This is the recipe that I follow closely when I am cooking pho. It is the best recipe I have found yet, but please let me know if you have a better one!
1.5kg beef bones
1 onion, unpeeled
200g ginger, unpeeled
2 black cardamom pods
5 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 strips of dried orange peel
50ml fish sauce
1 tbsp rock or soft light brown sugar
600g wide flat dried rice noodles
4 spring onions, sliced
2 bird’s eye chillis, finely sliced4 handfuls of bean sprouts (optional)
400g sirloin or fillet steak (optional), thinly sliced
1 lime, cut into wedges
Large bunch of coriander, to serve
Large bunch of Thai basil, to serve
Sriracha, hoisin and chilli oil, to serve (optional)
Put the bones and oxtail in a very large pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and then boil for about 10-15 minutes, until scum rises to the surface. Drain, discarding the water, rinse the bones and meat well, and clean the pan.
Meanwhile, char the onion and ginger on a rack set over the hob, or using a blow torch, or (and only if neither of these things are available) the grill or a hot griddle pan, until well blackened, which should take about 15 minutes. Peel off the skin as far as possible.
Put the bones and meat back in the pan and cover with three litres of cold water, or as much as you can fit in. Add the onion and ginger, the spices and orange peel (preferably in a muslin pouch or similar to make life easier later) and bring to the boil. Then turn down the heat and simmer gently for at least five hours, skimming as necessary, until the oxtail is falling off the bone. Strain, retaining the oxtail and, if you have time, cool the broth and skim the fat from the top if desired. You should have about two litres.
Add the fish sauce, sugar, salt and black pepper to the broth to taste, and pick the meat from the oxtail.
Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions and divide between four bowls. Pour the hot broth over the noodles and scatter with spring onion, a little chilli and the bean sprouts, if using, then lay the picked oxtail and sliced raw meat, if using, on top. Serve with the limes and remaining chilli on the side along with the herbs and condiments.