The secret to a good pho broth is a solid base of beef bones and plethora of spices and herbs. 
Growing up in Long Beach, MS, we didn’t have Pho Noodle shops around every corner like it is here in Houston.   It was always a treat when Mom would start a pot late Saturday night after she came home from work to be ready for breakfast or brunch on Sunday morning.  The big, beautiful aroma would fill the entire house by morning.   There are a few really good noodle houses here but one rule of thumb is to never order the Pho at a place without the word PHO in its name!  I am pretty good at picking out the canned or boxed soup mixes from the overnight homemade brew—it is imperative that you let the broth cook for a loooooong time; it’s the only way to suck the marrow and sweetness out of the bones. 
Watch this if you are not easily offended by vulgar language, which is so not the case for Cuc, but this video is pretty darn hilarious! 
  • Garlic, lots of it!  I’ve recently started to roast my garlic (whole head or bulb) before using it.  2 whole bulbs will do, roast one and mince the other. 
  • 2 big yellow onions (one for the broth and one to slice for garnish later)
  • 2 stalks of lemongrass (whole)
  • Ginger root (a pretty big piece you can cut up)
  • Beef bones, neck bones, oxtail, and Nam Gau (like a brisket, with a layer of fat in the meat) . . these are just my favorites to have in the soup; you can have all sorts of craziness like tripe, tendon . . . fatty fat, chicken  bones, turkey legs 😉  not really!
  • Cinnamon sticks (4-5)
  • Spices:  star anise, cloves, coriander seeds, dried Thai peppers (you can buy an already prepared bag of spices at the Asian market)
  • Cheesecloth or a contraption like this to hold all of your little spices, I call it the spice-keeper ball thingy
  • Olive oil, Fish sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, white pepper, sugar
  • Eye of round (2lbs, sliced “tai” thin), bo vien (beef meatballs)—you won’t need these until ready to serve
  • Fresh Pho Rice noodles (vacuumed sealed bags)
  • Bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, jalapenos, green onions, lime – all for garnish
  • Fried onion chips
  • A really, realllly big gi-normous stockpot!
  • Clear your schedule for at least 6 HRS!!! play scrabble, watch a movie, knit a sweater . . .
  • Roast the bulb of garlic (leave the peel on), set aside
  • Wash the bones and all the meats under warm water (not the eye of round or meatballs)
  • Cut the lemongrass stalks into 3-4 inch pieces
  • Peel the ginger and cut into 2 inch pieces, big enough to fish out later on
  • Place all of the SPICES in the cheesecloth and tie or in the spice-keeper ball, use a lot of the star anise!
  • In the stockpot, add a tbsp of olive oil and the minced garlic, sauté until browned, not burnt!  Add enough water to fill the pot 1/3 full
  • Add the beef bones, oxtail and brisket meat to the stock; a few dashes of garlic powder, onion powder and white pepper and a few splashes of fish sauce on the meat for a light braise and then add enough water to cover the meat
  • Let it come to a boil and add the ginger, cinnamon sticks, lemongrass, whole onion (with peel), whole roasted garlic (with peel), fill the pot with water, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to med-low heat.
  • The key to a good pho broth is to keep it clear, you need to keep skimming the foam off the top of the broth and discarding it (the foam comes from the bones cooking down)
***So here’s my challenge when cooking pho  . . . because it has to cook on low for so long, the stock reduces.  As it is reducing, you have to continue to refill the stock.
Here is my secret  . . . . I can’t believe I am givin’ it up!  And don’t judge me, it works!!!
If you make a separate pot of broth using a spoonful of this stuff and water, you can continue to replenish the reduced beef stock throughout the cooking process and it won’t dull the flavors of your pho broth.  (It’s like using a beef bouillon or chicken stock instead of water)
After a good 2-2 1/2 hrs, you can lower the heat to a simmer, lowest possible setting and keep watch.
I like to leave the heat on low as long as possible (sometimes 2-3 additional hours); when I used to cook Pho for the bar, I would have to transfer the stock to 3 separate crockpots.   I would also remove all of the bones at this point and and shred the meat from the oxtail and the beef bones.  I would also slice up the Nam Gau meat.  You can let cool and place in the fridge or leave on warm in the crockpot overnight.
  • Warm the pho broth on the stove or turn crockpot on to high
  • Chop up half of the cilantro bunch and green onions and set aside, slice the onion and jalapenos as well.
  • Slice the bo vien meatballs
  • Create a garnish plate with bean sprouts, remaining cilantro, basil, sliced fresh jalapenos and limes
  • Empty the fresh pho noodles into a big bowl of hot water to soak and soften (the hot water will semi cook the noodle).  Place a small serving of noodles in a pho bowl and place in the microwave for 30 secs when you are ready to serve.
  • Add a few pieces of bo vien and a few slices of the eye of round (some people like a lot of meat on their bowls!)
  • Scoop broth over the noodles and meat; make sure you get some of the oxtail and brisket too!  The heat from the broth will finish cooking the rice noodles in the bowl.  Garnish with the cilantro/green onions mixture and sprinkle with fried onions.
Your guests can add the remaining garnish to their liking.  Serve with Hoisin sauce, sriracha and black pepper.

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