Vietnamese Beef Pho Stew
Moderate - You'll be right
Watch me make this recipe on my YouTube channel here!
When it comes to comfort food, a hearty winter stew is hard to beat in Australia’s cooler months. Whether it’s a goulash, Irish stew, or slow cooker beef stew, no other meal can deliver that same feeling of a big warm hug when consumed.
For me it's my Vietnamese beef pho stew: tender pieces of slow-braised beef in a pool of gravy, flavoured with aromatic pho spices, served with a crispy banh mi o (Vietnamese bread roll). This is not a traditional Vietnamese recipe but rather born of my love for pho flavours and one fortuitous winter’s night when a craving for home-made pho could not be satiated by a restaurant version.
This recipe recalls another popular Vietnamese dish ,Bo kho: a delicious stew of beef, star anise, cinnamon, tomato paste and carrots. What makes this stew unique however is the use of aromatic pho spices that infuse with the gravy. Top quality Australian beef is marinated with pure fish sauce and anchovy salt, seared, then deglazed with red wine; adding acidity and flavour to the beef as it slowly stews with daikon radishes and pho spices.
Cast iron casserole pots are ideal for this recipe as they create an adequate sear on the beef to retain its juices. The even distribution of heat slowly stews the beef until it’s tender and slightly gelatinous.
The home-made beef pho process can take up to 12 hours (sometimes more!) and what separates my beef pho from a store bought one is the quality and quantity of ingredients (I season with anchovy salt), absence of MSG and the practice of diluting a pho broth with water with the intention to increase it’s total volume.
There are a couple of hacks I use to improve the flavour, reduce the cooking time, and thicken the stew. Adding daikon radish creates a natural sweetness and its enzymes assist in tenderising the beef throughout the cooking process. Substituting a traditional roux (wheat flour and butter), with potato starch thickens the liquid turning the stew into a viscous and decadent gravy.
Potato starch slurry is common in Asian cooking and is also a great gluten-free alternative. If beef stews make regular appearances in your kitchen and you love experimenting with different flavours, do yourself a favour and give this recipe a whirl to fill the house with the flavours and aroma of Vietnamese beef pho.
1.5kg beef brisket or chuck steak cut into 4cm chunks
1 ½ teaspoon Duncan Lu Anchovy Salt
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon sugar
6 tablespoons cooking oil
1 knob of ginger crushed
1 brown onion diced
1 bunch spring onions, stalks and green tops separated
½ teaspoon crack black pepper
250 ml dry red wine (optional)
1 white daikon radish cut into 4cm chunks
1 bunch coriander stalks
3 tablespoons (45g) potato starch (or corn flour)
6 tablespoon cold water
4-6 Vietnamese bread rolls or baguette
1 bunch spring onion tops finely chopped
1 bunch coriander leaves roughly chopped
1 bunch Thai basil
2 red chillies sliced
1 lime cut into cheeks
*8g coriander seeds, 8g fennel seeds, 4g star anise, 5g cassia bark, 3g black peppercorns, 4g licorice root, 4 g black cardamom, 1g cloves and 18g rock sugar.
In a large bowl marinate beef with 1 teaspoon anchovy salt, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, ½ teaspoon sea salt, ½ teaspoon sugar and 2 tablespoons cooking oil and marinate for minimum two hours or for best results overnight in fridge.
In a large cast iron pot (Stanley Rogers French oven grill duo) on medium-high add cooking oil and sear beef in batches then remove and add ginger, brown onion, spring onion stalks (white part only) and a pinch of sea salt and cracked black pepper and sauté until fragrant.
Duncan’s tip: Remove beef from fridge 1 hour before cooking to promote a tender result.
Return seared beef and sauté for a few mins then deglaze with red wine and bring to the boil.
Add daikon radish, a bunch of coriander stalks (roots), 1 tablespoon fish sauce, ½ teaspoon sea salt. ½ teaspoon anchovy salt and cover with water then bring to the boil and simmer on low. If not using Duncan Lu’s pho spice add rock/white sugar then bring to the boil and simmer on low.
Add Duncan Lu’s pho spices sachet (alternatively in a muslin cloth or piece of Chux, bundle all dried spices and tie with butcher’s twine to make a herb sachet) to the pot, cover and simmer on low for 120 minutes or until beef is tender.
In a small mixing bowl, make a starch slurry by mixing together potato starch and water until well combined. Bring beef stew to the boil then add half the starch slurry and stir in to thicken sauce, if required continue to add one tablespoon starch slurry at a time and stir in well until gravy consistency is achieved and season with sea salt to your taste.
Duncan’s tip: When using a starch slurry, ensure it is mixed through just before incorporating into the stew.
Using the French oven grill pan lid or grill pan, toast banh mi on medium heat until crispy and warmed through. Ladle beef stew into a bowl and garnish with chopped spring onions tops, coriander leaves, Thai basil, fresh chilli and a squeeze of lime.