We had dinner at Singers house on Wednesday and she made something I never had…a traditional Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Pho Bo). Singer adapted this version from a recipe in Slow Cooker Revolution by the editors of America's Test Kitchen. One of the spices featured in this soup is star anise.
Star anise is a beautiful spice and the origin of its name is quite obvious! With a licorice taste, it's the seed pod of an evergreen tree grown in southwestern China and Japan and it is often featured in slow-cooked and long simmered Asian dishes such as the Pho Bo soup we enjoyed. It is also the “star” of many Indian stews and curries. Add whole star anise in slow cooked or simmered dishes and, like bay leaves or cloves, discard before serving.
Star anise is typically sold Asian supermarkets and specialty stores, like Whole Markets. Store star anise in a sealed container in a cool dark place…it will retain its flavor for several months!
Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Pho Bo)
4 cups Chicken Broth-- low sodium
4 cups Beef Broth - throw in a few meaty beef bones, par-boiled to remove any impurities.
1-2 lbs of beef flank, chuck or brisket (Singer used brisket -- season with salt and pepper)
1 4 inch piece of Ginger -- sliced lengthwise
1 onion -- peeled and sliced in half
4 smashed and peeled garlic cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
4 star anise seed pods
1 stalk of lemongrass-- broken in half
1/4 Cup of fish sauce
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 Tablespoons sugar
Place sliced ginger, onion and garlic on a baking sheet and broil until charred slightly. This helps these flavors “bloom” when used in a slow cooker. Place the charred ingredients into a large slow cooker then add broth, and all other items. Cook on low for 9-11 hours or on high for 5-7 hours. Occasionally skim the surface and add water as needed.
When finished, remove beef first and reserve. Strain for a clear broth and discard all the other solids. Remove fat from surface (this is easy if you chill overnight and remove the fat the next day). Cooked beef may be shredded into soup later, but Singer decided to not put it into the soup base. Flank would probably work best for that purpose.
1 Package of thick rice noodles. Bring a large pot of water (about 4 quarts) to boil. Take the pot off the heat and add rice noodles for 10-15 minutes until noodles are pliable and somewhat soft. Drain, and rinse with cool water.
Soup Garnishes (for each guest to add to soup):
1 12 ounce Sirloin steak
1/2 lb of Bean sprouts
1-2 Jalapenos sliced thinly
1/2 cup of Basil leaves
1/2 cup of mint leaves
1/2 cup of cilantro
Two sliced scallions
2 Tablespoons of chopped peanuts
Wedges of lime
Chili (garlic) Sauce
Many traditional recipes call for raw sliced beef. Singer quickly sauteed the beef in a very hot frying pan, until cooked to medium rare.
To serve, place a serving of noodles in a bowl and top with several pieces of thinly-sliced beef. Ladle in some broth (the hot broth will cook the beef a bit more for guests who like it less rare).
All other items are placed on the table to be added to the individual bowls of soups as desired. The various garnishes add a depth of flavor, aroma and interest to this traditional and beautifully-presented, colorful soup.
We also had a salad of arugula, field and micro greens, oranges and almonds tossed with a sesame vinaigrette and maple-maple cupcakes for dessert. So good.
Foodie worked on hand warmers to go with a hat she made. These hand warmers are made from three different color yarns and when I looked at the underside, I did not see any hanging strands (not to be confused with hanging chads, but that's a different story).
Foodie explained a technique she learned for joining when working with wool yarns.
1. Separate the ends of each strand of the yarns you wish to bind.
2. Dampen each strand.
3. Place one dampened strand on top of the other, overlapping at least 1 1/2".
4. Rub the strands together between you hands, creating heat. This will "felt" and bind the strands together....magic.