Sunday, December 13, 2009

Crock Pot Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

While dining at Little Fat Sheep - Monterey Park recently, lil' sis' best friend whined, "Chi (older sister in Vietnamese), when are you going to make me pho?"

Crock Pot Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) 1

Feeling guilty since they've been friends for more than four years, and since he's pretty much a fixture, I agreed to cook pho for him and a few friends. Then, right afterward, I remembered I had made pho for him more than two years ago, when I originally blogged my pho recipe. And made Sinh To Bo (Vietnamese Avocado Shake) afterward since he had never had any before.

Lil' sis said I was such a sucker, but I figured it would give me a chance to revamp the recipe.

My Crock Pot philosophy (not that anyone necessarily needs one for the Crock Pot) is that when I cook with it, I want a recipe in which I can dump in ingredients and then forget about it until it's time to eat.

While I normally use beef marrow bones, parboil the bones to remove excess impurities, simmer for hours, refrigerate to remove excess fat, and then simmer again, I wanted to cut out all those steps. So I used less fatty, but more expensive oxtails. I also skipped charring any of the spices. I dumped everything into the Crock Pot and went to work. When I walked in the door later that evening, the best beefy, spicy scent filled the air. Now, I understood the appeal of Crock Pot cooking!

After nearly 8 hours of simmering, the broth was wonderfully flavorful, yet clear, redolent with the scent of cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. I don't cook with MSG, a shortcut many restaurants use for flavor. Knowing that, my guests literally drank every last drop of the broth. The most work was prepping all of the garnishes before eating.

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Crock Pot Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)
Adapted from my recipe for Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

For a 4.5-quart Crock Pot, which makes about 6 servings, you'll need:

1 to 1 1/2 lb oxtails (If that's too expensive, substitute with short ribs.)
1/2-lb eye of round beef slices (These are sold in Asian grocery stores already pre-sliced. If not, ask your butcher to slice them deli thin. Or use whatever meat you have on hand and slice it as thin as possible.)
1 package of Banh Pho (Vietnamese Flat Thin Rice Noodles). (If you buy them fresh, in Vietnamese it'll say "banh pho tuoi." Fresh noodles only need to be immersed for a few seconds very quickly in boiling water to soften.)
A dozen cloves, studded into an onion
1 stick of cinnamon
About 5 star anise pods
1 tsp coriander seeds
A 2-inch knob of ginger
About 4 cloves of garlic
1 carrot, cut into several sections
2 tblsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce), or more according to taste
2 tsp salt, or more according to taste

Optional: 3 cardamom pods. 1 small package of beef meat balls or beef tendon meat balls, book tripe, flank steak, any other meat parts you wish.

For serving:
Cilantro, finely chopped
Scallions, finely chopped
Half an onion, thinly sliced
Bean sprouts
Thai basil
Limes, sliced in quarters
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha chili sauce
Sliced chilies, bird's eye or jalapenos
Ngo gai (Vietnamese sawtooth herb)

I use a mesh ball to place my spices inside. Afterward, I just pull the ball out and dump the spices. Use a cheesecloth if you don't have one. Below you see cloves, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, ginger, clove-studded onion, star anise, and cinnamon.

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Wash and rinse 1 lb of oxtails. Add to Crock Pot. Add in the mesh ball of spices, clove-studded onion, ginger, and garlic.

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Fill the pot with water. Oops, forgot the carrot so I added that too. Also, add about 2 tsp salt and 2 tblsp fish sauce. Cover and let simmer on high for at least 6 hours.

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When I got home from work, I could smell the spices, but how did it taste? A little bland, so I added in a little more fish sauce.

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Remove the onion, carrots, ginger, garlic, and spice ball. Then using my skimming spoon, I removed as much of the impurities on top as I could. The fine mesh also grabs excess fat.

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Taste, add salt or fish sauce if needed. Clear broth and the oxtails were incredibly tender at this point.

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Added in some beef tendon meatballs. Then cover again and let simmer while I prepared the garnishes.

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Eye of round beef. Slice as thin as you can. If you need to, freeze the beef for about 15 minutes to firm up for ease.

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I didn't have room in my freezer and actually don't mind slightly thicker slices. My guests thought I was serving them filet mignon pho. Ha! I can't afford that!

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Boil a pot of noodles. Read my primer on banh pho noodles if you don't know the difference. Dried noodles on the left, fresh noodles on the right.

Banh Pho (Vietnamese Flat Thin Rice Noodles) 3

Huy Fong's Sriracha and hoisin sauces. The plate in the back is filled with bean sprouts, sawtooth herb, and Thai basil. On the left front are lemon wedges and jalapenos. Ordinarily, I would use limes, but my youngest uncle has a Meyer lemon tree so free lemons! On the right front are thinly sliced onions, cilantro, and scallions.

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Add noodles, oxtail, and broth into each bowl. Then let guests garnish as they wish.

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Dinner's around 7:30, I told lil' sis' best friend earlier that day.

"Can I come earlier?" he asked. "Sorry, I forgot about tonight and I made plans."

What? He guilt-tripped me into making homemade pho and he made other plaaans?!!

"Don't be mad. I didn't mean to forget..."

Of course, I got mad, as I harrumphed on twitter. Wouldn't you? Too afraid to face my wrath if he didn't come (Actually, because his other plans fell through.), he showed up for dinner and brought some of his mom's Chinese Spare Ribs with Coca Cola and Soy Sauce as a peace offering. He said he was afraid I'd never cook for him again. Darn right I wouldn't have!

I also made fresh Cha Gio (Vietnamese Egg Rolls) for dinner, which lil' sis' other friend helped roll for the first time. I've never seen anyone so excited to roll egg rolls. :)

Crispy fried egg rolls and a warm bowl of pho on a cold evening. Perfection!

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Enjoy!

Other Crock Pot recipes you might like:
Crock Pot Bo Kho (Vietnamese Beef Stew)

*****
1 year ago today, Ca Ri Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Curry) Pot Pie.
2 years ago today, banh xeo-ish pajeon? Or pajeon-ish banh xeo? (Vietnamese Crepe-ish Korean pancake? Or Korean pancake-ish Vietnamese crepe?)

43 comments:

  1. Ha! Last weekend was a pho weekend for me, too and I checked in on your recipe to make my pho (not in a crock pot and therefore requiring some supervision on my part).

    Your pho looks yummier than mine, though ... (no surprise, really!)

    - Oanh

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  2. Wow, that looks pretty easy. I want to convince my mother to try this, but her crock pot seems smaller (maybe 4 qt?). How large is yours?

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  3. i never thought about using the crocker for pho, but i've never made pho either. your version looks yummo.

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  4. I just made pho the other day, but there's no reason not to make it again! In a crockpot! And you are right to be indignant about the guy not showing up.

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  5. I looove hosting pho parties! Either for my friends or family, I just can't get enough of it. It also helps that I'm addicted to pho. Heh. Instead of making spring rolls though, we make summer rolls because it's quicker to make. Don't you agree that homemade pho is better than the sugary, msg-laced stuff you get at pho joints? I refused to believe my parents at first, but that was after I started making it at home. Yum!!

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  6. I miss Pho Bo soooo much. So hard to find tasty ones in Singapore, they aren't really authentic and overpriced. Your home made version made me so hungry ;p

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  7. Hi WC, this post is giving me a reason to to finally go get a crock pot! I guess I'll be getting the seven quart after all, haha. I love ngo gai in my pho btw!

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  8. OMG...that looks delish! I've never thought about making pho in a crock pot before--that would definitely reduce the cooking/supervising time and I won't have to save the pho cravings for just the weekends ^_^

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  9. Fantastic! I will definitely be trying this, as I've had mixed success with doing phở the standard way, and it is very time consuming, not a weekday meal for a single, working dad and son. This may make phở a more common meal in our home! Thanks.

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  10. This looks fantastic! What if I don't have 6 people to feed all at once? I guess maybe I just make the broth but only 2 people worth of noodles, and fix up just 2 bowls ...

    do you suppose the broth would freeze OK?

    Yum yum yum.

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  11. Oanh,
    You weren't photographing your pho so as long as it tastes good, that's all that matters. :)

    Phuong,
    I say very clearly in the recipe that it's a 4-quart Crock Pot.

    DD,
    It's quite easy as long as you know the basic principles of the broth. Slow simmer is best anyway.

    Nikki,
    Oh he showed up. He just forgot. He didn't dare not show up. :P

    Christine,
    I have separate salad roll parties where everyone rolls their own. :P

    Wiffy,
    Easy enough to make your own! My cousin really missed VNese food when she was studying abroad in Singapore.

    Dennis,
    7 quart! All for yourself? You'll be eating that for days!

    Doris,
    That was my intention. Making it easier for everyone to juggle with work and cooking time.

    Jonathan,
    Let me know how it goes!

    Lauren,
    Broth is easy to freeze. Just broth. Don't freeze the noodles or anything. Although, you might end up wanting another bowl for your next meal...

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  12. i don't have whole corriander seeds, will ground corriader be good? the mesh ball of spices, mine is very small can i do without it? no cheese cloth either.

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  13. Oops, sorry I missed that. I guess I was so enticed by the pictures that I didn't see that part :(

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  14. I'm bookmarking this - I'm going to definitely make it this winter! Yum! I love my crock pot! :)

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  15. Bianca,
    You can skip the coriander seeds entirely and it'll be just fine. You can go without the mesh ball or cheesecloth if you don't mind loose spices. Or strain through a sieve or colander before serving.

    Phuong,
    Apologies. I get annoyed when people ask me questions that are already answered in the recipe.

    Caroline,
    I'm really liking my Crock Pot too. Am brainstorming more ways to use it.

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  16. see, i bought ingredients today to make pho sometime next weekend. but then i see this easy recipe to just dump stuff in the crockpot and i'm torn between being a proper vietnamese girl and attempting to make pho the long and right way or being me with a fulltime job of being lazy and doing it this way. you kill me chi wc!

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  17. I have guests coming in to town tomorrow for the long weekend, after a 12 hour drive. This might be just the thing to have waiting in the crock pot. It looks beautiful, and I think I can get everything I need down the hill at A-1 Grocery Warehouse.

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  18. Lan,
    Seriously, just splurge on oxtails and it's so much easier than all the cleaning and reboiling of marrow bones. This is proper! It's Vietnamese American proper!

    Liz,
    Did you do it? I wanna know how it turned out.

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  19. Wow that's an awesome recipe! I'm in DC and just sooooo busy, so making Pho has become a once in a while weekend thing. I'm really excited to try making Pho in a crock pot and let it cook all day while I'm at work and then come home an enjoy! I made Pho today for a couple people. I just posted a post on my blog.

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  20. This recipe is amazing. Do you have a pho ga recipe for the crockpot too??

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  21. Vynuss,
    I don't know why it took me so long to think of it. Low and slow, right? I need to make it again because seriously, after a long day at work, walking in the door to the smell of pho was amazing!

    Thu,
    Thanks! I haven't yet. I'm a little worried about whether cooking for so long will make the chicken mushy. I'll probably try at some point, but for now, you can look at my regular pho ga recipe for pointers.

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  22. I made this broth overnight last night (went to two stores to find oxtails). The great thing about winter Up North is that you can strain your soup stock and set it outside in a covered container to chill all day while you're at work and let the fat solidify.

    I ventured into the Asian grocery in my neighborhood and they had fresh rice noodles and beef tendon meatballs (who knew???).

    Put it all together when I got home tonight and had a delicious dinner in minutes. I have two more servings of broth in the freezer and one more in the fridge.

    Thanks for this great recipe!! I never thought I could make pho, and look! I did!

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  23. Jeanny,
    Aww, that's wonderful to hear! When I'm not rushed, I do prefer to let the fat congeal so I can remove the excess layer as well. Was that your first time visiting your local Asian grocery store? It can be intimidating if you don't know exactly what to get. Great job and thanks for letting me know!

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  24. Hi, been lurking around your site for a while and was really excited to see a crock pot recipe. (there aren't too many asian crockpot recipes out there). Finally got around to trying it out the other day and it's absolutely scrumptious! Both my husband and I are just thrilled that the flavor is just like stopping at a local pho place. Thanks for the awesome recipe!

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  25. Hello, I just found this recipe. I was wondering if you had any advice on how to use brisket for Pho. I remember eating it once and I have some brisket in the freezer waiting to be eaten.

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  26. Liz,
    Awesome! I always love hearing when my recipe turns out well. :)

    MMV,
    You know, I'm really not a fan of brisket in pho. But I would say to slice it and put it in the pot to cook. Maybe about 15 minutes before serving, enough to fully cook the brisket, but not enough to make it tough and chewy.

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  27. WC,

    I made Crockpot Pho yesterday and it was amazing. First time using a crockpot and I can already see myself drawn to it. I preferred my soup a tad sweeter so I added two small pieces of yellow rock sugar about an hour before serving and it balanced the taste better for me. Overall and excellent recipe and idea. I am dying to try your crock pot bo kho. We need more crockpot ideas...life in simplicity...it's brilliant!

    Steve

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  28. Steve,
    Awesome! Yeah, I don't add much sugar to my cooking as I think most things are too sweet for me. But that's what cooking is all about, adjusting to suit your tastebuds.

    The Crock Pot Bo Kho has been pretty popular too. I also have to blog my Crock Pot Ca Ri Ga and Crock Pot Bun Bo Hue recipes! So you have two others to look forward to.

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  29. Awesome! I am so glad you have this blog going. I will have to share some of my own recipes instead of just mooching off you :)

    Steve

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  30. Steve,
    I always appreciate the feedback. Best way you can thank me. :)

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  31. Thanks so much for the recipe; I'm making it for a friend who's never had pho (a staple in my family) and I'm quite excited to see what she thinks.

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  32. I am a college student and I really want to try this. When you say cloves, is that garlic cloves? Sounds like a silly question, I know.

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  33. Thanks for your food blog again! I made your recipe last night in my 7 quart slow cooker because I found packages of beef oxtail at Costco over the weekend. My roommate woke up and said, "It smells like a restaurant." Not sure if that's good or bad. ;)

    I had the same issue of the broth being bland at first, so I added more salt & fish sauce. But the final product with noodles, meat, veggies tasted just fine.

    Do you think the quality/flavor of the fish sauce has a significant impact on the overall taste (versus the combination of spices?)

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  34. Gwen,
    Well, I do have garlic in the recipe, but in this case, the cloves being referred to are a spice. They're the spices I jabbed into the onion.

    Squirrel,
    It depends on what brand of fish sauce you use since they do have different levels of saltiness. And our individual taste buds too, of course. Also, I made this in my 5-quart slow cooker, so 2 quart difference does mean more salt and fish sauce is needed. I think all of the ingredients together impact the taste. :) So not just savoriness at the end with the salt and fish sauce, but also the correct combination of spices result in the nuances that make a good pho broth.

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  35. Just curious...does it taste just like normal pho.....I feel like its too good to be true!! Hahaahhaaha I love my crock pot and if I can make pho in it....oh boy my husbands gonna love me so much lol!

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  36. Radish Girl,
    Of course it does. I wouldn't have posted if it didn't. Same principle: low and slow.

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  37. this may be a silly question, but the eye of round looks like it was raw and added at the end? is that correct? or is it meant to be cooked in the crock pot?

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  38. I was wondering the same thing... is the meat eaten raw? Thanks! The pics looks delicious!

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  39. Allison and Pink Terrier,
    Yup. The heat from the broth will cook the beef when you add it to the bowl. That's why you should slice the eye of round as thinly as possible. If you want your beef to be completely cooked before assembling the bowl, feel free to add the beef slices into the Crock Pot. I think that tends to overcook the meat though. It's like eating a steak medium rare, if you have good quality beef, you don't want it overcooked.

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  40. That makes a lot of sense. Thanks!

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  41. I'm a little late to the game here, but thank you for posting this! I recently moved from Minneapolis to North Florida (from an easily bus-accessible Viet neighborhood to an hour drive to the nearest place) and have been craving pho like nobody's business ever since. I saw oxtail on sale at the local grocery, and I'm going to pick some up tomorrow and give it a whirl! Thanks again!

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  42. Pink Terrier,
    Yup. Happy to help.

    Melissa,
    An hour's drive for Vietnamese food! I guess at least it's within driving distance? I remember in college hearing that people drove from four hours away to Chicago just to stock up on groceries like fish sauce.

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