I actually had a dream about this last night. No joke. It wasn’t one of those coherent dreams — I was cooking this and then the noodles came to life and ran away and I was really upset because I thought we were friends, ya know? and then the roof came off and I was actually in the Cathedral but there was no roof? You know. Weird dreams that make no sense.
Lately, this has been my favorite dish. Pho is warm, soothing, it’s amazing for when you’re sick or have sore muscles, and with this recipe, it’s really easy to make. Once you try this out, you’ll want this every week.
Normally pho is made with an amazing broth created from slowcooking bones with fragrant herbs and spices. It takes hours and honestly, I don’t really trust myself not to screw it up yet. So for this, we’re going to cheat and use premade broth.
Hold on now, I know. ‘How can you dare call it pho without making bone broth!?’ Well, I’m not. I’m calling it Faux Pho. Second, the spices we’re going to be using will elevate this to a reasonable (fast) approximation. And finally, before you see the amount of spices being used, don’t freak out. Most of these are sold in what I consider the ‘bulk spice’ section of the grocer for just a few silver each.
What I mean by ‘bulk spice’ is the place near the spices area that doesn’t have them in pretty little jars and cute little grinders, or even the ones with the basic plas-tech lids and simple labels. No no, I mean the ones that come in little baggies with paper labels and Common isn’t usually the first language it’s written in.
Like this. Trust me. You will save so much money and the quality is great. But if gold isn’t really an issue, then spring for the higher-priced stuff. My dream is to make this as easy as possible for everyone to get to try the delicious things I make here.
So with that in mind, here is our cast of characters:
As always, I’ll tell you how to make replacements to save some coin or effort. First, not shown is 3 quarts (around 2.8 Liters, but just round up to 3 and you’ll be fine) of beef broth. I use this awesome concentrate called Better than Bullion, but with the spice mix we’re going to use, use what beef tastes good to you. Fel, you can use poultry stock if you want, but in that case, swap the actual beef for chicken.
I also have Pandaren rice noodles, because I had some on hand. You can also use vermicelli, angel hair or any other thin noodle. You also want about a tablespoon of fish sauce and two tablespoons of soy, which I have premixed in the middle there because dishes are of the Legion. And if you decide you want meat in yours, you will need some flank steak. If you can’t find flank, a roast will do as well. You need under a pound (less than half a kilo) and it needs to be slightly-frozen because we’re going to slice this thin.
Now for the spices…
If this looks like a lot, believe me when I say it’s worth it. This is going to take your cheater beef broth into Magical territory. Like, Soothing Mists magical.
Let’s go clockwise from the bottom. First, do you see those teeny tiny little brown nubs? Those are cloves. Those suckers are little manabombs of flavor, so you don’t want too many in there. I used 4 for this batch and it was just about right.Next are all those coriander seeds. Two tablespoons worth. Do NOT use ground, it won’t work. Use whole for all of this.
The star looking stuff above that is star anise, and you want about 4 whole stars worth. Next is cinnamon, I used two sticks and then broke them in half as they were going into the broth. The round white bits are green/spring onions, white part only. You want to use the entire bunch. The green parts will be used as garnish, don’t worry. Honestly, you probably don’t have to cut yours as small as I did mine but whatever. I went on autopilot for that.
I also have about six cloves of peeled garlic, which I will later roughly chop to let out the flavors, and a 3 inch length of ginger, cut into slices.
One note for this: You will need to strain this before serving. I used a second, equally sized pot, but that might not be an option for everyone. Another method it to just strain it as you serve it (like, ladle it into a strainer over the bowl) or put all these ingredients into a muslin bag before cooking it.
Alright, now that we have all this, what do we do?
Toss it into the bottom of your soup pan and turn up the heat to about medium-high. You want to cook these until fragrant, which is just like it sounds. Once you start to smell the aromas really strong, that’s when you stop and move to the next step. This takes about 3-5 minutes for me, depending on if I put it in the pan cold or not. Kinda like toasting them, but not quite.
Once they’re nice and smelly, start carefully pouring in the broth. Remember, we’re moving cooler liquid into a hot container, so expect some spitting and steam.
Once all the broth is incorporated, turn it down to a simmer and let it go uncovered for about 20-30 minutes. During this time, let’s get the garnishes going.
All of these are optional, but it’s what is served traditionally and honestly, I use all of it. Right to left, we have cilantro (Thalassian: soapweed), a sliced Dalapeno with seeds, about half of an onion sliced thin, a quartered lime, the rest of the spring onions, and some fresh basil. Pick and choose what you like when the time comes, when making it for me, I chuck a bit of everything in. Yum.
Now for the noodles. If you’re using vermicelli or angel hair, follow the instructions on the package. Fel, you can even boil them in the broth if you’d like. Those types of noodles hold up a bit better than rice noodles, which can get gummy. If you’re using rice noodles, this is how ya do:
Get a bowl that is big enough to hold all the noodles plus boiling water. Unwrap them carefully, as they’re prone to snapping, and set the noodles in the bowl. Meanwhile, get some water boiling. I used about a quart’s worth.
Once the water is boiling, pour it over the noodles in the bowl and let them soak. Check them every few minutes to see if they are cooked. I just sort of kept them nearby while doing other things. It took about ten minutes.
Once they’re all loosy-goosy, strain them and run them under cold water to stop the cooking and then set aside. If you still have a chunk of time before your broth is done, toss it with some olive or sesame oil to keep it from sticking. Don’t store it under water, they’ll keep absorbing.
Finally, let’s get the meat.
So you want it KINDA frozen. Basically you want it stiff enough to be able to cut really thin without issue, but not so frozen you can’t get your knife through it. Try and get a few good thin slices. It’s a matter of preference, but I like mine really thin. You can also trim it better than I did if that’s your thing.
And by now, the broth should be done and it’s time to assemble.
Your kitchen should smell insane at this point. So strain it like we talked, either into a similar vessel or through a strainer while pouring into each bowl, depending on your opinion on dishes and level of laziness.
To assemble the bowls, start with noodles at the bottom, then the meat and the garnishes. Top it with steaming broth. ‘But wait, Jax!’ I hear you yelling at your screen with my giant ears ‘Aren’t we going to cook the meat?’
Aha! But that, my friend, is why we cut it so thin. The heat from the boiling broth will cook it for us. In fact, I had to be very very fast catching this pick to still have the meat red for it.
So very yummy… And of course, if you decide that you don’t like, can’t afford, or just want to omit the meat, it’s amazing without it too.
- 3 quarts (~3 liters) of beef broth
- 2 tablespoons of coriander seeds
- 4 whole cloves
- 4 whole star anise
- 1 bunch onions — whites only (reserve green for garnish)
- 6 cloves garlic
- 3 inch piece of ginger, sliced
- 2 stick cinnamon, broken before adding
- 1 bunch onions, green parts
- About a cup cilantro
- 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 dalapeno pepper
- Fresh basil leaves
- Quartered lime
- Bean sprouts (I was out, but always good to add)
- Thinly sliced steak (less than a pound/half kilo. Flank, eye of round, rump roast, whatever works. Partially frozen to slice)
- Noodles (rice noodles, vermicelli or angel hair pasta) prepared as directed
- Put all seasonings in the bottom of a soup pot and toast until fragrant
- Carefully add the broth, beware of spitting
- Bring to a simmer and allow to cool uncovered for 20-30 minutes
- Strain into bowls with thinly sliced meat, noodles and garnish mix.