Bà ngoại’s Pho Bo
This delicious recipe was given to me by my cousin’s Vietnamese mother-in-law, Lahn. Bà ngoại is the Vietnamese for Granny, and Bà ngoại Lahn’s Pho Bo is legendary, much like the lady herself! One thing is for sure, Vietnamese Grannies and Irish Grannies are one in the same: they love nothing more than to nourish the soul with good food! I spent a couple of days in the kitchen with Lahn watching her do what she loves, cooking with all her soul for her family and I was lucky to learn how to make a couple of Lahn’s classic dishes including her Pho Bo. We couldn’t talk much together as my Vietnamese doesn’t extend beyond -“hai loai bia vui long!” (two beers please!) and though Lahn is quietly learning English but was shy when it came to trying some out with me. We traded a few words on google translate, but while our words were few, our shared love for food and family kept us in happy company for two great days!
Pho Bo is a rich beefy broth made with beef bones and is served up with a healthy helping of fresh rice noodles, bean sprouts, spring onions, thin slices of beef, and dressed with fresh basil (or coriander), lime and chilli. It takes time to get all of the goodness and flavour out of the beef bones, but it’s absolutely worth the effort. The smell wafting through your home as you let the flavours of the broth develop over 6-8 hours is like nothing else! Pho bo is a great pick-me-up if you’re under the weather, if you need a healthy dose of beefy vitamins and if your butcher is good to you, you’ll get the most wonderful marrow from good beef bones melting out into your broth.
We’ve made this with Irish Moilie beef bones and thinly sliced Irish Moilie beef fillet and it made a delicious, buttery, rich beefy broth. Lahn’s trick to slicing the beef nice and thinly, so that it cooks lightly in the warm broth, is to freeze the fillet the night before you use it and to start to thaw the fillet when you still have around 3-4 hrs left with the broth. When it’s still firm, you can take a sharp knife to the fillet and slice very thin layers of beef to add to the broth.
Bà ngoại’s Beef Pho
3kg Fresh Irish Moiled Beef Knuckle/Shin Bones
1 Brown Onion (Skin on)
3-4 inch piece of fresh ginger
Pho spices (1 spoon each of Cloves, Star Anise, Cumin seeds, Fennel seets, Coriander seeds, and 1 cinnamon stick)
1 Lemongrass stalk
To serve, per person:
80g cooked wheat/egg noodle
¼ thinly sliced white onion
1 handful of fresh bean sprouts
1 thinly sliced mushroom
1 sliced scallion
1 birdseye chilli
3-5 basil leaves or fresh corriander
80g thinly sliced Irish Moiled Beef Fillet
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 8 hours
Calories per serving: 377
To prepare the fillet for thin slicing, freeze prior to use and start to thaw during broth prep.
For the broth, place whole onion (skin on) and ginger into a pre-heated oven @200oC for 15-20 mins until it starts to brown – alternatively if you have a gas cooker, spear the onion and ginger and over the gas flame, browning the outer layers.
Brown the beef bones in a deep pot on a medium heat with 1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil, salt & pepper. Cover the bones with 4-5L of water (depending on your pot size). Bring the pot to the boil and scrape off froth.
Add spices, ginger, onion, lemongrass and sugar to the pot and leave to simmer for 6-8 hours. Top up the water to keep the bones covered until the final hour. Taste the broth and add salt/pepper as required and strainbefore serving to remove the bones, spices and lemongrass.
To serve, place the cooked noodles in a bowl, layer the bean sprouts, sliced onions, scallion and thinly sliced beef over the noodles and cover with the warm broth (this will lightly cook the beef with a slight pinkness). Add torn basil leaves or coriander, lime & chilli before serving.
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