I started working as a chef in a hotel that is right next door to the Adelaide Central Markets and China Town.
As a young chef learning their trade, I could not have asked for anything more. Imagine seeing your states best produce on the walk to work. Can’t get any more inspiring and educational than that really. You see the freshest ingredients and also learn about the seasonality of many fresh produce. You get to talk to vendors and build that ever so important relationship between producers and cooks.
The other thing I loved was being next door to China Town. Many types of Asian cuisine at its best here and a few of the restaurants in this area are iconic to the locals and well known to a lot of visitors. One place I loved to hang out before work to eat was at the food hall.
In the early days of my career I was obsessed with laksa. I went to the Laksa House in the food hall and there wasn’t a day that I missed out on a good bowl of laksa. I love the Asian soups especially ones with so many complex and rich flavours. I also like the heat that comes from the chillies and creaminess of the coconut broth. I remember leaving the food hall with sweat beading off my forehead. I thoroughly enjoyed those meals but none more than the day after a hard night of pub crawls with the boys, it just cleans you out, sweats out the prior nights damage.
On one occasion the Laksa House was closed and I was forced to find another “hang over cure”. Desperate, I ordered a soup from the Vietnamese stall. It was called Bon Bo Huy. A spicy clear beef broth with rice noodles, beef and a chilli, lemon grass paste that you stir through. What a find. I enjoyed the clear, clean flavours of the broth and heat that came with chilli paste. The broth didn’t leave you feeling heavy, in fact it left me feeling refreshed and not so bloated. I loved the spice of the chillie paste and freshness that the lemon grass imparts into the broth. I knew I had found a new love, a new cure for “the day after’ a pub crawl.
As I progressed with my new found love of Bon Bo Huy, I was excited to let one of my Vietnamese chefs know about my love of Vietnamese soups. She then went on to tell me about Pho, the soup that most Vietnamese people have. It was more traditional and she told me of a place in Adelaide called Pho 75, a restaurant that only sell several flavours of Pho. Again, I fell in love with yet another Asian soup. Pho is again cleaner on flavours, the broth even clearer and lighter yet the flavours of beef very distinct. The broth is garnished with much of the same such as rice noodles, thinly sliced raw beef, tripe and beef gravy, a cut of beef full of gelatine which once slowly cooked, becomes like soft jelly, much loved and prized by many Asian cuisines.
I now see Pho coming up in a lot of cooking magazines like laksas in it’s hay day. It seems that a lot of people are now on the Pho bandwagon. It is good that people are getting out there and getting to know food, but it kind of feels sad because it takes that exclusivity away in a selfish way. I did really feel the connection with this food and a deeper understanding of it when I went to Vietnam and ate Pho at the very iconic Pho shop, Pho 2000. On that trip, I fell in love with Vietnamese food in general and especially Pho.
The Iconic Pho 2000 in Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City
I make this recipe in large batches, pack into a take away container with the meat already sliced into it. When it is time for me to eat it, I just buy the noodles and other bits. Great way to have home cooked meals with out the fuss, perfect for those times when I just don’t have enough hours in the day.
Pho – Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup
1kg Beef Bones – ask butcher to cut it into smaller pieces
2 Gravy Beef
3 Brown Cardamoms
3 Cassia Bark
8 Star Anise
200 gr Ginger – Sliced into smaller pieces
4 Large Brown Onions – peeled and large dice
1 pkt of Beef Tendon Balls (available at any Asian Grocer)
1 Red Onion – Finely sliced (paper thin, preferably on a mandolin if possible)
1 pkt Pho Noodles (fresh)
1 pkt Bean Sprouts
1 Bunch Thai Basil
- Pre heat oven at 180C.
- Soak beef bones and gravy beef in cold water, lemon juice and lemons for ½ an hour.
- In a large pot, bring water to boil.
- Drain bones and gravy beef from the lemon juice and blanch in boiling water until impurities come out, about 15 minutes. Drain the bones and beef and wash in cold water.
- Roast cardamom, cassia bark, star anise, ginger and onions for 30 minutes at 180C.
- Place the blanched bones and beef and all the roasted spices in a 10 litre pot and fill the pot with cold water and bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and skim all the scum that floats to the top, simmer for 2-3 hours
- In the mean time blanch the noodles similarly to pasta, in salted water and cook until al dente. Refresh in cold water and set aside.
- Slice the tendon balls into 4 pieces.
- After 2-3 hours of simmering (or until the gravy beef is tender), strain the stock. Remove the gravy beef and discard the rest.
- Slice the gravy beef into even, thin slices, like discs
- It is important to keep this beef submerge in a little stock so as it does not discolour. Season strain beef stock with salt and white pepper.
- In a deep soup bowl, place a small hand full of noodles followed by some sliced tendon balls, a couple of slices of beef gravy and some red onion.
- Pour piping hot stock over the ingredients in the bowl and serve with fresh ground white pepper floating on top.
- As an accompaniment, serve with Hoi sin and Sriracha chilli sauce (Vietnamese chilli sauce, available in most Asian Grocers) along with Thai basil and bean sprouts.
- This dish may also be served with thin sliced raw, lean beef and blanched tripe.