This is a recipe adapted from Vietnamese chef Andrea Nguyen. I have always loved authentic pho, but have never attempted to make it because of the time and hassle in creating a proper soup stock from boiled beef bones. For this recipe, I improvised and added a bit of bacon fat to try to recreate that savory, slow-cooked flavor. It’s not perfect, but very close and a huge time-saver served as a weeknight meal.
A note on the fish sauce – some people love it, but you have to be pretty ballsy to throw a quarter-cup of the stuff in your soup pot, as called for in Andrea’s recipe. Knowing how intense the flavor is, I backed off to only three tablespoons and found it still borderline overpowering. I have edited my recipe to include only two tablespoons. Try it — you can always add more; it’s an authentic and necessary component of this dish.
My special Asian-marinated sliced flank steak takes center stage. An amazing recipe — Enjoy!
32 oz. beef stock
3 cups hot water
2 tbs. fish sauce
1 tsp. rendered bacon fat
1″ chunk ginger root, peeled, charred and cut into discs
1 large, whole shallot, peeled and sectioned, charred, then cut into 1/2″ slices
1 tbs. whole dry coriander seed
1 small cinnamon stick
6 whole dry cloves
2 tsp. powdered beef base
1/2 tsp. brown sugar
3 large green scallion, trimmed and cut at a bias into 1″ planks
2 fresh green chilis; Thai or semi-hot, seeded and sliced
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
2 handfuls fresh Thai queen basil
Lime wedges for garnish
1 brick Three Sisters Vietnamese vermicelli noodles (enough for two or three large, single portions. There are 6 bricks in a two-pound package.)
For the Grilled Steak~
1/2 lb. Black Angus flank steak, tenderized with a needle press
4 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed through a press
2 heaping tbs. Laoganma Black Bean Chili Sauce
2 tbs. fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt, to taste
About 12 hours prior to cooking, marinate the flank steak. Hit it generously with a needle tenderizer on both sides. Place in a zip-lock bag with 2 heaping tbs. Laoganma black bean chili sauce, 2 tbs. lime juice and 4 large cloves garlic, crushed in a press. Season with a bit of Kosher salt, seal tightly and ensure all surfaces of the meat are covered. Refrigerate, rotating ocassionally.
Charring the shallot and ginger: Place in a heavy cast-iron pot or fry pan (not enameled) and evenly char with a propane torch. Remove and set the shallot and ginger aside to cool. Then slice.
Preparing the soup stock: Set a heavy, cast-iron or enameled iron pot over medium-low heat and add the coriander seed. Stir until it just starts to toast, then add the bacon fat, sliced shallot and ginger. Continue stirring until slightly browned. Add the cinnamon stick, whole cloves and beef stock. Stir and bring to a rolling boil. Add the hot water, fish sauce, beef base and brown sugar. Cook at a rolling simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take off the heat and carefully strain out the solids in a colander. Discard the solids and return the stock back to the pot.
Preparing the flank steak: Time an outdoor charcoal fire so the steak will be done with the stock. Level the coals and place the steak over direct heat and sear about three minutes per side, until charred but medium rare. Remove and let rest for five minutes. Cut into 1/4″ strips at a bias, across the grain so it remains tender. Reserve covered.
Prepare the rice vermicelli according to package directions, boiling for about 7-8 minutes. Drain off the water and divide the noodles between bowls. The noodles should also be timed so they are done when the stock is done.
Pour a generous amount of stock over each bowl of noodles and top with the seared flank steak, green onion, Thai basil, green chili and cilantro. Squeeze in a bit of lime juice and serve immediately with hot chili garlic sauce, Sriracha and soy sauce on the side.
Serves 2-3. Chopsticks and Asian soup spoons are a must with this recipe.
NOTE: If the steak is a bit undercooked and bloody when slicing, do not worry. Adding the hot stock over the top will cook it through in less than a minute.