Flavor, health lead to pho’s popularity in Las Vegas

To call pho simply a Vietnamese soup is to understate its appeal and its complexity, both of which have led to it bubbling out of niche status and steaming into the mainstream.

Pho is, experts say, all about the broth. But before we get to that, let’s talk about the word.

For those who aren’t familiar with it,”pho” may look like it would be pronounced “foe.” But it’s actually more like “fuh,” which is why you’ll see all sorts of names that are plays on that pronunciation, some of them naughty, others bordering on the obscene, most of them memorable, which is always the point.

But back to the broth. Helen Le, whose cookbook, “Simply Pho,” was published by Race Point Publishing in September, said all elements of the soup are important, but one reigns supreme.

“The thing that we treasure most is the broth,” Le said from her home in Da Nang, Vietnam. “It has to be really clear, but very flavorful.”

“There’s no shortcut in making good pho broth; it’s a process,” said Eric Graham, owner of Red Lantern Pho Vietnamese Grill on South Grand Canyon Drive. “You can’t use a stock, you can’t use a powdered base or anything like that to get a good, true pho broth.”

Le said a proper pho broth starts with a mix of bones, which are soaked, rinsed, parboiled and boiled in a process that can take hours. Next it’s seasoned with a whole peeled onion, salt and rock sugar. Then the “aroma ingredients” are added: charred onion and ginger and spices such as cinnamon, star anise and black cardamom.

She said the clarity of the broth is important because it’s the first thing you see, and it belies the complexity of flavor.

“It looks really clear and plain, but then you’ve got this smell, which makes you excited,” she said. “The soup is full of flavor; that’s just not what it looks like.”

Her simplified version — which still is lengthy — follows. Le said pho really isn’t difficult to make at home.

“When you get the hang of it, it’s not that troublesome,” she said. “I can spend one or two hours and it’ll feed the whole family for a couple of days, so it’s worth it.”

Craig Taylor, executive chef at TI, said the resort opened its pho restaurant in 2006 — “back when pho was just on the cusp of becoming really popular.” It was suggested by a casino host, he said, but before they could open, they sought some local knowledge.

“There were only a handful at the time, on Spring Mountain Road,” Taylor said. “I learned as much as I could about it, recruited a Vietnamese chef, and we’ve been killing it ever since.”

Taylor said the restaurant started as a three-seat section in The Coffee Shop. Popularity prompted an expansion before long to 60 seats. Today, he said, it’s overtaken the coffee shop (customers get a pho menu and a coffee-shop menu) and is one of the resort’s most successful dining enterprises.

He said the busiest times are around Christmas and during the Electric Daisy Carnival.

“The millennials love pho,” Taylor said. “They come in groups of 15 or 20 and they slurp up pho after a night of whatever they do out there.”

Santa Fe Station added a pho station to its Thursday-night buffet about eight months ago because, said executive chef Ken Torres, they were looking for a build-your-own sort of experience for guests.

“It’s been really popular,” he said. “They like the ability to create it the way they want it. It’s as light or heavy as you want it to be.”

Torres said the pho served on the Feast Buffet is beef-based, or pho tai, which chefs and restaurateurs said remains the most popular.

“Because of its simplicity,” Graham said. “It’s lean, rare steak in a clear, rich beef broth with some fresh veg.”

Le echoed the theme of simplicity, saying she thinks the growing popularity of pho is attributable to the fact that “it’s good.”

“It impresses everyone who tries it for the first time,” she said. “You remember it, and you want to have more of it. The second thing is it’s healthy; it’s good for your body. Food is not just to make you full, but it has medical effects and makes you feel good.”

There are some variations — chicken-based pho and vegetarian or vegan versions, which often are made with a base of mushrooms or fruits and vegetables. Pho King Phenomenal, which is on Basic Road in Henderson, serves a Thai-style pho.

“We’re not traditional,” said Gary Tobin, chef and owner. “We have to let people know that up front. We start by rendering bacon to release the fats, which is a little different.” A native of Thailand, he said there’s a lot of culinary overlap with the neighboring Vietnam.

Tobin said the spices — he uses clove, star anise, cinnamon, turmeric and a little bit of smoked paprika — are crucial.

“If you don’t have those, it’s just a beef broth,” he said.

“Everybody likes it,” Taylor said. “It’s very approachable, really fresh-tasting because you use a lot of herbs and vegetables.”

Simplified pho noodle soup with beef

5 pounds beef bones (marrow and knuckle)

1 pound beef brisket or flank, kept whole

20 cups water

1 medium yellow onion, peeled

1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste

1 thumb-sized piece rock sugar, plus more to taste

Chicken stock powder, to taste

Pho aroma:

1 medium yellow onion, unpeeled and halved

2 thumb-sized knobs ginger, cut lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices

3 star anise

2 cinnamon sticks

2 or 3 black cardamom pods

1 teaspoon cloves (optional)

1 teaspoon coriander seeds (optional)

Pho bowl:

3 1/2 pounds fresh or cooked pho noodles

10 1/2 ounces beef (eye of round or sirloin), thinly sliced against the grain

1 small or medium yellow onion, sliced very thin, soaked in ice water for 15 minutes, and drained

3 to 5 scallions (green parts chopped; white parts kept whole, smashed and blanched)

3 sprigs Asian basil

3 sprigs sawtooth herb

1 pound bean sprouts, blanched (optional)

1 lime, cut into wedges

Hoisin sauce (optional)

Sriracha (optional)

To make broth: Place the beef bones in a stockpot filled with enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the impurities rise to the top. Drain the pot and rinse the bones well under running water to wash away the impurities.

Place the bones in a large stockpot with the beef brisket and the water. (If you use the same pot as in the first step, make sure you clean it before you put the bones back in. It is crucial for a clear broth.) Add the onion, 1 tablespoon salt and a thumb-sized piece of rock sugar to the stockpot. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered. Occasionally skim. Depending on the cut of beef, it might take 1 to 2 hours to cook. If the broth reduces, add hot water to compensate, making sure you always have the same amount as when you started.

To make pho aroma: Heat the onion halves and ginger slices directly over an open flame on the stove until slightly charred on all sides. Peel the grilled onion, but try to keep the stem intact and not let the onion layers fall apart. Rinse the onion and ginger under warm running water and scrape off the charred bits.

Toast the star anise, cinnamon sticks, black cardamom pods, cloves (if using) and coriander seeds (if using) in a large pan over medium-low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Place these spices in a spice ball or large tea or spice bag(s), or wrap in a piece of cheesecloth. Add spices and the charred onion and ginger into the stockpot 30 to 45 minutes before serving, so the aroma stays fresh and tempting.

When you pierce the meat with a chopstick and see no pink water coming out, it is cooked. Remove and soak in a large bowl of cold water for 5 minutes to prevent the beef from drying out or turning dark. Drain and thinly slice into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.

Remove the onion halves from the stockpot before they break, which will make the broth less clear. Continue to simmer the broth for at least a few more hours on very low heat if you have time. The broth should simmer for at least 2 hours from the beginning of making the recipe and up to 8 hours. If the broth reduces, add hot water to compensate, making sure you always have the same amount as when you started.

Season the broth to taste with salt, sugar and stock powder.

To assemble pho bowls: Fill each serving bowl one-third full with noodles (about a handful of noodles). Top with sliced beef (cooked and/or raw beef, your choice), onion slices, chopped scallions and blanched scallions.

Ladle the hot broth over the noodles to fill the bowl. The broth will cook the raw beef in seconds. Serve with a platter of the fresh herbs, blanched bean sprouts and lime wedges, along with the hoisin sauce and sriracha, if using these condiments.

Serves 8 to 10.

Recipe from “Simply Pho” by Helen Le.

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl!
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Welcomes New Baby Girl! The 45-year-old actor posted an adorable photo on Instagram, celebrating his newborn baby girl, Tiana Gia Johnson. Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram Dwayne Johnson, via Instagram This is Johnson’s second daughter with his girlfriend, Lauren Hashian. His oldest daughter, Simone Garcia Johnson, came from his previous marriage. Johnson and Hashian first announced they were expecting another child back in January. Congratulations!!
Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend Car Show celebrates 21st year
The Stray Cats, Jerry Lee Lewis, Duane Eddy, Elvira and Mitch Polzak make appearances the 21st Annual Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend car show at the Orleans hotel and casino on Saturday, April 21, 2018.
This "Alice in Wonderland" cocktail changes colors and flavors while you sip
Take a tour of The Underground at The Mob Museum
Prince death investigation coming to an end
Prosecutors in Minnesota plan an announcement Thursday on the two-year investigation into Prince's death from a drug overdose Prince was 57 when he was found alone and unresponsive in an elevator at his Paisley Park estate on April 21, 2016. An autopsy found he died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl. Search warrants unsealed about a year after Prince died showed that authorities searched his home, cellphone records of associates and his email accounts to try to determine how he got the drug. The county attorney has scheduled a morning announcement at which time charges could be filed.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Big Bounce America visits North Las Vegas
Billing itself as "the biggest bounce house in the world," Big Bounce America visits Craig Ranch Regional Park in Las Vegas.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
Disneyland debuts new foods for Pixar Fest on Friday
Pixar Fest takes place ahead of California Adventure’s Pixar Pier expansion. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sneak Peek at New Decorations, Merch and Parade for Disneyland's Pixar Fest
Las Vegas Philharmonic celebrates 20th anniversary season
Orchestra’s 2018-19 season features premiere, more (Carol Cling/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Downtown Las Vegas' newest bar is a reggae lounge
Jammyland serves island-inspired cocktails. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
This boozy milkshake is big enough to share with seven of your best friends
Fiddlestix makes an "8 Man Milkshake" that's packed with alcohol. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Five Chris Stapleton songs you need to hear
D. Michael Evola opened E-String to make New York style pizza
Shamrock Macarons at Morels at Palazzo
Zuma serves a sushi roll topped with 24-karat gold
La Cirque covers their quail and foie gras in real gold
Jean-Georges Steakhouse seves chocolate gold bars
3 ways you can eat gold in Las Vegas
Artist Kathleen Nathan On The Virtues Of Library Galleries
The Las Vegas-Clark County Library District’s art galleries offers artists a more relaxed vibe for showing their work. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada SPCA Competes In Tournament Of Tails
The NSPCA and its mascot cat, Prince, are competing in an online voting challenge for a $5,000 grand prize.
Red carpet at MGM for Dan Reynolds Believer screening
Kats on the red carpet for the VIP screening of "Believer," the documentary by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds about how the Mormon Church treats its LGBTQ members.
Eureka's cocktail comes with a "buzz button" that will shock your taste buds
‘The Sopranos’ Prequel Film Confirmed
‘The Sopranos’ Prequel Film Confirmed Deadline reports that New Line has purchased Chase and Lawrence Konner’s screenplay for their “Sopranos” prequel film. The working title for the prequel is “The Many Saints of Newark.” Chase created the HBO series, which ran for six seasons, and Konner served as a writer. “The Many Saints of Newark” is set during the 1960s riots in the New Jersey city between the African-American and Italian communities. Multiple characters from the series, albeit younger versions, are expected to star in the film. The Sopranos won 21 Primetime Emmy Awards and five Golden Globe Awards during its run.
The Big Bounce America is coming to the Las Vegas Valley
The Big Bounce America. (Courtesy Big Bounce America)
The 90th Oscars Were the Least Watched in History
The 90th Oscars Were the Least Watched in History According to The Hollywood Reporter, 26.5 million watched the Oscars, a 20 percent drop from last year. The 26.5 million viewers would be an all-time low for the Oscars. Overnight returns had the lengthy ABC telecast averaging a 18.9 rating among households between 8 and 11 p.m. ET. Last year, 32.9 million viewers tuned in to watch the ceremony. The previous low for viewership was 32 million viewers in 2008 when Jon Stewart was host. The Shape of Water picked up an award for Best Picture, while Gary Oldman and Frances McDormand won Best Actor and Actress, respectively.
March First Friday theme is “Think”
First Friday art, culture, music and food event takes place on the first Friday of every month in and around the studios and galleries of the Arts District in downtown Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon)
Cirque’s One Night for One Drop gets ready for the big night
Cirque du Soleil’s “One Night for One Drop” performed a dress rehearsal for the annual benefit show. This year’s show at Mandalay Bay is based on the life of singer-songwriter Jewel. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
ad-infeed_1
ads_infeed_2
Local Spotlight
Events
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like