If you’ve never had pho, you’re missing out. Slippery, thin rice noodles, flavourful meat, savoury stock and a bunch of fresh herbs make a bowl of pho something to covet when you’re looking for something filling, yet light. It’s simple enough to head out to a Vietnamese restaurant for a quick bowl, but if you’re looking for a particularly morish bowl of noodles, you should make the stock yourself. Yes, it’s a two day process, but this stock is like all good things: all the more sweet because it was worth the wait.
This recipe uses oxtails to create a rich, deep, luxurious stock. Most pho recipes call for leg bones, but I went for all oxtails. I can’t say if there’s a difference between using leg bones or oxtails because I haven’t tried it myself, but the oxtail-only broth was some of the most intensely beef-y broth I’ve had.
Even though this recipe is time consuming, it’s mostly hands off. You might be tempted to skip out on hard boiling the bones the first time around, but it’s an important step that results in a clear soup. Don’t forget to char your aromatics as well, it lends a complexity to your soup that you won’t get if you just pop in raw onions and ginger. This pho takes a bit of effort, but at the end of it all you’ll have a giant bowl of noodles swimming in beefy deliciousness. Oh, and hoisin and sriracha are a must!
Oxtail Pho Recipe
yields: two giant bowls of pho, or four regular size ones
- 2 pounds oxtail
- 5 quarts water
- 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 1 small daikon, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 2 onions, halved
- 1 3-4 inch chunk of ginger
- 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 4 whole star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
- pho noodles
- sliced green onions
- roughly chopped cilantro
- red chilis
- Thai basil
- lime wedges
- hoisin sauce
Toast your ginger and onions in the oven on broil until the onions are sweaty everything is nicely charred. Peel the ginger and onions and set aside until you’re ready to start your broth.
Toast the coriander seeds, cloves, and star anise in a dry pan on low heat until they are aromatic, about 2-3 minutes. Tie the spices up in cheesecloth for easy removal from your soup.
Put your oxtail pieces in a large pot with cold water and bring to a hard boil for 5-10 minutes to force the scum and impurities out. Drain, rinse the oxtails and wash your pot.
Fill your clean pot with about 5 quarts of water and add the oxtail, ginger, onions, and spice packet. Bring to a boil and lower to a very gentle simmer. Simmer for as long as you can; reducing it will intensify the flavour. I let my broth simmer for about 4 hours until the water reduced to 3 quarts. At this point take out the oxtails and set aside. Remove everything else from the stock and discard. Strain the stock into a new clean pot and cool before putting in the fridge overnight.
Remove the meat from the oxtails and discard the bones. Shred the meat, cover and put in the fridge for the next day.
The next day a large amount of fat will have coagulated on the top of your stock. Skim and discard. Gently heat the stock up and season with fish sauce and sugar. Add the sugar and fish sauce in increments until you’re happy with the flavour. Bring the stock to a roiling boil.
Prepare your noodles according to the package, strain and place in a large bowl. Add a generous amount of oxtail meat (the stock will heat the meat up), top with broth, and garnishes. Enjoy!