Okay, so this is an epic recipe. There's a bit of work and time involved here, but when you taste this heavenly broth you'll know it was worth it. You'll make lots of broth, but it freezes beautifully, which means you'll be able to rustle up a bowl of Pho whenever the fancy takes you. I don't think it's worth making any less of this as it does take a bit of work, but if you make a huge quantity, it's money in the bank if you know what I mean. I didn't use any of the meat in the Pho I made here, mainly because I had it earmarked for another recipe and this was meant to be a light lunch (plus we had had a rather big breakfast). It is traditional to have very finely sliced, uncooked beef on top which cooks as you pour the broth over it and is utterly delicious. You can leave it out as we did, or go the whole hog (or cow). I could just drink the hot broth, on it's own out of a big mug... and have been known to do just that.
NOTE: You'll need a BIG stockpot for this.
from Pauline Nguyen and Luke Nguyen's Secrets of the Red Lantern
For the Broth:
1kg oxtail, chopped into 3 cm pieces
1 unpeeled garlic bulb
2 large unpeeled onions
70g unpeeled ginger
1kg beef brisket
60 ml fish sauce
40g rock sugar
For the Soup:
fresh rice noodles (you will need about 200 g per person)
2 spring onions, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup of bean sprouts
1 bunch Vietnamese mint
2 bird’s eye chillies, sliced
1 lemon, cut into wedges
extra fish sauce
For the Spice Pouch:
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 whole cloves
2 star anise
1 cassia bark, about 10 cm in length
1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
20 cm square piece muslin cloth
Make the Broth:
In a large pot, submerge the oxtail in cold water, add 2 tablespoons of the salt and soak for 1 hour, then drain.
To make the spice pouch, dry roast each ingredient separately in a frying pan over medium heat until fragrant. Cool, then coarsely grind using a mortar and pestle or small spice grinder. Add the ground spices to the muslin square and tie up tightly in a knot. Set aside.
Heat a barbecue grill or char gill pan over medium-high heat and grill the unpeeled garlic, onions and ginger evenly for 15 minutes in total until all sides are blackened. Now peel the blackened skins and discard them, and then roughly chop. By doing this, the garlic, onion and ginger becomes sweet and fragrant, releasing more flavour into the stock.
Put the oxtail, beef bones, brisket and 3 litres of cold water in a stockpot and bring to the boil. While the stock is boiling, constantly skim any impurities off the surface for 15 minutes (this will ensure a clean, clear broth), then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Add the fish sauce, remaining 1 tablespoon of salt, rock sugar, garlic, onions, ginger and spice pouch.
Cover and simmer for 4 hours, or until the stock has reduced to almost half.
Strain the stock through a muslin cloth. Remove the brisket, set aside to cool, then thinly slice.
For the Soup:
Blanch each portion of noodles in boiling water for 20 seconds. Drain, then transfer to a serving bowl. Place three or four slices of brisket on top of the noodles, followed by three or four pieces of raw sirloin. Pour over the hot stock to cover the noodles and beef.
Garnish with 1 tablespoon of spring onion and a pinch of black pepper to each bowl. At the table, add chilli, bean sprouts, Vietnamese mint, a squeeze of lemon and fish sauce to taste.