Vietnam is a nation of brilliant food, and it is hard to sum it up in a single dish. Pho (pronounced fur), a warming noodle soup, is probably the closest you can get to describing the country through food, and it reflects the culture and history of Vietnam. Consisting of rice noodles, rich stock and fresh herb topping, it is officially Vietnam’s national dish.
Pho originated in the north of the country in the early 20th century, spread to the south after Vietnam’s partition, and was brought to the rest of the world by refugees fleeing the war. In the north they eat it for lunch or dinner, whilst in the south it is a breakfast staple. There are many varieties of Pho, with ‘Saigon’ Pho consisting of far more ingredients and toppings than its traditional ‘Hanoi’ equivalent.
However you want to enjoy it, this dish is simple enough to make in 30 minutes but delivers a rich flavour which will both impress housemates and warm you in the winter.
If you want to vary the recipe below, consider adding hoisin or sriracha sauce. For vegetarians, substitute in rich vegetable stock and consider adding fried tofu and mushrooms.
Pho (Serves 3-4) –
In a large saucepan add 1.5l of Beef Stock. Roughly slice 1 Onion and 2 Garlic Cloves and add to the stock. Slice a small piece of fresh ginger in half and add alongside 3 star anise and 2 cinnamon sticks (lightly bruised). Finally, add 80ml Fish Sauce, 2 tablespoons Caster Sugar and 4 boneless chicken thigh/breast fillets. Bring to the boil, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare your rice noodles (flat preferably) as to the packet instructions, and set aside. Roughly chop a handful of fresh coriander, basil and mint, and if you are a fan of spice, thinly slice a hot thai chili. Assemble on a serving dish.
Once the stock is ready, remove the chicken and set aside. Remove all other solids and discard, then shred the chicken and place back in the broth. Bring to the boil.
In a deep bowl place your rice noodles, and top with a small handful of beansprouts.* Pour over the boiling stock, top with the fresh herbs and enjoy.
*If you are feeling fancy, freeze a piece of sirloin or fillet steak and cut into wafer thin slices. Put these raw pieces on top of your noodles and they’ll be cooked tender by the boiling broth.