How to make pho like Luke Nguyen

Luke Nguyen dips into his family cookbook to bring you his favourite childhood meal – Vietnamese pho soup.

For high profile chef Luke Nguyen, the traditional Vietnamese pho holds a host of childhood memories. “One of my favourite dishes growing up, and I think for most Vietnamese kids, is pho,” says Luke. Of course, pho takes pride of place on the menu at Luke’s restaurant Fat Noodle at The Star Sydney and Treasury Brisbane.

“It’s one of our best-selling dishes at Fat Noodle in Sydney and Brisbane. The aromas waft through the whole room and the restaurant… people walking past the restaurant would go, ‘whoa’. It just draws people in.”

Luke has done the unthinkable – and shared his Vietnamese pho recipe for you to try at home. Set aside a few hours and try your hand at his family recipe this weekend.

Pho at Fat Noodle
Pho at Fat Noodle

Ingredients:

  • 1kg (4 lb 8 oz) oxtail (ask your butcher to chop it into 3cm pieces)
  • 1kg beef bones
  • 4 tablespoons salt
  • 1 unpeeled garlic bulb
  • 4 large unpeeled onions
  • 150g unpeeled ginger
  • 2kg beef brisket
  • 185ml (3/4 cup) fish sauce
  • 80g rock sugar
  • 1.6kg fresh rice noodles (you will need about 200 g per person)
  • 400g trimmed sirloin, thinly sliced
  • 4 spring onions (scallions), sliced
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Coriander (cilantro) sprigs
  • 1 cup of bean sprouts
  • 1 bunch Asian basil
  • 2 bird’s eye chillies, sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Spice pouch

  • ½ tablespoon coriander seeds
  • ½ tablespoon Sichuan pepper
  • ½ tablespoon cumin
  • ½ tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 5 whole star anise
  • 2 cassia bark or cinnamon, about 10 cm (4 inch) in length
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 40 cm (16 inch) square piece muslin cloth

Method:

  1. In a large pot, submerge the oxtail in cold water, add 3 tablespoons of the salt and soak for 1 hour, then drain.
  2. To make the spice pouch, dry roast each ingredient separately in a frying pan over medium heat until fragrant. Cool, then coarsely grind using a mortar and pestle or small spice grinder. Add the ground spices to the muslin square and tie up tightly in a knot. Set aside.
  3. Heat a barbecue grill or chargrill pan over medium-high heat and grill the unpeeled garlic, onions and ginger evenly for 15 minutes in total until all sides are blackened. Now peel the blackened skins and discard them, and then roughly chop. By doing this, the garlic, onion and ginger becomes sweet and fragrant, releasing more flavour into the stock.
  4. Put the oxtail, beef bones, brisket and 6 litres of cold water in a stockpot and bring to the boil. While the stock is boiling, constantly skim any impurities off the surface for 15 minutes (this will ensure a clean, clear broth), then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Add the fish sauce, remaining 1 tablespoon of salt, rock sugar, garlic, onions and ginger.
  5. Cover and simmer for 2 hours. Remove the beef brisket, cover, allow to cool, then refrigerate.
  6. Simmer the broth for a further 4 hours, then add the spice pouch and simmer for another 2 hours.
  7. Meanwhile, slice the beef brisket into thin pieces. Blanch each portion of noodles in boiling water for 20 seconds. Drain, then transfer to a serving bowl. Place three or four slices of brisket on top of the noodles, followed by three or four pieces of raw sirloin. Pour over the hot stock to cover the noodles and beef.
  8. Garnish with one tablespoon of spring onion, a pinch of black pepper and a coriander sprig to each bowl. At the table, add chilli, bean sprouts, basil and a squeeze of lime.
Luke Nguyen at the pass
Luke Nguyen at the pass