This recipe makes the pho's beef broth from scratch, which makes it much richer and more flavorful than take-out pho but it also requires 3.5 hours of elapsed time. The working time is only about a half hour; the rest is just roast and simmer time.
2 large yellow onions, rinsed, unpeeled and quartered
3 1/2-inch thick slices of fresh ginger, unpeeled and smashed
3 lbs beef bones
1 lb oxtail pieces or 1 lb brisket
1/4 tsp "Chinese five spice" powder
4 quarts cold water
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
1 lb rice noodles, cooked al dente per the package's instructions
3-4 green onions, white parts only, thinly sliced
3/4 lb beef (london broil, top round, sirloin or flank steak), very thinly sliced*
Condiments (these are optional, based on your preference)
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1 cup basil leaves, roughly chopped or torn up
1 lime, quartered
Preheat oven to 400-degree. Place the onions, ginger and beef bones on a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with 5-spice. Roast in pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil in a large stockpot. Add the roasted vegetables and beef bones, the oxtail or brisket, salt and sugar, and return to a boil. Lower the heat to a moderately low simmer and cook for 2 1/2 hours.
Using a fine strainer or chinois, strain the broth into a large soup pot. Carefully remove the cooked oxtail or brisket from the strainer and place in a bowl to cool. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from oxtail bones and shred into bite-sized pieces, or if using brisket, just shred into bite-sized pieces. Return the shredded beef to the strained broth.
Meanwhile, reduce the strained broth over medium-high heat until you have about 3 quarts (12 cups), about 20 minutes. Stir in the fish sauce.
To serve, place the cooked rice noodles, raw thinly sliced beef and green onion in large soup bowls. Ladle the still-boiling-hot beef broth into the bowls, which will cook the beef to medium rare. Encourage everyone to pile condiments into their soup and enjoy!
Serves 4 with no leftovers; can be doubled easily. The broth can be prepared through the reducing step (but before the fish sauce is added) a day ahead and refrigerated.
* You can either ask your butcher to slice the beef paper-thin on their machine, or buy it in a piece and put it in the freezer for an hour or so and then slice it as thin as you can with your sharpest knife.
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