While enjoying our third meal of pho in Seattle in June, I said to my friend Laurel, "Why couldn't I make pho at home?" To which she presciently replied "Well, making the consomme will take all day and is impossible to keep clear."
I spent the vast majority of a Sunday simmering four pounds of beef bones and two pounds of ox tails with onions, star anise, cinnamon, and black pepper corns. I strained it and refrigerated it overnight so that the fat would congeal. The texture of the stock was fantastic thanks to all the collagen in the bones, but the taste.......well, there wasn't any. Luckily, I had some Penzey's beef base in the fridge. About a quarter cup saved the day.
Having rescued the stock, I turned to the (pre-soaked) cellophane noodles. I thinly sliced the sirloin and arranged it over onion slivers over the noodles and then poured on the boiling broth. By the time it was cool enough to eat, the meat was just cooked through. Topped with cilantro, basil, mung beans, lime juice, hoisin, and sriracha - it was a hot bowl of happy.
In the end, it was good, but no thanks to the recipe I used. The stock took far too long and the sirloin was fine, but the star of the dish was the shredded ox tail I added in. So here is what I would do next time:
Pho My Way
12 cups water
1/3 cup beef base (I like Penzey's)
2 yellow onions, divided
1 daikon radish
8 star anise pods
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tsp. cloves
6 large ox tails
12 oz mung bean threads (cellophane noodles)
1. Day 1: Bring water to a simmer and whisk in beef base. Add 1 quartered onion, roughly chopped daikon, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and ox tails. Simmer at least 4 hours or until marrow in ox tail is translucent.
2. Strain stock and reserve ox tails. Shred oxtail meat (there will be lots of tendons, work around them - it's worth it). Refrigerate meat and broth overnight.
3. Day 2: Skim fat from the broth and discard. The broth will have gelled - this is a good thing.
4. Bring the broth back up to a simmer with the ox tail meat and a thinly sliced onion. Check for salt.
5. While the broth is coming back to a boil, soak the noodles in warm water for 10-15 minutes.
6. Drain the noodles and divide among bowls.
7. Pour broth over the noodles and top as desired (I like it with everything).