Two of my favorite Vietnamese dishes are Mien Ga (chicken and glass noodle soup) and Pho Bo (Noodle Soup with beef and greens). As you can notice, the Vietnamese are famous for their soups, sold from road-side stands. People sit in miniature plastic chairs, as if they are ready to play at a child’s “tea party” and slurp down their noodles. Sometimes, fried, soft breadsticks are served to soak up the broth and there is always a plate of fresh herbs and greens to throw into the bowl for additional flavoring.
Pho Bo (pronounced Fuh-Bo)
This is the authentic way to make the broth. For a quick recipe, just use beef bullion.
- 5 pounds beef knuckle, with meat
- 2 pounds beef oxtail
- 1 white (daikon) radish, sliced
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 ounces whole star anise pods
- 1/2 cinnamon stick
- 2 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 slice fresh ginger root
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 1/2 pounds dried flat rice noodles
- 1/2 pound frozen beef sirloin
- sriracha hot pepper sauce
- hoisin sauce
- thinly sliced onion
- chopped fresh cilantro
- bean sprouts (mung beans)
- sweet Thai basil
- thinly sliced green onion
- limes, quartered
- Place the beef knuckle in a very large (9 quart or more) pot. Season with salt, and fill pot with 2 gallons of water. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 2 hours.
- Skim fat from the surface of the soup, and add the oxtail, radish and onions. Tie the anise pods, cinnamon stick, cloves, peppercorns and ginger in a cheesecloth or place in a spice bag; add to the soup. Stir in sugar, salt and fish sauce. Simmer over medium-low heat for at least 4 more hours (the longer, the better). At the end of cooking, taste, and add salt as needed. Strain broth, and return to the pot to keep at a simmer. Discard spices and bones. Reserve meat from the beef knuckle for other uses if desired.
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Soak the rice noodles in water for about 20 minutes, then cook in boiling water until soft, but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Slice the frozen beef paper thin. The meat must be thin enough to cook instantly when put into the broth, as seen in the photo.
- Place some noodles into each bowl, and top with a few raw beef slices. Ladle boiling broth over the beef and noodles in the bowl. Serve with hoisin sauce and sriracha sauce on the side. Set onion, cilantro, bean sprouts, basil, green onions, and lime out at the table for individuals to add toppings to their liking.
Mein Ga (pronounced Min Gah)
This soup is a great way to use left-over chicken.
- 2 (1.3 oz) bundles bean thread/ glass noodles
- 10 dried shitake mushrooms, or fresh
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1.5 teaspoons sugar
- 1.5 Tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
- About 1 cup packed shredded cooked chicken meat
- 2 green onions, sliced thinly
- About ¼ cup coarsely chopped cilantro sprigs
- 1 large lime, quartered
- 1 small green chile, minced, or dried red chile flakes to taste
1. Soak noodles in hot water to cover until soft, about 20 min. Drain thoroughly and snip several times with scissors to cut into shorter lengths (about 3 to 4 inches.) Soak the mushrooms in hot water to cover until soft, about 15 minutes (if using the dried variety.) Rinse to remove any grit, squeeze dry and snip into bite sized strips, discarding tough stems.
2. Bring the stock to a boil. Stir in sugar, fish sauce, noodles, mushrooms, and salt to taste. Simmer a few minutes to warm all ingredients. Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle shredded chicken over noodles and top with green onions and cilantro sprigs. Serve with lime wedges and chile on the side. Bread sticks made a good side.