Noodle soups are a way of life in Vietnam and pho (pronounced fur) is the most well known of these soups. Vietnamese people eat pho at any time of the day—breakfast, lunch or dinner. The aromatic accompaniment of fresh herbs gives the pho a fragrance that typifies Vietnamese cuisine, while the extra seasonings on the side allow each diner to create a tailor-made pho. The soup is originally from the North but is now a classic throughout Vietnam.
2 litres (64 fl oz) good-quality beef stock
1 star anise
1 × 4 cm (½ × 1½ inch) piece fresh ginger, sliced
2 pigs' trotters (ask your butcher to cut in half)
1/2 onion, studded with 2 cloves
2 stems lemon grass, bruised
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 tablespoon fish sauce, plus extra to serve
200 g (6½ oz) fresh thin round rice noodles
300 g (10 oz) beef fillet, partially frozen, thinly sliced
1 cup (90 g/3 oz) bean sprouts, tailed
2 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup (25 g/¾ oz) chopped fresh coriander leaves, plus extra to serve
4 tablespoons chopped fresh Vietnamese
mint, plus extra to serve
1 fresh red chilli, thinly sliced, plus extra to serve
2 limes, cut into quarters
1. Put the beef stock, star anise, ginger, pigs' trotters, onion, lemon grass, garlic and white pepper in a wok and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Strain, return to the wok and stir in the fish sauce.
2. Meanwhile, put the noodles in a heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water and gently separate. Drain well, then refresh under cold running water.
3. Divide the noodles among four deep soup bowls, then top with beef strips, bean sprouts, spring onion, coriander, mint and chilli. Ladle on the broth.
4. Place the extra chilli, mint, coriander, lime quarters and fish sauce in small bowls on a platter, serve with the soup and allow your guests to help themselves.