Recipe: Pressure Cooker Beef Pho

updated Apr 30, 2019
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Around the World in 30 Soups: This month we’re collaborating with chefs, cookbook authors, and our own Kitchn crew to share a globetrotting adventure in soups from countries and cuisines around the world. Today’s stop: Vietnam.

When it comes to Vietnamese food at home, there is no one we look to as much as Andrea Nguyen. Here she shares a simply ingenious recipe for pressure cooker pho that is both practical and satisfying. We’re so thrilled to be able to reprint this recipe. (Don’t miss her latest book, too, Vietnamese Food Any Day, out this month.)

As much as I love to simmer a stockpot of beef pho for hours, it’s incredibly liberating to make a pretty good version for four people in 1 1/2 hours. Intense cooking in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot makes that possible. The approach is similar to that for the chicken version, but here, it’s all high pressure.

The boneless meat gets a lot more tender than when cooked in a stockpot, which makes this beef a little harder to thinly slice (chill or freeze it, if you have time). Any leftover cooked beef can be used for fresh pho noodle rolls, pho fried rice, or rice paper salad rolls.

Pressure Cooker Beef Pho (phở bò nấu nồi áp suất)

Serves 4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the broth:

  • 3 pounds

    beef marrow, knuckle, and neck bones

  • 1 pound

    boneless beef brisket, chuck, or cross-rib roast

  • 2 1/2

    star anise (20 robust points total) 

  • 1

    (3-inch) cinnamon stick 

  • 3

    whole cloves

  • 1

    chubby 2-inch section ginger, peeled, thickly sliced, and bruised 

  • 1

    large yellow onion (10 ounces), halved and thickly sliced

  • 9 cups

    water

  • 1

    small Fuji apple (4 ounces), peeled, cored, and cut into thumbnail-size chunks 

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons

    fine sea salt 

  • About 2 tablespoons

    fish sauce

  • About 1 teaspoon

    organic sugar, or 2 teaspoons maple syrup (optional) 

For the bowls:

  • 10 ounces

    dried narrow flat rice noodles

  • Cooked beef from the broth, sliced about 1⁄8-inch thick

  • 4 to 5 ounces

    well-trimmed beef steak, thinly sliced (optional)

  • 1/2

    small yellow or red onion (2 ounces), thinly sliced against the grain and soaked in water for 10 minutes 

  • 2

    thinly sliced green onions, green parts only 

  • 1/4 cup

    chopped fresh cilantro, leafy tops only 

  • Pepper (optional) 

  • Optional extras: Bean sprouts, chile slices, mint, Thai basil, lime wedges, hoisin and Sriracha sauces, Garlic Vinegar

Instructions

  1. Make the broth: Rinse the bones and boneless beef to remove excess blood or bits on the surface; set aside in a bowl. 

  2. Put the star anise, cinnamon, and cloves in a 6- to 8-quart pressure cooker. Over medium heat, toast for several minutes, shaking or stirring, until fragrant. Add the ginger and onion. Stir until aromatic, 45 to 60 seconds, to release a little flavor. A tiny bit of browning is okay. 

  3. Add 4 cups of the water to arrest the cooking process. Add all of the bones, boneless beef, apple, salt, and remaining 5 cups water. Lock the lid in place. Bring to high pressure (15 psi) over high heat on a gas or induction stove, or medium heat on an electric stove. Lower the heat to maintain pressure, indicated by a gentle, steady flow of steam coming out of the cooker’s valve. Cook for 20 minutes, or longer if your cooker’s high setting is less than 15 psi. 

  4. Slide to a cool burner and allow the pressure to decrease naturally, about 20 minutes. Remove the lid, tilting it away from you to avoid the hot steam. 

  5. Let settle for about 5 minutes, then use tongs to transfer the boneless meat to a bowl. Add water to cover and soak for 10 minutes to prevent dark, dry meat. Drain and set the meat aside, partially covered, to cool completely before using, refrigerating for up to 3 days, or freezing for up to 3 months. 

  6. If you want to save bones for pho broth and bones or to salvage edible bits, soak them in water for 10 minutes, then drain, prep, and store accordingly. Otherwise, discard the solids. 

  7. Skim some fat from the broth, then strain through a muslin-lined mesh strainer positioned over a medium pot. Discard the remaining solids. You should have about 8 cups. 

  8. If using the broth right away, season it with the fish sauce, extra salt, and, if needed, sugar (or maple syrup). Or, partially cover the unseasoned broth, let cool, then chill for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months; reheat and season before using. 

  9. Prep and assemble the bowls: While the broth cooks, or about 30 minutes before serving, ready the ingredients for the bowls. Soak the noodles in hot water until pliable and opaque. Drain, rinse, and drain well. Divide among 4 soup bowls. 

  10. Slice the cooked beef, then set aside with the raw steak, covering the meat if not using in 15 minutes. Place the onion, green onion, and cilantro in separate bowls and line them up with the noodles, beef, and pepper for a pho assembly line. 

  11. Bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat as you are assembling the bowls. At the same time, fill a pot with water and bring to a rolling boil for the noodles. 

  12. For each bowl, place a portion of the noodles in a noodle strainer or mesh sieve and dunk in the boiling water. When the noodles are soft, 5 to 60 seconds, lift the strainer from the water, shaking it to force excess water back into the pot. Deposit into a bowl. Top with the beef, then add a flourish of onion, green onion, and cilantro. Sprinkle on some pepper. 

  13. Check the broth flavor once more, raise the heat, and bring it to a boil. Ladle about 2 cups broth into each bowl. Serve immediately with any extras at the table. 

Recipe Notes

Reprinted with permission from The Pho Cookbook: Easy to Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam’s Favorite Soup and Noodles by Andrea Nguyen, copyright © 2017. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

(Image credit: Courtesy of Ten Speed Press)

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