I came across this recipe for Chatelaine’s Easy Vietnamese beef pho and was intrigued. I have eaten this delicious beef noodle dish a few times since I moved to Vancouver and am even taking the Craftsy class Vietnamese Classics: Pho, Noodles & Beyond with Andrea Nguyen.
The fact that there is a class dedicated to this particular dish shows you just how complicated and long this dish can be to make. In fact, Chatelaine’s “easy” version takes 1 hour and 40 minutes and is made in a pressure cooker. A good first step for me to learn how to make this complex but utterly delicious dish.
The recipe calls for beef back ribs but I could only find beef short ribs in my neighbourhood so that is what I used. Everything else, when it comes to ingredients, was the same.
You will need 1/2 454-g pkg dry rice noodles, 5 whole cloves, 3 whole star anise, 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 tsp coriander seeds, 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp black peppercorns, 1 tbsp canola oil, 1 kg beef back ribs (or short ribs), 500 g stewing beef, 5 large, thick slices fresh ginger, 1 large sweet onion, thickly sliced, 8 cups cold water, 2 tbsp light soy sauce, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp brown sugar and 1 tbsp lime juice.
For the garnish I used Thai basil, bean sprouts, hoisin sauce and sriracha hot sauce.
Please Note: The following is how I made the pho. Go here for the original recipe.
Combine spices in a pressure cooker pot. I used the sauté setting of my instant Pot.
Cook, stirring occasionally, until spices are toasted and fragrant. About 2 minutes.
Add oil, then some ribs. Do not crowd pot bottom. Sear until brown, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with remaining beef ribs and stewing beef.
You want the meat to get nice and brown.
Add ginger. Cook until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to bowl with beef.
Add more oil if needed, then onion. Cook until brown, about 1 minute.
Add water, scraping up any brown bits from pot bottom.
Return ginger, beef, spices and any liquid to pot.
Cover, and lock pressure cooker lid. You are suppose to increase heat to high and when steam starts to come out of the vent pipe, reduce heat to medium. Then cook for 1 hour. Remove from heat and let pressure drop naturally before unlocking lid.
I just put the lid on and then put it on the meat setting for an hour.
At this point I covered the rice noodles with hot water in a medium bowl. Set aside and soak until ready to use.
Using tongs, remove beef bones to a plate. Place a sieve on top of a large pot. Drain broth into pot.
The recipe says to remove the scum and the fat on top and then place on stove-top over medium-high and bring to a boil.
I decided to let the broth and meat cool off and then let the sit separately overnight in the fridge. There was a ton of fat and I wanted it all gone!
Put broth into pot and stir in soy, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice and rice noodles. Place on stove-top over medium-high and bring to a boil.
Finishing It Off
Divide noodles, meat and hot broth among 4 serving bowls. Serve with lime wedges, basil, mint, bean sprouts, hoisin and sriracha. I garnished with Thai basil, bean sprouts, hoisin and sriracha. I tried having this without the bean sprouts and the basil and it just was not the same.
The flavours of pho were definitely there. Deep, sweet, savoury, complex and so heart-warming. That said, the texture of the meat was all wrong. The pho I have had has had super thin slices of raw beef that cook in the super hot broth. Super tender and flavourful. Despite being cooked in a pressure cooker, the chunks of meat kept reminding me that this was not real pho. Of course the recipe is not claiming it is and that is part of the reason why it is considered an “easy” version but next time, I am picking up thinly sliced hot pot beef and then… It will be perfect!
I give this recipe four and a half out of five wooden spoons.