PHO BO (Vietnamese beef noodle soup, for four)


“It was difficult in that Upper West Side apartment to conjure up how it would feel to be eating this thickly populated beef-based breakfast soup at a stall in its native place, the Communist capitol of Hanoi.  Pho is a bounteous dish, a strong broth strongly spiced with chili and saw-toothed coriander leaves, not to mention pungent nuoc nam.  It is truly an eye-opener, but a major part of its appeal is its last minute improvisational quality:  raw beef cooked in the individual bowl when boiling stock is poured over it; condiments, including chopped chilies, tossed in by the consumer.  On its native ground, pho is slurped and eaten with chopsticks and a spoon simultaneously.”   Raymond Sokolov, The Cook’s Canon

6 ounces rice stick noodles (rice vermicelli)

¼ pound snow peas, cut diagonally into ¼ inch wide strips

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 cup sliced shallots (3 large)

three 1/8-inch-thick slices fresh ginger, smashed

1 teaspoon minced Serrano chile (including seeds), or to taste

3-½ cups (28 ounces) beef stock or store-bought broth

1-¾ cups water

½ pound very thinly sliced rare roast beef, torn into pieces (from the deli counter)

6 ounces fresh bean sprouts, rinsed

¼ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves

¼ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn if large

¼ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves

3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce, or to taste

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice


lime wedges to accompany

  1. Cook noodles in a 4-quart saucepan of boiling (unsalted) water for 4 minutes. Add snow peas and boil for 1 minute.  Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking.  Drain well and divide noodles and snow peas among four large soup bowls.
  1. Dry saucepan, add oil and heat over moderate heat. Add shallots, ginger and chile and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are browned, 7 to 8 minutes.  Add stock and water, bring to a simmer, and simmer, uncovered for 10 minutes.
  1. Meanwhile, divide beef, bean sprouts and herbs among soup bowls.
  1. Remove ginger from broth and discard, then stir in fish sauce, lime juice and salt to taste. Ladle broth into bowls and serve immediately with lime wedges.

from The Gourmet Cookbook

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