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Pho reals

Posted by Jeanne on October 31, 2009

Business travel sucks, people.  Anyone who tells you that business travel is super-fun and glamorous was probably doing it when the investment banks were doing well and everything was soaked in booze and taking place in the Bahamas.

I was out of town last week from Sunday through Thursday, and then had a quick trip Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.  I am exhausted and very behind at work.

What I need is soup.  What I probably don’t need is to be making a soup that is kind of known for being difficult to make at home and that I’ve never made before, but whatever.  Details, details.

Crock Pot Slow Cooker Pho, based on this recipe found at SteamyKitchen.

Serves 4

For the Pho Stock:

4 pounds beef shanks (these are labeled “bones for soup” at our local store)

1/2 onion

4 inch section of ginger, sliced

Spices:  2 cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons whole coriander, 1 teaspooon fennel, 3 whole star anise, 3 whole cloves, 1 cardamom pod

9 cups water

2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce or to taste

1 teaspoon sugar

For the Pho Bowls:

16 ounces dried rice noodles

1/2 pound sirloin, sliced very thinly against the grain

For the table:

1-2 limes, cut into wedges

fresh herbs: cilantro, Thai basil, mint

2-3 chili peppers, sliced

2 big handfuls of bean sprouts

Hoisin sauce

Sriracha hot chili sauce


(From left, hoisin sauce, Sriracha sauce, bean sprouts, sliced scallions, Thai chilis, mint, basil, cilantro, and limes.)

Bring a large stockpot with water to boil over high heat. When it comes to a rolling boil, add the beef and boil vigorously for 10 minutes.  I used one of those pasta pots with the removable strainer insert.

When the bones have been pre-boiled, drain, discard water and rinse bones briefly to clean them. Add the bones to the Crock Pot or slow cooker. Add onion, ginger, and spices.  Fill the Crock Pot with fresh, clean, cool water to just 1-1/2 inches below surface, add the fish sauce and sugar. Cover and set the Crock Pot or slow cooker to cook on low for 8 hours. Taste and season with additional fish sauce if needed.

Strain the stock with a fine meshed sieve. Discard the solids.  (I run it through a regular strainer, toss the solids, and then run it through a strainer lined with a tea towel.  Makes it come out cleaner.)

At this point, I refrigerated the stock for about 10 hours; I started the broth at night and strained it before I went to work the next morning.  If you do this, remove the fat from the top of the stock (it will have solidified) and reheat the stock while you’re prepping the noodles and other items.

When you are just about ready to eat, prep the rest of the ingredients for the Pho bowls. Bring a kettle of water to a boil.  Put the noodles in a large, heat-safe bowl with a rounded teaspoon of salt.  Pour the water over the noodles and stir to submerge; cover and soak 5 to 10 minutes, until soft and pliable but still a bit al dente.


Line up 4 large bowls on counter. Distribute the noodles and thin steak slices evenly amongst the bowls. Ladle the hot Pho stock into each bowl. The hot stock should cook the thin steak slices.


Serve with lime wedges, fresh herbs, chili peppers, Hoisin sauce and Sriracha hot chili sauce at the table.


My finished bowl:


So how did it taste, you ask?  It’s awesome.  The broth is nice and fragrant but the spices are subtle in the finished product.  It is light in flavor and texture (probably from all the straining and then skimming the fat) – this one definitely doesn’t feel greasy or heavy at all.

A note on the accompaniments – Thai chilis are dangerous little monsters (thanks for the chilis, Niz and Peter!).  Curt confidently put a whole bunch in his and then nearly cried at the table.

I’m so, so happy this turned out well!  Now I can have pho whenever I want – because I can MAKE it.  This is one of those dishes that really makes me think “this is why I cook” when I eat it.


2 Responses to “Pho reals”

  1. Naomi said

    Yum, yum, YUM! (Too funny re: Curt and the thai chili!)

  2. […] Pho!!!!!!! (That may have been slightly undignified.  I like pho, can you tell?) […]

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