Some of the best times I have ever had have been in southeast Asia. Working in the restaurant industry for nearly two decades made me literally ‘hungry’ for all the food knowledge I could get my hands, er, mouth on. It is actually pretty easy to get around these countries and find local culinary delights, at least when I spent some months there several years back. Can you believe I survived without wifi back then? Can you believe there were no Yelp reviews!? You would actually walk into one of about a million travel agencies and ask what was clever and book a bus ticket to any fabulous corner you could find. I would spend time in food markets, which often had many 5’x5’ stalls pumping out hot, spicy, unctuous fare for the working class.
Now I have eaten at Michelin star restaurants all over the world, and I am very serious when I say food stall fare is up there with the very best meals to be had on planet earth. Why does it all have to be so amazing!? It is completely devastating to find such affordable delights curated with the most meticulous care. I had to be a part of it. In Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, I sought out some of these food stalls with the most luxurious tasting noodles, soups and stir fries and offered to work for them for free so I could just learn a little part of something that took them years to master. I would wash dishes, prep produce, and add ingredients that were pointed to, since we literally had no ability to communicate verbally. Thank God for body language, I tell you. When it comes to food, we all speak a carnal language of appreciation for the things that bring us together. Sharing meals, in my opinion, is the best part of humanity.
I am so grateful for those experiences, and I am so so excited to be able to share one of them with you. Though it’s likely you have had it, pho is my most favorite breakfast. In my experience most people almost never make it at home (it is a process… so worth it though!) Aside from that, I try to keep pho broth on hand at all times, as I never know when I will need a bowl (or even a mug) of that healing nectar.
So here is one of many ways to make pho, but get creative. Hot soup is always in season. I hope you enjoy!
Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)
2 lbs beef bones
2 tsp fennel seed or ~6 anise stars
3 bay leaves
~12 whole cloves
1 tsp cardamom
10inches of cinnamon stick
½ of a whole nutmeg piece, roughly chopped
1 serrano or jalapeno, sliced
1in nub of ginger, roughly sliced
⅛ cup fish sauce
Rice stick noodles or spiralized zucchini
Shiitake mushrooms, sliced
Shaved steak, soft tendon, or tripe
Mung bean sprouts
Lime and fish sauce to taste
- In a slow cooker, add beef bones and cover with several litres of water. Cook on low for ~8 hours.
- Add all pho stock ingredients to the slow cooker with the bones and cook another ~4 hours
- Strain out all ingredients, reserving the pho broth
- Boil a stock pot with water. Remove from the heat. Add rice sticks or zucchini noodles and/or shiitake mushrooms and let sit a few minutes until soft. Remove from the water and add to individual serving bowls
- Add raw shaved steak, soft tendon, or tripe (I like them all together!), cilantro, green onion, sprouts, and torn Thai basil to the bowls.
- Ladle boiling broth over the bowls, squeeze a lime in, and get at it.