“How do I love pho? Let me count the ways~”
In all seriousness, pho (pronounced like the “fa” in “fa-la-la”) is an amazing treat! This national dish of Vietnam consists of rice noodles and thinly sliced meat (typically fresh cuts of beef, but chicken and Vietnamese meatballs can also be used) served in a clear beef broth that’s been simmered for hours with loads of aromatic spices and topped with as much lime, fresh herbs, and different sauces as you like. The end result is a warm, hearty meal that can actually be really good for you!
Pho entered mainstream Vietnamese culture sometime within the 1910s, with the first English-language mention of the soup appearing in 1935. The origins of pho are hotly contested, with both the French and Cantonese claiming that they inspired the dish among the local Vietnamese people. (Personally, I see more ties to Cantonese cuisine than French, but that’s just me. 🤷🏻♀️)
When you’re making the broth, using whole spices is the best way to ensure that you’re getting the fullest flavor in your soup. (And honestly, it’s a lot easier to strain out whole spices to keep the broth clear.) If you’re having a hard time finding the whole spices, though, here are the conversion amounts:
- 3 cinnamon sticks=1 TBSP ground cinnamon
- 6 cloves=1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 5 star anise=2 1/2 tsp ground anise
- 1 TBSP coriander seeds=1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 3 cardamom pods=roughly 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
This version does substitute Texas-style barbecue brisket (thanks to a kind soul who gave my husband and me a huge slab of the good stuff!), and I find that the flavor of the brisket rub blends perfectly with the traditional spices already in pho. If you want to keep this traditional, though, start with raw brisket or ribeye that’s been sliced paper-thin. After that, the cooking process will be precisely the same.
Whether you go for traditional pho or a fusion version, you’re going to love this meal!
BBQ Brisket Pho
3 cinnamon sticks
5 star anise
1 TBSP whole coriander seeds
2-3 whole cardamom pods
1 2-inch piece ginger, sliced in half lengthwise
1 lb thin rice noodles
1 medium yellow onion, sliced into thin rings
1 lb smoked brisket, sliced thin
Toppings: lime wedges, basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, jalapeño slices, sriracha sauce, and hoisin sauce
Make a sachet bag with the cinnamon sticks, cloves, anise, coriander, cardamom, and ginger. Place the bag in a large stockpot, pour the broth over it, cover the pot, and bring up to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat. Cook for 3-4 hours.
Cook and drain the rice noodles according to the package instructions, and portion them evenly into soup bowls. Divide the brisket evenly among the bowls, placing the meat on top of the noodles.
Remove the lid on the stockpot, take out the sachet bag, and place the sliced onions in the pot. Raise the heat to medium, and cook for another 5 minutes. Pour the broth directly on top of the brisket and noodles. Serve with garnishes on the side.
Serves up to 6.