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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Pho-Vietnamese Noodle Soup

Have you ever loved a dish so much, you felt is if it was a part of your family's history and therefore a part of you? This is how I feel about pho. I made it for lunch today as Demetrio went on a daytrip to go cart racing in San Remo. As much as I love my DH (dear husband) I knew he could never fully appreciate the time and authenticity of my mom's pho recipe; plus he's not a big broth/soup eater. Instead I invited 2 people over for lunch who I knew would gush over some really good Vietnamese food, my new friend Sharon, who is Chinese and from Singapore and her French husband. Both love all Asian cuisines and enjoyed the dish almost as much as I did.

As a child, I help my mom in the kitchen constantly and I think I have been learning to make pho since I was about 10 years old. My dad, my sisters and I used to have pho contests, in which we would all season our soups in our own special way, then we'd taste all the other soups and decide whose tasted best. My dad's was always on the oily side, mine on the sweet side and my sisters' on the either salty or sour side. Who would not feel comforted my a big, steaming hot bowl of rice noodles in a fragrant broth? To read more about the history of Pho, click here.

My Mom's Pho Recipe

4-6 pounds of oxtail and/or beef soup bones
2 onions, medium
2 pieces of ginger, the size of your thumb
5 pieces of star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
5 cloves

Rice noodles or rice sticks


sliced onions
chopped cilantro
chili peppers
Thai basil
lime wedges
mint leaves
hoisin sauce
chili paste
fish sauce
thinly sliced flank steak or sirloin-freeze slightly until firm enough to slice paper thin
green onions
bean sprouts

1. Char the ginger, onion, and cinnamon over a flame or on the your stove top until they are blackened all over.

2. Cool the ginger, onion and cinnamon. Peel off the outer layers of the onion and place in the stock pot, rinse the ginger under running water and place it along with the cinnamon and cloves into the stock pot. Add the rinsed beef bones/oxtail and just cover with water. Bring to a boil. Once the soup starts to boil, skim the impurities from the stock. Add several tablespoons of fish sauce and palm sugar or rock sugar (my mom did not) to the soup and let simmer until the oxtails have become very soft. Upwards of two hours.

3. Remove the oxtails from the soup and set aside, discard all other bones and strain soup. Once the soup is clarified, trim fat off the oxtails and add them back to the soup. Keep warm while you prepare the garnishes.

4. After all the garnishes are prepared. Cook the rice sticks according to the package directions; remember to keep the noodles chewy. Drain the noodles and put into large soup bowls. Carefully place thinly sliced beef on top of the noodles, ladle the hot broth along with 1-2 oxtails per bowl. The hot broth will cook the thin slices of beef. Serve immediately with all the garnishes.

Charred pieces of ginger, garlic, star anise and cinnamon.

Oxtails, waiting to be cooked.

The finished soup. A wonderful dish for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I crave it when the weather turns cold and it's my "chicken soup" when I have a cold.

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At 8:35 PM, Blogger A Novelist said...

Your Pho recipe looks so delicious with all of the rich ingredients. A friend of mine who was from Hawaii made it for me years ago, but it didn't look as good as this. I would love to try and make this comforting dish. Hopefully it turns out as good as yours looks. :)

At 9:56 PM, Anonymous Meredith said...

Hi Gina! I love your blog. I recently made the pork chop with garam masala recipe that you posted, and it was great. I love pho, and I hope to test out your recipe sometime this week (seeing the pictures actually motivated me to go out and have some pho for dinner tonight!). I have a question, however: the beef that you slice paper thin, how do you cook this? I don't believe that your recipe mentions this step. Thanks :)

At 11:39 PM, Blogger H. (aka. NC_State_Gal) said...

Yummy...I love pho. In fact, I was craving pho last night :), so this was a very coincidental post.

At 12:24 AM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

I edited my post but the reason why you want the meat paper thin is so it will be cooked on contact with the hot broth. So when you layer it on top of the noodles, do so in a thin layer. This soup is a cinch to make. All the work is in the preparing of the garnishes.
As you can imagine, I cannot go to my regular grocery store to get cilantro or even ginger here and it is quite a bit of work for me but of course all worth it. It is cloudy today in Torino and I still have all the fixings. I think I might take the time to make it again.

At 7:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love pho. and the pictures are great.
I think I'll try this recipe soon

At 12:26 PM, Blogger american girl in italy said...

That seems like an awful lot of work pho soup. hehe

Get it... pho - for... heheeh I know, I am a dork.

Franco is in the kitchen right now, making me homemade tiramisu for tomorrow! YUM!

Your pho looks yummy.

At 4:00 PM, Blogger L said...

Ah, we just had this yesterday. It is a perfect meal for a cold, rainy day.

At 8:46 AM, Blogger verniciousknids said...

Yum yum yum...I love pho too :D

Is it difficult to buy ginger in Italy? That surprised me!

At 1:59 PM, Blogger Sara said...

Did you make Dad's "Wake Up" for the pho? Also, I don't remember Mom or Dad charing the ginger or star anise, though I was rather kitchen-stupid back then.

Everyone always thought I flavored my pho so it tasted like fish water. Sour's the way to go!

At 2:05 PM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

Please little sister, yes ask mom there was ginger, star anise and onion. Mom did not use cloves but dad uses cinnamon. I was 10 when I started making it and that means you were 4.

I did not make dad's "wake-up" since I was not sure how my tummy would react to the hot sauce.

At 6:23 AM, Blogger S* said...

Yums... I drool at the memory. It was the yummiest soup I ever tasted this side of Vietnam. Thanks a million times again for making that !


At 8:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You KNOW I LOVE ox tails!

I wish I could taste your dish! ;-))


At 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You sound like you are having fun in Italy.

I was searching Google for Pho pictures and came across your blog. I am making a vegan (strict vegetarian) Pho using seitan and was looking for ideas. I like your vegetable and final soup pictures. I am sure your mom is proud ;)

At 9:46 AM, Anonymous Stephen said...

oh my god.This post is very important for me.I'm a Vietnamese,and I'm studying in UK.Last week,my teacher gave us a homework about :"how to make your traditional food",that's why I have to search Pho in google.thanks so much.

At 3:47 AM, Anonymous willyumgoong said...

Thank you so much for the recipe!! This will be my first homemade pho and Im so happy that you shared your knowledge and passion through this recipe, I found some oxtail today and can't wait to try start charring my spices. Thanks again. : D

At 10:29 AM, Anonymous contactos en valencia said...

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