I had an urge for oxtail pho, so I looked up a couple recipes to find the seasons to use for the broth. Taking that and a few things I had tried before for beef pho, I played with it and tweaked it until I ended up with a rich, hearty broth full of spice and season.
From what I understand, there’s thin light pho which is more of a light broth and there’s heavy bold pho. The second one is the one I favor, and although technically a clear soup, it’s darker and the flavors are more in your face.
First, I started a broiling an onion, some pork bones and oxtails until they were partially cooked and I had brought out the flavor and oils. Then pork bones and oxtail went into a large pot of water, simmering there for a few hours. When the oxtail was cooked but not yet falling off the bones, I pulled them and immediately put them into an ice bath, then stored the in the refrigerator once cooled.
I was loosely following a recipe for Vietnamese Pho broth and it really came out fantastic. There were two things I learned as I was making this.
One, don’t skimp on the onions. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like onions, if you like the dark rich broth you’d get in a Vietnamese restaurants, you’ll need the onions. You will end up straining them all out later, so don’t worry and just go for it.
Two, and this I consider the big ‘secret’ I learned by the experience is to roast your bones. For me, I used a couple pounds of large bones and a couple pounds of beef back ribs for soup. That way I had a good portion of bones and a good portion of meat too. You could go all beef back rib, but 50% cheap stuff works too 🙂 Put it all in a pan with a couple halved onions on the bottom and roast it all. If you want, put a little water in the bottom of the pan so the onions don’t burn too much, then cook at 350 degrees for 2 hours. The difference in flavor compared to boiling is phenomenal.
What was even more impressive, is after I was all done boiling the broth for most of the night, is that the meat is still delicious and the connecting tissue rendered perfectly.
The next time I make any kind of beef soup – minestrone, beef and been, vegetable beef… I’m going to try roasting the bones first and see if the intense flavor works too (I suspect it will!)
Happy cooking! 🙂