Several years ago I had the pleasure of having a Vietnamese roommate for a little while. In the short window of time we had together she taught me how to make pho. At the time, I’d never had pho before. The warm comfort of the soup and the freshness of the heap of condiments on top made me instantly fall in love with it. In Holland, where I’m from and was living at the time, pho is not nearly as ubiquitous as it is in Vancouver, so imagine my surprise when I move to Vancouver six months later, and pho is available on nearly every street corner. Making the broth really isn’t as hard as it seems. As with any stock, it just needs patience. So make a big batch, and freeze.
• 1 onion
• 2-in. piece ginger
• 3 pounds beef soup bones (marrow and knuckle bones)
• 3 star anise
• 3 whole cloves
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 3 tbsp fish sauce
• 1-in. chunk yellow rock sugar
• Salt to taste
1. To ensure a clear stock, make sure to parboil the bones. Place bones in pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 5 minutes. This draws any impurities out of the bones that may cloud your stock. Drain and rinse the bones and the pot before returning them to the stove.
2. To give the stock its signature deep flavour, char the onion and the ginger. This can be done on the grill, on a cooling rack over a gas stove, or under the broiler in your oven. Keep an eye on them, they should be blackened but not shrivelled.
3. Place the charred onion and ginger, together with star anise, cinnamon and cloves, in the pot and fill with about 4 litres of cold water.
4. Bring the pot to a boil and turn down to a low simmer. Leave to simmer for about 3 hours, skim foam off top whenever necessary. For a clear stock, don’t stir the ingredients and don’t let it boil.
5. After three hours, turn off the heat and use a ladle to skim as much fat from the top as you like. Cool it and refrigerate it overnight to make this task easier.