A nutritious, automatic, delicious soup consisting of a flavorful, spiced broth, thinly sliced sirloin steak, rice noodles, and array of fresh herbs. Perfect comfort food for the soul!
Have you ever tried Pho [fuh] before?
It’s a super flavorful Vietnamese street food. In fact, it’s their national dish.
I had never heard of Pho before moving to Chicago. I actually tried it for the first time just last year. A friend and I were meeting for lunch and I let her pick the restaurant. She had a favorite place in mind: she said it was hard to find (it is tucked in between two buildings in downtown Chicago and easy to miss) and I would not be disappointed.
When we got there, she told me we were having Pho. I was like wha? I could barely pronounce it and I had never even heard of it. I was a bit intimidated. And slightly kicking myself for letting her pick the restaurant. But it had taken me forever to find this place, and I was starving, so I was willing to give it a try.
Luckily, the menu was pretty simplistic – you selected your broth and your protein. Naturally, I played it safe and went with the chicken pho.
It was AMAZING! Think of your grandma’s chicken noodle soup but 10x better (sorry grandma!) The broth pops with so much flavor. It’s filled with warming spices that leaves you feeling comforted and satisfied. You slurp up the broth with fresh made rice noodles. But what really seals the deal is the assortment of toppings. The bowl is topped with am array of fresh herbs, a squeeze of lime juice, and a couple of sauces, such as hoisin and siracha, that you continually add on as you make your way through the bowl. It makes each bite unique. It was delightful! Pho has become a favorite meal of mine.
There is no shortage of great Pho spots in Chicago. But I wanted to try making it on my own. I was told the key to a great Pho is all about the broth, so I did some research on what spices and aromatics to use, how long to cook it, and what was the best protein. After some trial and error, I think I have come up with a great, close to the real thing, Pho of my own.
Let’s get to cooking.
It takes quite a few ingredients to make the broth perfect. I actually had a lot of the spices on hand from Thanksgiving time from baking a lot of spiced desserts. I promise you will use these spices again sometime (check out my chai spice pancake recipe
for an idea). Also, it is worth the effort to make this delicious soup. Promise!
To make the broth, you will need:
- star anise pods
- cinnamon sticks
- beef stock
- soy sauce
- fish sauce (or worchestire)
For the toppings you will need:
- green onions
- bean sprouts
- lime wedges
The first trick I discovered to making the broth rich and flavorful is charring the onion and ginger. This intensifies the flavor of these two ingredients and adds a somewhat smoky flavor to the broth. To charr the ingredients, drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper on the onion and ginger (ginger should be peeled) and place under broiler for 10-20 minutes, or until dark, charred spots form on the ingredients.
While the onion and ginger are charring, you can start toasting the spices. Toasting the spices helps intensifies their flavors and adds a mellow, nuttiness to the broth. To do so, heat the bottom of the soup pot under medium-high heat and add in the whole spices. Allow the spices to cook until you can spell their aromas (in which case, you know it is done).
Add the carrots, charred onion and ginger, garlic gloves, stock, soy, and fish sauce to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil. Then, bring back down to a simmer and allow to simmer for about 40 minutes, so the flavors can develop.
A traditional pho starts by making a homemade stock. I skipped this step because, in all honesty, I didn’t really feel like buying bones and making a homemade stock (I was a bit intimidated; but will try that one day!). I just bought a good beef stock at my local grocery store. I found that the beef stock has a richer, stronger flavor that I preferred in my pho; but beef broth totally works as well and will lead to a more mellow tasting broth.
As the soup simmers away on your stove, your home will be filled with beautiful aromas of warming spices and automatics. It’s like a homemade spiced candle! It will also make you very hungry. But be patient – the longer this simmers, the more flavor develops in the broth.
Also, while the broth cooks, you can make the rice noodles and prepare the meat. Cook the rice noodles to the package instructions. Also, cut the steak into paper thin strips and salt and pepper the strips).
After the soup is done cooking, strain out the spices and vegetables so you are only left with the beautiful broth.
Place the desired amount of noodles to the bottom of the bowl. Add on the 5-6 strips of the raw thin steak. (or more if you like). Ladle on the broth till it covers the noodles and beef. The heat from the liquid will actually cook your steak to a perfect medium rare.
Now for the fun part. The toppings. Add on your herbs, mint, cilantro, and basil. I also added some siracha for heat and hoisin for sweetness and umami. I added some bean sprouts for texture and green onions for a little crunch and bite. Finally, I hit it with a squeeze of fresh lime for an acidic pop.
Dig in! And be prepared to be amazed.
Eating this soup is an experience. First, you get the subtle, rich flavors of the broth. It’s got hints of comforting spices, and pops of umami from the beef stock, soy, and fish sauce. The herbs add freshness to the dish. The steak is tender and cooked perfectly from the broth. And the noodles make it fun to slurp up all the goodness.
Trust me, this is so much better than your ordinary noodle soup.
You need to make this on a cold winter’s night. It will warm your soul and just make you happy.
A nutritious, automatic, delicious soup consisting of a flavorful, spiced broth, thinly sliced sirloin steak, rice noodles, and array of fresh herbs.
- 4 cups beef stock or broth
- 2 star anise pods
- 5 cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 yellow onion
- 3 carrots
- 2 large ginger pieces
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons soy
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 4 cups beef stock
- 1 pound sirloin steak cut into very thin strips
- 1 package rice noodles thin or thick
- 1 bunch basil, mint, cilantro of each
- 1 fresno chili
- 1/4 cup hoisin
- 1/4 cup siracha
- 1 bunch green onions cut into thin slices
- 1 can bean sprouts
In the broiler, char onions and ginger. This will take 5-10 minutes. You want to develop a dark, almost burnt marks on the onion and ginger.
Meanwhile, toast the whole spices in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.
Add broth/stock, soy, fish sauce, carrots, garlic, and charred onion and ginger and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 40 minutes, or until favors develop and the broth is packed with the flavors of the spices.
While the both develops, prepare the noodles to package directions.
Add the cooked noodles to the bottom of a bowl. Place raw steak strips on top of the noodles. Laddle hot broth in the bowl and over steak. The hot liquid will cook the steak to a beautiful medium rare.
Finish soup with your favorite toppings (the ingredient list of toppings is enough for about 6 bowls worth).