This is my version of a Vietnamese concoction that’s a do-it-yourself feast where diners add their own garnishes to a spicy meat broth. This soup has a complicated mix of sweet and savory spices that’s beyond invigorating. It’s a bowlful of joy to make your brain tingle.
A splash of Olive Oil
1/2 Onion, coarsely chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
8 cups of Beef Broth (low sodium or home made)
1/2 tsp. Anise Seed or Fennel
1/2 tsp. Ground Ginger
1/2 tsp. Ground Cardamom
1/2 tsp. Ground Cloves or Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Ground Coriander
3 Tbsps. Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
5”x5” Square of Muslin Fabric and a piece of plain cotton string
1 lb. Rice Noodles (dried or fresh) In a pinch, sometimes I substitute whole wheat spaghetti
4 Mushrooms, slice thinly
1/2 lb. Beef Steak (Flank, Sirloin, or Round) sliced as thinly as you can
Garnishes arranged in separate bowls:
2 cups Bean Sprouts, 2 Green Onions chopped, ½ Red Onion sliced finely, 3 cups Spinach or other Green Leafy Veg (chopped if the leaves are large), 1 Sweet Red or Yellow Pepper sliced thinly, 2-4 Tbsps. Red Pepper Chili Flakes, wedges of 1 Lemon or Lime, Soy Sauce, 1/4 cup Fresh Mint, chopped
Heat oil in a large stock pot. Add onions and brown. Add garlic, stir and then pour in broth. Add soy sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
Make a bouquet garni from a small square of muslin or other plain fabric by placing all the spices in the center of the square, pull up the corners and tie together into a wee sack with un-dyed cotton twine. Add to the broth and let simmer for 15 minutes or so. Remove the bouquet and discard. Strain out the onions and discard.
Bring the broth up to a boil again and add noodles, cook until they reach the tenderness you desire. Add mushrooms and then toss in meat. Stir a few times and watch the meat cook until it reaches your liking. I like my meat rare so I ladle it out immediately Use big serving bowls so that there’s lots of room for garnishes.
Traditionalists may also want a handful of Culantro and Thai Basil (neither of which I have access too) and Fish Sauce.