Hanoi Noodle Soup With Ham


Unless you’re from Vietnam you may not be aware that there are two main styles of pho –Hanoi pho (the northern variation) andSaigon pho (the southern variation).

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Most of what’s served in Vietnamese restaurants in America is the Saigon-style, which I featured in part 1 of this 3-part series. I’ve read that many Vietnamese are VERY opinionated as to which type of pho is the best. Regional food debates can get quite passionate! I imagine it’s similar to the heated debate between New York pizza vs. Chicago-style pizza.

And this is perhaps why my new favorite type of pho is in fact…Hanoi-style pho.

Because as a native New Yorker, just the words “deep dish pizza” make my blood boil. Chicago-style pizza is like eating a pizza sandwich. It’s way too doughy with too many toppings. Just get a calzone or an Italian sub for god’s sake. The best pizza is plainand all about that magical combination of a thin crust, cheese, and sauce.All that extra fancy stuff obscures the very essence of pizza!


Add the shallots or onion and ginger to your beef broth.

Step 3. Add dried shrimp and spices

For the spices, that would be 1 cinnamon stick, a few whole cardamom pods (crushed to expose the seeds), 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, and 4-5 star anise.

These are similar to the spices used in a Saigon-style pho with a few small exceptions. But the biggest difference here is that there’s NO sugar added. One of the defining features, if not THE defining feature, of Hanoi pho is its savoriness. And that’s why dried shrimp is added too.

This dried shrimp pictured above was from my local Asian food market. You could also use other types of dried seafood like scallops and anchovies. You should be able to find something in any Asian food market because dried seafood is a common addition to many Asian soups, pastes, and sauces. And that’s because of its umami flavor!

But if you can’t find anything, it’s not that big of a deal. Just skip it.

Simmer everything in steps 1-3 for about 4-6 hours.

Now the next step is optional but I made this Hanoi pho recipe twice, once with step 4 and once without it, and I can say with absolute confidence that you should do this…

Step 4. Add a fuji apple

Peel it, core it and then slice it up into small chunks and add it to the broth.

I don’t know how common this is in Vietnam but Nguyen recommended it to give the broth just a delicate hint of sweetness.

All I can say is that it took the broth to an out-of-this-world sort of level. Without the apple, the broth was still great, so no big deal if you skip this step. But there’s a subtle, albeit noticeable, more rounded, balanced flavor with it.

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Step 5. Strain the broth and add fish sauce, to taste

After simmering for 4-6 hours, remove the broth from the heat and let it sit for about 15-20 minutes. Then strain it using a fine-mesh strainer and/or fine mesh cheesecloth. Next, season it with fish sauce.

Start with 2 TBSPs and taste. Add up to 2 TBSPs more, to your desired taste. If you’re making this for a group of people, go easy here and let each person add additional fish sauce, to their personal tastes, when it’s served in individual bowls.

Also, if you’re not going to use the broth right away, don’t season it with fish sauce until you’ve removed it from the fridge and reheated it.

Step 6. Thinly slice raw beef

Try to use shaved beef or just slice any cut of beef as thin as possible.

Step 7. Prepare the rice noodles

Again, I’ll refer you to part 1 in this series, because steps 6 and 7 are identical. In brief, use any type of beef you want but sirloin and NY strip are good cuts to use.

Step 8. Prepare your herbs and seasonings

For the herbs that would be the classic trifecta of pho herbs – cilantro, Thai basil, and mint. You don’t have to use any of them, if you don’t want. Many Hanoi pho purists feel that even the herbs can distract from the flavor of the broth. Nguyen doesn’t use Thai basil in her recipe but I just love it so much, so I did use a little bit. Green onions are also a common addition.

For the seasonings, there’s very little other than fish sauce. But you could add a simple homemade sauce of garlic, chiles, and vinegar.

Like so…

It’s a simple garnish that complements Hanoi pho well with sour and spicy notes. This is totally optional, though recommended if you can remember to prepare it the day before.And it’s so easy to make. Nguyen has a simple recipe in her book that I slightly adapted to my taste.

Take 2-3 cloves of garlic, crush them slightly, split one or two chiles and then add a quart cup each of rice vinegar and water to a small glass jar. Cover and put it in the fridge for a day to meld the flavors and it’s ready to go.

You can play around with those amounts and find what you like. Nguyen used a 2:1 ratio of water to vinegar but I thought that was a bit too diluted. And she only used one serrano which I didn’t think was spicy enough so I added a red Thai chile for an extra kick.

Experiment and find what you like!

Step 9. Put it all together

Place the rice noodles in individual serving bowls, followed by the raw beef, and pour in the hot broth to cook the beef. Add additional fish sauce, the herbs, green onions, and the garlic vinegar, to taste.