by Nathalie Basha
So where to begin with this soup?! This is pretty much all I ate during my three-week trip around Vietnam, and to this day, it’s my favorite memory from that country. What’s great about it is every family has their own way of making the soup, so it was always slightly different everywhere we went. But it was always, always delicious. It’s a really simple soup in terms of ingredients, and I kid you not, it’s the freshest bowl of soup you will EVER try. This would be perfect on a cold, boring night when you’re sick of the usual dinner.
**This soup is usually made also with spicy chilies and bean sprouts, neither of which I had on hand. If you want to be really traditional, add those in at the end.
1 large onion
Fresh ginger – one large piece
2 whole cinnamon sticks
2 whole cloves
5 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Button mushrooms (to taste – add more if you love mushrooms)
1/2 pound ribeye
8 ounces dried rice noodles
3 green onions
1 chili pepper (omit if you can’t do spicy)
Limes – tons
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, mint if you want)
Hot sauce (to drizzle)
Put the beef in the freezer, covered, before starting the broth preparation. Peel the onions and cut them into quarters. Peel the ginger (using the edge of a spoon) and pull it apart into pieces. Put the onions and the ginger in a dry, medium high pan on the stove. Heat only until they become fragrant but don’t allow them to cook through.
Add the broth, soy sauce, mushrooms, onions and ginger to a pot, and turn the heat up to high. Bring the broth to a boil, then cover and turn the heat all the way down. Let the broth simmer for at least 45 minutes…more, if you have the time.
Remove the beef from the freezer. With a sharp knife, slice across the grain, as thin as you can. About 1/4-inch thick, or thinner. Set aside.
In a second saucepan of boiling water, drop in the rice noodles and cook according to package instructions. Mine took about three minutes. Strain the noodles and run them under cool water to stop cooking, then leave the noodles in cold water until ready to serve them in the bowl.
Slice the green onions, and pull the basil and cilantro leaves off the stems. Slice the limes, chilies if using, set aside the bean sprouts. Arrange all the herbs on a separate dish.
Strain the broth. Divide the noodles into the individual bowls. Arrange the sliced beef over the noodles and add the desired herbs. Spoon the broth (it should be extremely hot, right off the stove) over all the contents of the bowl. The hot broth will cook the raw meat in the bowl.
For an authentic experience, serve with chopsticks AND a spoon. Enjoy!
Nathalie Basha, a Thousand Oaks resident, loves to travel all over the world and will take us on an adventures every “Travel Tuesday.”