The Art of Eating Phở
Jet Tila shares a recipe for this soulful dish - and tips on how to enjoy it
For much of the U.S., January days are short and cold, and we long for something that soothes us right down to our bones. Phở, considered Vietnam’s national dish, is just the thing.
Starting with a hearty broth, phở is a veritable treasure trove of rice noodles, (sometimes) meat, and herbs. It’s soothing and soulful.
Known for his Food Network appearances on Iron Chef America, Chopped, and Cutthroat Kitchen; Tila is an author, restaurateur, and culinary ambassador of Thai cuisine (by order of the Royal Thai Consulate-General).
Though his roots are Thai, Tila has a rich knowledge of many Asian culinary techniques. In addition to his education at Le Cordon Bleu, Tila studied at the California Sushi Academy and specializes in Thai and Chinese cuisines.
Recently, the chef posted the way he tucks into a bowl of phở on Instagram. And, while he adds that there’s no wrong way of eating this dish, his technique is poised for maximum enjoyment. Here are his suggestions:
Instead of putting your sriracha and hoisin sauce in the bowl, put a generous dab of each on a side plate. That way you can dip your meat in the sauces and control the amount of sauce for each bite.
Use as much (or as little) of the greens and herbs on the greens plate that comes with your phở. Put the greens in the bowl and let the broth cook them a bit.
Consider the spoon its own tiny bowl, and assemble the perfect blend of soup, greens, and meat in each spoonful.
Most importantly — it’s perfectly okay to slurp your soup!
Tila has shared a recipe for quick beef phở adapted from his book, 101 Asian Dishes You Need to Cook Before You Die: Discover a New World of Flavors in Authentic Recipes. Enjoy!
Jet Tila’s Quick Beef Phở
2 tablespoons beef bouillon or base
1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce
1 tablespoon white sugar
A 2-inch piece of ginger, sliced into thin tiles
1/2 yellow onion, diced large
Pinch kosher salt
2 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 pound thin rice stick noodles, rinsed
1/2 pound beef strip loin or fillet, shaved thin
1 cup Vietnamese basil leaves
1 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
5 jalapeno or serrano chiles, sliced thin
4 scallions, sliced thin on the bias
1/2 yellow onion, sliced paper thin
1 lime, cut into wedges
Hoisin sauce, for the table
Sriracha, for the table
For the stock
Add the beef base and 1 quart water to a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a low boil. Add the fish sauce, sugar, ginger, onion and salt to the stock and reduce the heat to a simmer. Wrap the cloves, star anise and cinnamon stick in a piece of cheesecloth and tie it into a satchel. Add the satchel to the broth and simmer for at least 30 minutes, but no more than 45 minutes.
Around the 30 minute mark, taste the broth to see that the spice flavors have been extracted, and adjust seasonings if necessary. Strain the aromatics and satchel from the broth, return to a sauce pot, and reserve for assembly.
For the assembly
Bring the broth back to a simmer. In a separate pot, bring water to a boil. Using a sieve or basket, quickly dip the noodles into the water until they are hot and al dente, 10 to 20 seconds. Drain the excess water from the noodles and distribute the noodles between 4 bowls.
Top each bowl with some sliced beef, basil, bean sprouts, cilantro, jalapeno, scallions and onion, or as each person wishes. Ladle in enough broth to cover the ingredients in the bowl. Garnish with a lime wedge. Serve with sriracha and hoisin sauce.