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.
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.
Cilantro, finely chopped
Scallions, finely chopped
Half an onion, thinly sliced
Limes, sliced in quarters
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.
Wash and rinse 1 lb of oxtails. Add to Crock Pot. Add in the mesh ball of spices, clove-studded onion, ginger, and garlic.
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.
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.
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.
Taste, add salt or fish sauce if needed. Clear broth and the oxtails were incredibly tender at this point.
Added in some beef tendon meatballs. Then cover again and let simmer while I prepared the garnishes.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Add noodles, oxtail, and broth into each bowl. Then let guests garnish as they wish.
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!
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?)