth I make is too dark or too brown. And yes, I did washed and boiled the bones for 10 minutes and got rid of the first water as there are a lot of impurities that gets released from simmering the bones. I then washed the bones again before adding it to the main pot with filtered water in it. As it simmers for the few hours, I do scoop the gunks that float to the top. Yet the broth isn't as clear as my mom would like. I told my mom that the pho she eats at restaurant with the clear broth is all msg and a lot of artificial flavorings. But she didn't buy that. Is it because one of the spice causes the broth to become brownish? I checked my local supermarket and it has a variety of pho spices prepacked in a bag. Some have 6 spices while others have only 3 kinds. I used the one with all the pho spices with cinnamon, cloves, fennel, coriander, star anise, and cardamon. It comes with a small pouch to easily remove the spices afterwards too. Are all of these spices essential for the broth? I was hoping to dismiss the one that may have cause the broth to turn dark brown. I have heard from someone that having too much of a certain spice for too long causes the broth to darken. I just forgot which one.

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Cuong
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@Steven: If your broth turned out too dark or brown, then I wouldn't say it's necessarily due to the bone or meat, unless you still had a lot of blood coming off of them during simmering, and your simmering is too close to boiling. If you didn't simmer correctly, meaning with only nice and gentle boiling action in the water, then you will get a lot more impurities coming off, but then it would make your broth more murky and not necessarily dark in color. Also it helps if you skim the scums regularly, preferably as they are formed and not letting them float around for too long. A lot of TLC you know?

I don't think the spices alone would get your broth dark brown, again unless you leave them in for too long. But then again how dark can it get with such small amount of spices? You mentioned you left the spices for an hour, which may be too long for a small pot/quantity of broth. I'm still not sure what quantity we're discussing here so I can't be sure what else to point out for you. How many quarts are we talking about here?

Anyway I have to side with your mom on this. I wouldn't buy any of your explanations ;P But I need more info before being to say something more specific to your case. Otherwise I can only give you general guidelines.

The number and type of spices you use may be irrelevant to the resulting broth color, to a certain extent. You may want to test this yourself by light boiling some spices in water and see what color they contribute to your clear water, then decide. I've done some of this myself and it shouldn't cause any concern.

Remember, don't argue with your mom lol.

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Steven
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Anh Coung, deep inside I don't want to argue with my mom that's why I have to secretly seek advice from a pho expert LOL. As for my pot size, I have a 23 qt pot. It’s big but not gigantic like those at the restaurant. However, the water gets filled up to only 2/3 of the pot, that's with the bones and stuff in there. For my first time, I used about 4 lbs of bones with 1 prepacked spice bag. Okay, I'll admit I cheated the first time but it didn't help. The pho flavor wasn't strong enough so I added the instant pho flavoring from a jar. I was skeptical because its product of Thailand. So I'm sure it contributed to the dark cloudy broth. It was good but the color wasn't too appealing. It was more of a Thai boat noodle, which happens to be my favorite as well so I didn't mind. Since my mom and her friends love tripes, I went ahead and bought it home so they can add it in my creative recipe lol. And they loved it. I don't like tripes so I added beef balls with my rare steak. To my astonishment, we finish the whole pot and it was my first pot of pho ever. With a bit of experience from the first time, I doubled the amount of bones to about 8 lbs and used 2 bags of prepacked spices for my 2nd attempt. It was much more flavorful without the broth being dark but brown, similar to the color of the oil in your car. I’ve had pho at restaurants where the soup is as clear as the hu tieu broth but with strong, beefy, pho flavor. Its mind boggling to me as to how it’s possible. A possibility that you mention was probably because there is a lot of blood coming off the bones/oxtails which I don’t think is an issue for me because I washed them with salt, then simmer them for about 10 minutes, and then thoroughly washed them again before tossing them into the main pot. But you’re right; maybe I should try to put the spices in the water alone for a while to see if there are any changes to the color. I’ll be sure to try this the next time I make pho, which should be real soon. Regardless if the water turns brown or not, I’m keeping the water after I remove the spices and just toss in the bones for it to simmer. And if I feel the broth still isn’t having a good kick to it, I’m going to add another packet of spice and leave in there for another 20-30 minutes.

Additional information, I do char the ginger and onions and got rid of the black charred around it before tossing it in the pot. I also use cheesecloth to filter the broth after its done cooking so it’s a clean broth without any unwanted stuff floating around.

If you have any suggestions or recommendations before my next trial, please provide them and I will update with my results. Thank you!

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Tracy
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Steven,

I noticed that you stated that you use "product of Thailand". Try Quoc Viet Foods products. It is made from real bones vs. artificial flavorings & MSG. See if that helps with the clear broth. Good luck.

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Cuong
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@Steven: Based on the additional information, here are some additional feedback for you:

- The spice in water test should be just that, testing some spices in boiling water in a small sauce pan just so you see what color you get. This is for your own understanding of how these ingredients behave and how they affect the liquid color. I wouldn't just continue to make your pho from this. Instead of using pre-made bags, you may consider buying your own spices and mix them yourself. This way you know exactly what you use.

- 23 quart pot is not very large, especially with bones and other things in there, but it should be fine for home cooking. Just be aware that, for such small pot, any change you make may become more magnified and exaggerated than you may intend to.

- The instant flavoring may have contributed to your color, but without knowing what it is, it's hard to say.

- Regarding the bones, if you haven't done so, I suggest you have them cut into 2 inch long pieces. This will expose more marrow for more flavor quicker.

- During blanching, I would not just simmer the bones and the meat (like flank and/or brisket, if you use any). I would boil it at the highest boil you can for 5-10 minutes, then discard the water and wash the bones and meat. This is the time to get all the dirty stuff out of both the bones and the meat, and this is the way to do it. Otherwise, you're not getting much junk off at slow simmering.

- For the charred ginger and onions, it's not necessary to clean off the black/burned stuff. The black stuff actually contributes to your broth's flavor, and they don't add much color if at all. You said you filter the broth afterward so that is perfectly fine.

The bottom line is to have fun finding what you want, but you want to do it with the proper knowledge in order to say on track. I hope these tips help. Happy hunting.

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Steven
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Thanks for the advice! I'll try it again this time with your suggestions. Until then, I have to finish the big pot of hu tieu in my kitchen.

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