Text and Photos by Oliver Classen and Jacob Lam
Winter is a time for heavy stews and roasts that keep you feeling full and primed for bitter winds, but we are entering a lighter, brighter season. Pho is a perfect dish for this transition. Hot broth and sliced steak will keep you cozy enough to brave a couple more March snowstorms or cold rains, but aromatic mint and finely cut scallions are a harbinger for more hospitable weather.
Pho is a traditional Vietnamese dish made from beef broth, rice noodles, thinly sliced steak and aromatic herbs and spices. For our purposes, we will be substituting venison for the stock as well as the steak. Of course, if you do not have time to make wild game stock, you can substitute beef stock. However, the broth is the real star of this dish, so anything but the real thing is a compromise. You can use any cut of meat that would make a good steak, but eye of round is the traditional cut. Chicken is also an alternative in traditional pho, so turkey, grouse or pheasant would make an analogous wild game substitute. Since the broth is doing the work of cooking the meat, be sure to fully cook the bird if much time will pass when making the pho. In this instance, bring the bird close to safe eating temperature before pouring the broth over it.
Scroll Down For A Video Recipe Of This Dish
- Venison bones
- Olive oil
- Star anise
- Cardamom pods
- Coriander seeds
- Cinnamon sticks
Broth Cooking Instructions:
- Preheat oven to 400°
- Place bones, ginger, onion and cinnamon sticks on a baking sheet then brush bones with olive oil and salt. Remove ginger, onion and cinnamon sticks after about 30 minutes. Roast bones for about an hour.
- Add bones to a stock pot and cover in cold water. Slowly bring to a simmer, not a boil. (Think of the way a tub of water looks when you are carrying it and walking slowly, not when you are carrying it and stub your toe on the counter corner.)
- Simmer for at least a few hours or up to the rest of the night.
- Add in vegetables and spices.
- Remove vegetables and spices after thirty minutes to two hours. (I added them first in the video, but that was so I did not have to remove them before going to work in the morning. If your schedule allows, add them at the end.) Remove bones and any chunks of meat, and skim off fat from the surface. (Do not throw the meat and bones away! Any extra meat and cooked down collagen will make a nice caveman snack. If you roasted a big bone like a femur, crack it open and spread the marrow on some crunchy toast! Just enjoy while warm since the fat will coat your mouth. Wash it down with a glass of wine to clean your palate.)
- Strain broth through cheesecloth into jars. If you plan on freezing or refrigerating any broth for later, fill your sink with cold water and ice cubes. Let the stock sit in the ice bath for a few minutes, so it does not heat up everything in the fridge or freezer.
- Fresh parsley
- Fresh basil
- Bean sprouts
- Eye of round (or steak cut of your choice)
- Rice noodles
Pho Cooking Instructions:
- Add rice noodles to boiling water in a medium to large saucepan (depending on how many noodles you will be making). Cook for about seven minutes. Only boil enough noodles for what you will be making that meal; rice noodles do not rehydrate well.
- Bring broth to a boil in a separate saucepan.
- Bring another pot of water to boil to preheat bowls.
- Thinly slice venison steak to about 1/8thof an inch. Partially frozen steak and a sharp knife are helpful.
- Chop basil and scallion stems. I like to pluck the mint and parsley leaves for garnish but not slice them.
- Preheat bowls then pour out water.
- Add noodles and steak to bowls.
- Pour boiling broth over steak and noodles. Be sure to fully submerge all the meat, so it cooks fully.
- Add spices and bean sprouts, salt to taste, squirt on some sriracha and enjoy!