Almost every Vietnamese restaurants around the world has this beef broth rice noodle - Phở, but not everyone is good. Some are trying to make it good but it doesn’t work. Some of us try to do it at home, also doesn’t work. But you say “it’s such a simple dish?" Let me tell you, it might look simple but to make a good Phở, first you need to taste the best. Good cook needs to know what is a good taste, meaning - to know how to eat, without knowing the best what can they compare it to? To try a good bowl of Pho, I will suggest to start with the famous shops in Hong Kong, Australia, or if you are in Europe there are a couple of Vietnamese places in Paris that are pretty good.
I have tried many Vietnamese restaurants in many cities in many countries, and got disappointed almost every time and the worst Pho I tasted was in Barcelona, a place called BUN BO - their soup taste like a soap water, they sliced the beef too thick and tough, the rice noodle just way under cook, that’s a big No, rice noodle should be like silk, not al dente because it is not a spaghetti. I guess someone who cooked this never tried a good Phở.
In my opinion, Phở is a dish that can’t really be cooked at home, no matter how many recipe book you read, it’s just doesn’t taste the same. The reason is because to do a authentic Pho, you need a very big pot like a Barrel and you have to put like 30kg of beef brisket and different cut of beef and 20kg cow bone in there, since cow bone will taste bitter and smelly when you boil it for a long time, so to balance the taste and make the beef broth sweeter, you will also need to put chicken bone and fish bone with all the spices such as: pepper, star anise, cinnamon, cumin, dried tangerine peel, whole garlic, onion, lemongrass, etc.
I know some places even put in liquorice. Some say to boil the borth for more than 6 to 8 hours, some people told me to boil it for 24 hours, maybe they are both right, but one thing I am sure is this broth has to be clear and the taste has to be complex and thick. It's not just a simple beef broth, but everything in that bowl should taste like a Vietnamese Christmas. I heard the word “ Pho” came from the word Phoenix, I don’t know how true is that, but a good taste of soup does make you feel re-born.
Most common way to serve Phở is with beef. Slice the beef really thin and let the broth get thru the beef when serve. Or serve the beef half cooked in the bowl. Some like it more luxury is what it called “special” Phở with beef balls, beef trips, etc.
If you eat at the shop they must give you a basket of garnish to go with it, such as basil, laska leaves, Chinese coriander, Mexican coriander, bean sprouts, lemon or lime wedges and red chili. When a bowl of Phở is in front of you, smell the fragrance, drink the soup, put in the garnish and add the sauce if you like and usually there are three different sauce on the table, they are hoisin sauce, Huy Fong Sriracha sauce and Vietnamese fish sauce. You also need to know that only rice noodle serve with beef or chicken can be called Phở.
A good bowl of Phở is an addiction for life and a journey, I do not exaggerate. Almost every Vietnamese restaurants around the world has Phở, but not everyone is good, so keep searching and welcome to the world of Phở. If you are still insisting to make it at home, then buy the biggest pot.
Miss Chu, 297 Exhibition St Shop 2 Melbourne Victoria
Trang Vietnamese And Chinese Restaurant , 59 Hardgrave Rd ,West End Queensland
Pho Hoang Gia, 146 Wickham St Fortitude Valley Queensland
Le Kok, 129 avenue de Choisy 13e Quartier Chinois, Paris
Pho 14, 129 avenue de Choisy, Quartier Chinois, Paris
Lo Chiu, 10-12 Hillwood Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon
Nha Trang, 88 Wellington Street Hong Kong