Category Archives: Soups

Review: Little Saigon’s Beef Phở

Little Saigon 
1015 N Broadway St
 Wichita, Kansas 67214

Here in Wichita another long, hot Kansas summer is quickly approaching. For many people the coming of the summer heat means the end of soup weather, so this post may seem a little untimely.   Yet there are some soups that seem custom-made for the heat of summer; the Beef Phở  from Little Saigon on N. Broadway is one of these soups.

Like most soups, this Vietnamese delicacy begins with a broth; in this case, a lightly flavored beef broth into which a melange of sweet spices (star anise, cinnamon, black cardamom, and coriander seed), charred onion and ginger have slowly been infused.    This exotically scented broth is then ladled over a hearty nest of fine rice noodles, fresh cilantro, shavings of red onion, and thin–almost translucent–slices of beef, which cooks instantly with the heat of the broth.  A platter of accompaniments that include crisp and cool bean sprouts,  spicy sliced fresh jalapeno, tart lime wedges and herbaceous, anise-y Thai basil is served on the side.  These garnishes add a freshness to the soup and are what makes this an ideal meal for a hot languid summer afternoon.

Below is my version of Little Saigon’s Beef Phở.  The recipe makes 3-4 very large bowls of soup if served as a main course or 6-10 if served as a soup course. Enjoy!

Beef Phở

Time: 4.5 hours.

Difficulty: Easy

Serves: 3-4 (Main Course) or 6-10 (soup course)

Ingredients

  •  5 lbs of beef soup bones
  •  1 large onion, peeled and  chopped in half
  •  1″ piece of ginger, peeled
  •  1 bag of pho spices (these are available at most Asian markets)
  •  1 lb of fresh or dried thin rice noodles.
  •  1 lb of beef, thinly sliced
  •  1 bunch of cilantro
  •  1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced into rings
  •  2 tablespoons of fish sauce

Garnishes

  •  1/2 lb of fresh bean sprouts
  •  2 jalapenos, sliced or 10 small red and green Thai chillies, sliced
  •  several large sprigs of Thai basil
  •  2 limes, quartered

Procedure

Making the broth

  1. Soak beef bones in enough cool, salted water to cover.  Allow to sit for about 10 minutes to remove impurities.
  2. While the bones are soaking, place the onion and ginger into the oven and broil on top rack until onion and ginger start to char a little, turn and char on all sides being careful not to burn the aromatics.
  3. Drain and rinse the bones.
  4. Put the drained and rinsed beef bones into a clean stockpot and add just enough cold water to cover (~1 gallon).   Add charred onion and ginger to stockpot.
  5. Heat stockpot on medium high heat until bubbles just break the surface, one bubble every second or two.  Adjust heat so that this level of simmering is maintained.  Caution: DO NOT boil (boiling will turn your broth cloudy and less clean-tasting.)
  6. Slowly simmer the bones for 3-4 hours, removing the scum as if forms.
  7. While the broth is cooking, put beef in freezer for about 30 minutes to firm up.
  8. Use a sharp chef’s knife to slice beef against the grain as thinly as possible.  Once sliced put beef in a zip lock bag and add ~1 tablespoon of fish sauce.  Place in refrigerator to marinate until needed.
  9. After about 2 and a half hours, remove fat from top of broth with a turkey-baster.
  10. Add spice bag then simmer for 1 more hour.
  11. Remove bones, onion, ginger and spice bag and discard then add 1 tablespoon of fish sauce  and the juice of 1 lime to the broth
  12. Allow broth to continue simmering while finishing the soup.

Finishing the soup.

  1. Cook noodles as per instruction on bag.
  2. Evenly divide noodles and beef among the bowls, and to each bowl add a small handful of cilantro leaves, and a few shavings of red onion.
  3. Ladle hot broth into each bowl and allow to stand for a minute to cook beef before serving.
  4. Serve with large communal platter of bean sprouts, sliced jalapeno peppers (or finely sliced Thai peppers), lime wedges, and Thai basil.
  5. Season to taste with additional fish sauce, soy sauce, or salt.

French Onion Soup

As fall approaches and the nights get longer and the days become cooler, nothing is quite as soul-satisfying as a steaming bowl of  home-made soup.  And one of the least expensive, easiest to prepare, and most flavorful of soups is French Onion. When prepared slowly this perennial favorite develops a rich, deep satisfying flavor that belies the simplicity of the recipe.  All that is needed to transform onions into a sweet, complexly flavored soup is patience and long slow cooking.

Ingredients:
  • 2lbs of white, yellow or sweet onions, finely sliced.     
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.     
  • 1 tsp salt     
  • 1 tsp sugar  (if using sweet onions like Vidalia, omit the sugar).    
  • 3 tbsp of butter     
  • 5 cups of beef broth.     
  • 2 tbsp of dried onions     
  • a pinch of thyme     
  • 1 bay leaf.     
Method:
  • In a large dutch oven heat butter over medium low heat until melted.     
  •  Add the onions and the garlic to the butter and stir until the vegetables are coated with butter.  Turn the heat down to the lowest setting, add salt and sugar, and place a lid on the dutch oven.      
  • Cook onions for 45 minutes stirring once or twice to help the vegetables cook evenly.  At the end of the 45 minutes the onions should be translucent and very soft and sweet with quite a bit of liquid being released.     
  • Remove lid from pan and turn heat up to medium low and allow most of the liquid to gently simmer away. Do not boil the mixture.     
  • Once most of the liquid has evaporated add 1 tablespoons of butter, turn heat to low and cook onions slowly stirring occasionally.  After 20 minutes of slow cooking the onions should begin to take on a nice brown hue.  Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up to speed up the process as it is very easy to burn the sugars and ruin the dish.  The longer this process takes, the deeper and more complex the final flavor of the soup.     
  • Stir the onions more often as they get deeper in color, making sure to scrape off the fond that sticks to the bottom of the pan. Once the caramelization process begins it doesn’t take long for the onions to fully caramelize and turn a deep mahogany color.     
Caramelized Onions
  • De-glaze the pan by adding  1/2 cup of beef broth (or a good red wine if you have one handy).     
  • Add the remaining beef broth, dried onion flakes, and herbs to the pot and simmer very slowly over low heat for 1 hour or until ready to serve.     

  • Adjust seasoning to taste before serving.     
  • Serve with a crusty, lightly toasted baguette (with or without cheese) and a crisp, cool salad.     

Enjoy!