Monday, May 28, 2012

Vietnamese Style Beef Soup – Pho (with a little help from a slow cooker)

One of my dear friends Barb has to undergo Chemotherapy for her cancer (which is now gone after two operations and 5 sessions of Chemotherapy - only one more session to go). I have been told that 75% of people who are having this kind of treatment might have problem with taste.  Food and water may become bitter and metallic for some people. Some suggestions to help them cope with changes in taste perception are using plastic cutlery and marinating meat before cooking.

When she asked me some weeks ago if I could make some spring rolls I obliged and thought I should also cook another Vietnamese style dish for her – spring rolls and Pho (of course, with a Thai twist as usual). For Pho we need both kinds of beef, cheaper cut (gravy,blade or even brisket) and fillet (eye or scotch). I have cooked Pho many times, sometimes with pressure cooker other times with cast iron casserole on stove top. The results have not been that consistent. With pressure cooker, the beef is tender but somehow lacks the depth of flavour achieved by slow cooking process. With cast iron casserole, I have to fuss over the heat level from time to time as the beef could be a bit tough and the soup reduced too quickly if the heat is too high.  

Bob suggested cooking the cheaper cut beef in slow cooker and it has worked very well with all the flavour and low fuss process.

Serve 4
250 grams dried Rice Sticks, soaked in warm water until soft
2 cups bean sprouts
600 grams Blade Steak
100 grams Beef Fillet
1 Onion, whole
½ onion, sliced thinly (to garnish)
2 Whole Coriander with root intact and bruised – to release the aroma
1 Spring onion, chopped (to garnish)
12 Tablespoons coriander leaves, chopped (to garnish)
1 Lime or lemon, quartered (to garnish)
2 tablespoons mint leaves (to garnish)
1 Red Chilli (seeds removed if you cannot handle the heat -to garnish)
1 Cinnamon Quill
4 Pieces Star Anise
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
A bit of garlic flakes (to garnish - optional)
1 carrot, peeled and cut in half
1 stick/stem of celery cut into 10 cm length
1 tablespoon dark sweet soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 ½ -2 litres chicken stock
1 teaspoon black pepper corns, crushed
Salt to taste
A bit of oil for frying

In the wok on high heat, add oil and brown blade steak in big pieces. Add whole onion and garlic and fry a bit further until brown. Add star anise, sauces and crushed pepper corns, stir to combine then add ½ litre of chicken stock.

Line the bottom of slow cooker with carrot, whole coriander and celery pieces. Transfer the beef into the slow cooker, add cinnamon and cook low for 4 to 5 hours.
When the meat is tender, lift it from the liquid and slice to 1 cm thick and set aside. Pour the liquid through sieve into a pot – add about  1 - 1 1/2  litres of chicken stock. Simmer, taste and add more seasoning if needed.

Slice raw beef fillet very thinly – it will be a lot easier if you freeze it for about an hour before slicing.

Soak rice sticks in water until soft and drain. Cook them in boiling water for 2-3 minutes until cooked and then drain. Add a bit of oil and garlic flakes and  separate them with chopsticks or fork.  Divide them in 4 bowls, top with cooked blade steak pieces, sliced raw beef fillet, sliced onion, bean sprouts, chopped spring onion & coriander, a few slices of red chilli. Bring the soup to the boil and ladle it over the rice sticks. Serve hot with a wedge of lime and chilli oil (optional).

I think Barb enjoyed it and she also tried a little bit of chilli oil in her soup.

For Spring Rolls see here and Chilli Oil here.

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