food for thought

by michelle


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Cooking club again. This time we made Phổ, a Vietnamese soup with beef and flat rice noodles, which is popular for breakfast all over Vietnam and any time of day in the north. Normally the stock is cooked overnight but because of time constraints we made a pressure cooker version adapted from various recipes.


To make enough stock to fill an 8 litre (8 quart) pot to capacity you will need 900g (2 lbs) of beef marrow bones with meat attached, 8 brown shallots and 60g (2 oz) of fresh ginger. All of these should first be charred over coals (if you don’t have a charcoal burner use a barbecue or even a gas flame). When the shallots and ginger are quite blackened cut them up and place them in the pot with the bones, 450g (1 lb) of beef brisket, 1 tablespoon of salt, 55g (2 oz) of rock sugar (ordinary sugar would work) and ⅔ of a cup of Vietnamese fish sauce (if you can only find Thai fish sauce use only ⅓ of a cup). In a small pan roast 2 cinnamon quills, 4 whole star anise, 2 black or brown cardamom pods, 1 tablespoon of black peppercorns and 3 teaspoons of fennel seeds. These spices are better roasted separately as some roast faster than others. Tie the spices into a muslin cloth and place into the pot with the other ingredients. Fill to capacity with cold water. Bring to the boil and either cook over low heat for 2 hours or pressure cook for 30 minutes. Remove the brisket and set it aside to cool. Continue to cook the stock for a further 4 hours or in the pressure cooker for ½ and hour and then allow the pressure cooker to come to normal pressure naturally. Strain the stock.

We also made a pickle to serve with the soup. Slice 3 shallots, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 red chilli and 1 green chilli into similar sizes. Combine 1 cup of white vinegar with 1 teaspoon of sugar and ½ a teaspoon of salt and allow the vegetables to pickle in this mixture for at least 1 hour.

To make the rice noodles combine ⅔ of a cup of rice flour (not glutionous), ⅓ of a cup of tapioca starch and ½ a teaspoon of salt with enough water to make a thin batter which is only a little thicker than milk. Mix the batter vigorously. Using a number of large elastic bands attach a thin piece of cotton fabric over the top of a steamer for which you have a lid. Leave a small gap on one side for the steam to escape into the lid and pull the cloth until it is as taut as possible. Using a small ladle, spoon approximately 2 tablespoons of batter onto the cloth and make it into a circle with the back of the ladle. Cover and steam for 1 minute. When the noodle is cooked it should be translucent. Remove by holding a bamboo skewer at both ends and sliding it under the noodle to free it from the cloth. Carefully lift it onto a plate and brush with a little oil. This will allow you to place the next sheet onto the first. Repeat the process until you have a stack of rice noodles and the batter is used up. Now you can slice the noodles to the desired thickness.

To serve the soup place the noodles into the soup bowls with fresh bean sprouts, chopped spring onions, chopped fresh mint, vietnamese mint and coriander (cilantro), the sliced brisket and some very finely sliced raw beef sirloin (placing this in the freezer for an hour will make it easier to slice very finely). Pour the hot soup into the bowls and serve with the pickle.


Written by michelle picker

June 24, 2015 at 5:48 am

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