We wanted some Phở, and weren't willing to schlep the whole family across the sound, so I decided to make it. I used the recipe in Mai Pham's Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table. It takes a while, but the result is a good, authentic-tasting broth.
It starts with 5 pounds of beef marrow bones and 2 pounds of beef chuck. You cut the piece of chuck in half, and then put it all in a pot of water to cover, and heat until boiling. At the same time heat 6 quarts of water in a stockpot. Then you boil for 5 minutes, and throw that water out, taking a lot of the inital scum with it. Then the bones and meat go into the stockpot, to which 1/4c of fish sauce and 3Tbsp sugar, a 6 inch piece of charred ginger, and 2 charred yellow onions are added. (You char and peel them over an open flame). This gets simmered for a while, skimming scum and fat. After 40 minutes or so take one piece of the beef chuck out, and put it in cold water to cover for 40 minutes. Then slice up the chuck and put it aside. Then the broth gets simmered for another 50 minutes, at which time you toast 6 star anise and 10 cloves in a pan until fragrant, put them in cheesecloth, and add them to the broth. After another 1/2 hour, skimming all the while, take out the spices and onions, add a tablespoon of salt, and it's ready. I simmered it quite a bit longer, because it was done before anyone was ready to eat.
Cook some pho noodles in boiling water for just until chewy(20 or 30 seconds) and then put them in a bowl with some thinly sliced raw sirloin (freeze it a bit first), and some of the cooked chuck. Bring the broth to a boil and add it to the bowl. Garnish with scallions, cilantro, and thinly-sliced yellow onion, and serve with the usual pho plate of goodies (thai basil, sawtoof leaf herb if you can find it, bean sprouts, sliced lime, vietnamese chili sauce, sliced peppers, hoisin). On the table, add your favorite goodies and eat quickly before the noodles absorb too much liquid. I like some of the other stuff they put in pho, like tripe and tendon, but Mai Pham doesn't tell me what kind to use or how to prepare it, so I'll have to look around.
The pho turned out great. I probably could have gotten the broth a little clearer. It was a lot of work, and it might be easier to get on the boat and go to Pho Hoa. The only trouble is, darling Catherine hates pho.
I also made goi cuon for an appetizer, which we ended up eating all of in the afternoon because they were so good.