The long fasts of Ramadan can do many strange things to a food-loving Muslim. Come iftar time, some lose all sense of self-control, and gorge on all the food, furniture, and family members that stand in their sight. Others find that they can’t stomach anything more than a single smoothie, and inadvertently trigger the “My child is going to die” alarm inherently built into our loving Mothers. And then there are those odd creatures like myself, who after experiencing 18 hours of starvation, feel the need to eat something light and clean.
For me, Ramadan is an opportunity to cleanse myself physically and nutritionally as much as it is to recharge spiritually, and whilst I may indulge at the occasional iftar gathering, I try my utmost to eat well for the duration of the month. But as difficult as it may sound, eating “healthily” during Ramadan needn’t be a miserable affair. You don’t need to settle for bowls of tragic salad or plough your way through tedious stacks of grilled chicken breast. There are in fact, plenty of exciting alternatives, and one that I’m very keen to share with you is the humble beef pho.
This rudimentary Vietnamese staple proved to be one of my favourite dishes during my fourth year elective in the Far-East, and it is quite possibly one of the heartiest and healthiest meals you could hope to have at iftar. Below, you’ll find a straightforward recipe for a traditional beef pho, carefully crafted with the help of our Vietnamese friend Ulcer.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1.5 – 2 hours.
- As many beef bones / chicken bones that you can lay your hands on.
- 1 whole onion (peeled)
- 1 piece of flattened ginger
- Beef stock (2-4 cubes)
- A dash of salt.
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- A handful of coriander
- 300-400g flat rice noodles / egg noodles
- 500g beef
- (Optional): A handful of cinnamon sticks & cloves if desired.
- Red poblano peppers, spring onions, lime and beansprouts to serve.
- Place the beef bones / chicken bones in a separate pot to the one you will use for your final Pho. Fleshy bits of bones will work best. Boil the bones for around 10 minutes to remove any impurities.
- Dump the water in the sink, rinse the bones, and transfer them to a large, clean pot of boiling water (1.5-2 litres) in which you will make your Pho.
- Using a pair of tongs, char the ginger and the onion over an open flame. Add the onion (unchopped), and the ginger to the Pho pot, along with the beef stock, salt, and fish sauce.
- Simmer the broth on a low to medium heat. The longer you simmer the broth, the more flavours you’ll extract. (Traditional beef Pho takes anywhere between 4 to 12 hours, but here, 1.5 – 2 hours should suffice). Remove any foam/scum that floats to the top.
- In a separate pot, add boiling water and a tablespoon of olive oil, and cook the noodles until they are soft.
- In the last half an hour of your target soup-simmer time, add a handful of coriander and if desired, cinnamon sticks and cloves.
- Cut the beef into thin, flat slices. You do not need to simmer them in the broth as they will cook through within seconds of coming into contact with the boiling Pho. (Simmering them in the soup for anything longer than thirty seconds will almost certainly result in tough, overcooked pieces of meat, which better resemble tyre shreddings than they do beef).
- Plate up the noodles in separate bowls, and place the beef slices on top. Add slices of red poblano peppers, spring onions, lime and beansprouts, and any other vegetation that you desire.
- Remove the bones and aromatics from the soup, and pour it into the bowls. Cover the beef slices / stir them around, and you’ll see that they will cook right through – (see photo below)
- Finally – tuck in and enjoy a steamy, beefy, guilt-free broth!
Let us know how you get on, and be sure to send us your snaps!
Pho-nomenally cooked through