Sunday, August 7, 2011

Oxtail Pho

This stuff is the real deal! My past Pho recipes, Meatball and Salmon have been great, but an easy version of the Vietnamese soup. One of my mom's great friends, Judy, came over yesterday and taught me how to make Pho "the real way"! It simmered all day and created a rich beef broth. Oxtail meat is not actually the tail of an ox, rather the tail of a cow.  The culinary term is just Oxtail.  In this recipe the bones and meat are used to make the broth and then the meat is added back in to the soup.  If you're not a fan of oxtail meat, you could always make the broth and then add another type of meat like, chicken, filet or meatballs.  I think once I get to Denver I will have a "Pho Party" with meat and topping options, yet sticking to this recipe for my broth. It's hard to beat!


-4 lbs oxtails
-2 gallons cold water
-3-inch piece ginger, unpeeled
-1 large white onion, halved and unpeeled
-1/3 cup fish sauce
-8 whole star of anise pods
-5 whole cloves
-1 large cinnamon stick (about 3 inches long)
-1 tsp fennel seeds
-3 bay leaves
-1 lb rice noodles

Optional Garnishes:

-green onions, chopped
-fresh cilantro, roughly torn
-fresh basil, roughly torn
-limes, cut into wedges
-bean sprouts
-jalapeno peppers, sliced
-banana peppers, sliced
-Hoison Sauce
-Sriracha sauce

First, rinse the oxtail in a strainer and break up the meat.  Place the oxtail in a large pot and cover with cold water.  Place a lid on the pot and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, put the ginger and onion halves on baking sheet.  I lined it with a greased sheet of foil for easy clean-up.  Broil the onion and ginger 3 inches from heat source, for 15 minutes, turning halfway through cooking time. The onions and ginger should be charred so if you need to broil a bit longer, that's ok.

In a small skillet place the anise, cloves and cinnamon stick.  Toast them over medium heat on the stove until lightly darkened, about 3-4 minutes.

Now we need to make a sachet of the spices.  Judy found these awesome tea bags at the Asian Market or you could just use cheesecloth and string. First, put the fennel in one of the sachets and lightly crush with a mallet.  Add the toasted spices and bay leaves.  If they don't all fit in one sachet, you can always use two.  Breaking the cinnamon sticks in thirds helped me fit them in the sachets. Fold over the flap to close or use string to tie shut if using cheesecloth. Don't put in the water yet!

After the oxtail and water comes to a boil, strain reserving the oxtail.  Rinse the oxtail rubbing off any loose fat.  Also, rinse the pot. Place the oxtail back in the pot and fill with 2 gallons of water.  This extra step of using new water will help make a nice, clear broth.

Put the pot back on the stove and turn on the heat.  Once the ginger and onions are cooled, rinse the onions, removing any loose charred pieces.  Also, cut the ginger into 3 pieces.  Add onions and ginger to the broth. Also, add the sachets, 1 Tbsp of salt and 1/3 cup of fish sauce. Bring the broth to a boil and then turn down the heat to a slow simmer.

Let the broth simmer for at least 4 hours.  We started this in the morning and served it in the evening.  Judy said she's even left it on the stove overnight.  This is a great recipe for the weekend when you want to just cozy up and get stuff done around the house.

This is a good time to prep your garnish platter. The cool thing about Pho is that each person can tweak the flavor of their soup using the garnishes and sauces.

Once the broth is ready, use a slotted spoon to remove and discard spice sachets, ginger and onions.  Using the spoon again, pull out all the oxtail bones and place in a large bowl.  Let cool until you can pull the meat off the bone.  Most of the meat will be found in little fat pockets surrounding the bones.  You can pull off as much fat as you can/want but there will still be a little bit on each piece...that's what makes it so yummy!

Now soak the rice noodles in hot water for a few minutes, strain and add hot water again.  I soaked it with about 3 rounds of hot water to get them to the softness I like.  Fill your serving bowls about halfway with noodles and meat.  Ladle the broth on top and serve immediately.

Garnish to your liking with a spoon and chopsticks (or fork if you're chopstick-challenged).  I enjoyed another bowl today as leftovers.  I will warn you that when the broth cools in the fridge the fat will float to the top and solidify. Just scrape and discard it.  There is a possibility that the broth underneath will be a bit need to worry it will liquefy when you reheat it. I even added a bit of hot water.


  1. I love Pho!!! Looks delicious! I have a package of oxtails in my freezer that I have been waiting to try once I found the perfect recipe... Thanks!

  2. This looks great, cannot wait to make it. I have been looking for an authentic Oxtail pho!


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