Holidays to me are all about indulgence: doing, eating and drinking what you fancy. So I was stunned, when after returning home from Vietnam, I realised that I had somehow managed to have a detox holiday without even noticing.
How so I hear you say? Well, Vietnamese food is incredibly delicious but also stupidly healthy, and rarely does any dish have added fats. Even more wonderful is that the Vietnamese serve fresh beer, which is brewed daily, and contains no preservatives. So I stuffed my face and drank like a sailor and came home feeling great.
So I’m all about Vietnamese food now. Of course last year when I got back from Greece I swore I would only ever eat Greek food, so this maybe one of my trade-mark whims. Still, there’s no denying that Vietnamese food is amazing.
Vietnamese food appears similar to Thai and Chinese, but there are subtle differences. It tends to be spiced differently with fresh vegetables and herbs enhancing the flavour. With its fresh, subtle and delicate flavours, it’s the perfect summer bite and also a really cheap option. All the ingredients are available in Asian markets and most supermarkets. I will be posting a few of my favourite dishes including fresh Spring Rolls and Crispy Pancakes but first up is Pho Bo.
Pho is a fragrant noodle soup commonly eaten for breakfast and considered Vietnam’s national dish. Preparations vary and the dish can be served with beef or chicken, but this recipe is for Pho Bo (Pho with rare beef). The success of this dish depends on the full-flavoured stock and even though it takes a long time to cook, it can be made in advance and frozen and is well worth the effort. Your butcher can help you with beef bones.
This recipe comes from “South East Asian Food’ by Rosemary Brissenden which is a great book that covers dishes from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. It’s a dinner party recipe or fancy weekend dish, rather than something you’d whip up midweek, but it’s a real treat! The recipe serves 8-10.
- 1kg (2lb) beef bones, sawn up for soup
- 4-5 litres water
- 2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, bruised with a clever
- 2 brown onions, unpeeled
- 2 small carrots
- Salt to taste
- 4 whole star anise
- 1 whole cinnamon stick
- 2 cardamom pods, broken open
- 8 cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
- 250g beef tendon
- 500g piece beef chuck, trimmed of fat
- 500g fillet steak
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2x 375g packets dried rice sticks (thick rice noodles)
- 50g cooked beef tripe, sliced finely (optional)
- 1/2 cup chopped spring onions
- 350g beansprouts
- Coriander and sweet basil leaves
- Chillies, sliced into rounds
- Lime wedge
1. Wash the bones to remove loose bits, put them in a large saucepan, cover well with cold water and bring to the boil. Boil until the water becomes frothy then tip the water out and wash the bones again and also the saucepan to achieve a clear stock. Put the bones back into the saucepan and add 4-5 litres of water. Grill the ginger and the onion until brown on the outside. Add the ginger, the onions, the carrots and salt to taste to the stock and bring to the boil. Break the star anise and cinnamon roughly and add them along with the cardamoms, cloves and peppercorns. Drop in the beef tendon and the chuck, lower the heat and simmer everything gently for 3 hours.
2. Remove the stewing beef and tendon from the stock, slice the meat into thin slices and cut the tendon into chunks. Slice the raw fillet into paper-thin slices and keep this separate. Add fish sauce and sugar to the stock to taste.
3. Meanwhile prepare the rice sticks (rice noodles) by soaking them in cold water for 30 minutes. Boil water in a saucepan. Drain the rice sticks (rice noodles) and dip them in the boiling water for a minute to soften (no more). Drain and rinse under cold water then place a sufficient amount in soup bowls. Put a little cooked beef, beef tripe and tendon on top, then some slices of raw beef. Strain boiling stock (liquid only) on top of this, garnish with spring onion. Have on the table a plate of washed beansprouts together with the fresh herbs, the chillies, some lime wedges and some fish sauce. Diners allow the raw meat to poach in the soup and then stir in the bean sprouts, herbs and other flavourings to taste before eating.