Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I've always loved Vietnamese food and when I moved to Chicago, I discovered that some of the best was just a short ride away on the Red Line to Argyle Street.

Argyle Street is filled with Vietnamese restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores. It’s one of my favorite places to go when I want to remind myself why I moved to Chicago in the first place.

On any given Saturday afternoon, well dressed Vietnamese twenty somethings sip pho while Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian and Chinese bargain hunters wander through markets overloaded with huge bags of Asian vegetables, fish and rice. Close your eyes and you’ll swear you’re in Saigon.

When I shopped here on Saturday morning, I got a gigantic bag of vegetables, peppers and spices for under $6 and what I loved even more was that everything was super fresh.

Since spring is nowhere to be found these days, this soup is the perfect dish for warming up with yet another snow storm on the way.

Gotta love Chicago...

Bon Appetit!

Beef Pho
Slightly modified from Serious Eats

2 onions, split in half
1 large piece of ginger split in half
3 pounds beef with the shin
2 pounds oxtail, cut into 1-inch thick slices
1 pound boneless beef chuck
1 pound beef brisket
3 whole star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 cloves
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
Kosher salt

For serving:
6 to 8 servings pho noodles
1 pound beef flank steak, sliced thinly against the grain
2 cups herbs - cilantro, basil, and mint
2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
Sliced Thai chilies
2 limes, each cut into 4 wedges
Hoisin sauce and/or Sriracha

Place a grill grate over the flame of a gas burner set on high.

Place onions and ginger on top and cook, turning occasionally, until deeply blackened on all sides, about 10-12 minutes total or adjust rack to 3 to 4 inches from broiler and preheat to high. Place onions and ginger on a foil-lined tray. Broil, turning occasionally, until charred on all surfaces, about 25 minutes total. Set aside.

Meanwhile, combine beef shins, oxtail, chuck, and brisket in a large stockpot. Cover with cool water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 20 minutes, then dump water and meat. When cool enough, rinse under cool running tap water, carefully scrubbing debris off any bones then return them to the pot. Cover with cool water.

Add charred onions, ginger, anise, cinnamon, fennel, cloves, coriander, fish sauce, sugar, and 1 tablespoon salt and pepper. 

Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook, skimming occasionally, until brisket and chuck are tender, about 1 - 1 1/2 hours. 

Transfer brisket and chuck to a small bowl and cover with cold water. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Continue simmering broth for another 4 hours, adding water if necessary. 

Strain broth through a mesh strainer. If desired, pick meat and connective tissue from oxtails and beef shins. Discard bones and aromatics. You will end up with 4 quarts broth. Keep hot.

Skim the fat off of surface of broth and discard. 

Season broth to taste with additional fish sauce, salt, and/or sugar.  

Prepare pho noodles according to package directions. To serve the noodles, place  them re-hydrated in individual noodle bowls. Pour piping hot broth over noodles. 

Serve immediately. Have guests top with slices of raw flank steak (which will cook instantly when it hits the broth) , fresh herbs, aromatics, lime, and sauce.