To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.
~~ Oscar Wilde
On the threshold of 2016, I am listening to my husband, 4 sons, and 2 daughters-in-love playing Bananagrams at our new home in McAllen, Texas. Our grandson is asleep upstairs. How did this happen? It was not planned. 😯 We said “goodbye” to Nils, Jamie, and Cade on the 26th in the airport in Charlotte – they were enroute to Roswell, NM. via Dallas, and we were flying into Harlingen, TX. We went to church Sunday morning, and 3 hours later, we picked them up in the airport in McAllen. After a mechanical issue, thunderstorms, and tornado warnings, they spent the night in Dallas. New Mexico has been hit by a blizzard. Their luggage was lost, and they did their best to salvage their holiday trip when American rerouted them to McAllen. We had expected Gaelen and his wife Kelsey, and we were blessed to have all of them! So, in the process of trying to feed a family of foodies, buy baby equipment, and keep up with my blog, I managed to tackle Pressure-Cooker Beef Pho. Finding healthy, interesting pressure-cooker recipes is a challenge (at best), and I’ve promised to work on refining some of my own.
Beef pho is Vietnamese comfort food. The fragrant, spice-infused stock, tender beef, rice noodles, crunchy bean sprouts, and fresh herbs are heart-warming; thin-sliced steak added at the last moment adds flavor and texture to this hearty bowl of noodles. The key to good pho is its stock, and that process typically involves a slow simmer with meaty bones, ginger, garlic, and spices, and requires 3 hours. The pressure-cooker cuts this process to 25-33% – 45 minutes to an hour yields rich, flavorful stock, and beef falling off the bones. Make a large batch of stock, remove the bones and spices, and add quick-cooked rice noodles, mung bean sprouts, fresh basil, coriander, and/or mint leaves, and the thin-sliced steak just prior to serving. My 6 quart pressure-cooker easily cooks 10 cups of stock… enough for 6 to 8 servings.
The spices used to make pho can vary, but cinnamon, fennel, cloves, and star anise are typical (and mandatory in my opinion). 😀 Occasionally, a recipe will call for other spices such as cardamom and coriander. Some Asian markets carry a packet of whole spices with a small mesh drawstring bag as a convenient option. These spices are not optional; they are what defines a bowl of pho. While the stock is a bit of work, you can make a large batch, and freeze it for use as desired. Once the stock is made, the balance of the dish comes together quickly. Even in a border city like McAllen, the local markets carry only a few options for beef bones. I usually end up grabbing whatever I can find. I do like to use some part of the cow that includes some marrow (ie. leg or shin). Oxtail is also a good option. You’ll want to include some meatier bones so that your soup has bits of tender beef, but not so much that it’s a bowl of beef. 😉 For finishing the soup, I have found that flank or sirloin works well. A partially frozen steak is far easier to slice very thin. The thin-sliced steak essentially poaches in the stock in the last few minutes before serving, or can be added raw to a steaming hot bowl of pho for those that prefer the beef super rare!
The flavor of the stock is vastly improved by charring the onion and ginger that goes into the pot. I no longer have a gas range 😥 , so I quarter my onion, and cut a couple of generous chunks of ginger, and place them under the broiler until the edges are blackened. Watch them carefully, and add them to the pressure-cooker with the beef, bones, water, and spices. Turn the burner or electric cooker to high until pressurized, then lower heat to maintain the pressure. Cook about 45 minutes, then slowly de-pressurize. I lower my stove top cooker from “2” to “1” to vent mode, and turn the heat to “off.” Add thin-sliced steak to the hot stock along with the bean sprouts. Meanwhile, cook the noodles and drain. Prep the herbs, slice the steak, and get the condiments out.
To serve, place a generous serving of noodles in each deep soup bowl. Ladle the hot soup over the noodles, and garnish with fresh herbs, and your choice of condiments. This soothing soup is perfect for a chilly winter’s night, and the pressure-cooker produces flavorful and tender results in a fraction of the time. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade… or pho!
Perhaps you grew up with a pressure-cooker? I was a little afraid of my mom’s pressure-cooker, but modern appliances have built-in safety features. They’re a great time-saver – yielding slow-cooked results in a fraction of the time. I hope you’ll give this a try!
A pressure-cooker makes short work of the flavorful stock that is characteristic of Vietnamese pho. Warm spices, tender beef, crunch bean sprouts, rice noodles, and fresh herbs come together in this comforting and filling soup!
15 minPrep Time
45 minCook Time
1 hrTotal Time
- 4 pounds meaty beef bones*
- 1 large onion, cut in quarters
- a generous piece of ginger, cut in two (about 2 inches)
- 1/4 cup nuoc mam (fish sauce)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 6 star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- pho spice packet
- 12 ounces rice stick noodles *
- 1/2 pound steak, thinly sliced*
- 3 scallions
- 2 chiles (Thai bird, serrano, or jalapeño)
- 1 to 2 limes
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- 1 cup fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, Thai basil, mint, or a mix)
- sriracha and hoisin sauce
- * See Notes
Cover the beef bones with water. Bring to a boil, and simmer 10-15 minutes.
While the bones are parboiled, char the onion and ginger. If you have a gas range, this is your best option. If not, place on a baking sheet under the broiler, and watch carefully. You want a good amount of blackening on the edges. This adds a smoky complexity to the stock.
Drain and rinse the bones and meat. Rinse the pressure-cooker pot. Return the bones and meat to the pot. Cover with water to appropriate level. I add about 10 cups of water.
Add the charred onion and ginger, spices, fish sauce, and sugar.
Turn the heat to "high," cover and lock the pressure-cooker according to manufacturer's instruction. When the button pops up indicating the pot is fully pressurized, reduce heat to medium-low. You want to maintain the pressure on the pot. If you reduce the heat too much, the pressure will drop, and you will not get a good result.
While the stock is cooking, prep the ingredients for the pho. Cook the noodles according to package instructions, drain, and set aside. Arrange the bean sprouts, fresh herbs, and thinly-sliced steak on a platter.
Cook the stock on high pressure for about 45 minutes. Depressurize slowly. I first turn off the heat (on my electric cooktop). Then, I lower the dial from "2" to "1". When the steam stops escaping, I open the dial, and unlock the cover.
Strain the stock, and remove meat from the bones. It should be very tender. Rinse the pot, pour the strained stock back into the pot, and add the tender beef.
You can either add the steak and bean sprouts into the pot for a few minutes, or add them to individual bowls and then ladle the hot stock over top.
Garnish with fresh herbs, sriracha and/or hoisin sauce as preferred. Enjoy!
If your bones are not very meaty, add 1/2 pound +/- beef chuck or stew meat. You don't want the beef to overwhelm the other ingredients. br]
Your pressure-cooker requires space below the lid. DO NOT completely fill the pot. Read your manufacturer's instructions carefully. My pressure-cooker requires about 2-3 inches above the level of the food. Mine comfortably holds about 10 cups of water.
[Pho spice packets typically come with a small cloth bag. This is really a convenient option. You can find them on Amazon . br]
Allow about 2 ounces of [rice noodles per serving. Find these on Amazon . br]
For the rare beef select sirloin, flank, london broil, etc. Partially frozen steak is easier to slice very thin.
For additional information - excellent article on beef pho - [How to Make Traditional Beef Pho .
Par boiling the beef bones 10-15 minutes, then draining the water prior to actually making the stock removes the impurities that collect and form "scum" on top of the liquid. Don't skip this step!