1 large yellow onion, unpeeled
1 piece (3 inches long) fresh ginger, unpeeled
2 pounds oxtails, in 2- to 3-inch pieces
2 pounds each: beef neck bones, shank bones, marrowbones
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 piece (3 inches long) Chinese cinnamon
1 whole star anise pod
1 whole clove
1 black cardamom pod, optional
1 Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place onion and ginger on rimmed baking sheet; roast until onion is soft, about 1 hour. Remove from oven; cool. Peel, then halve onion. Slice unpeeled ginger into 1/4-inch thick coins.
2 Meanwhile, prep the bones: To ensure a pot is large enough to blanch the bones without boiling over, put the oxtails, neck and shank bones in a large pot with enough water to cover by 1 inch. Remove bones. Heat water to a rolling boil. Add oxtails, neck bones and shanks back to pot. Return to a boil; boil 3 minutes. Drain pot's contents into a colander; rinse under cold running water.
3 Rinse pot; add rinsed bones and marrow bones to pot. Add onion, ginger, sugar, salt and 8 quarts fresh water to pot. Heat to a boil over high heat; skim off any foam. Lower heat to a simmer; simmer, skimming as needed to remove surface scum, 4 hours.
4 Add pepper, cinnamon, star anise, clove and cardamom. Continue simmering and skimming, 1 hour.
5 Remove from heat. Using a slotted spoon, discard large solids. Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large container. Allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight.
6 The next day, skim off most of the surface fat (there will probably be a lot). Leave some fat to give the stock better flavor and mouthfeel. Store in airtight containers up to 3 days in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer.
Know your noodles
Noodles are an important ingredient in Asian dishes, from Japan's soba (buckwheat) to the rice noodles used in Thailand's pad thai. "Vietnamese Home Cooking" author Charles Phan offers a few tips on working with noodles, including the delicate rice noodles used in pho:
Cellophane: Also called glass noodles or bean thread noodles. Made from mung beans. Popular as a filling (think: spring rolls). To use, cover with hot water and soak 10 to 15 minutes.
Rice: Can be flat or round (called "bun"), thin, medium or wide. Use flat noodles in pho and stir-fries. Round ones (thinnest caled vermicelli) in spring rolls, soups. To use, boil dried versions in unsalted water until "tender yet still have some bite."
Egg noodles: Usually dried, sometimes fresh. Various sizes. Use in soups and stir fries. To use, boil, drain, rinse.
Charles Phan's tips for assembling pho:
- Warm large serving bowls
- Arrange garnishes and sauces at the table
- Have broth at a full boil
- Put cooked noodles in bowl
- Top with cooked meat
- Add a few slices of raw meat
- Ladle boiling hot broth over all
- Serve immediately
- Each person adds garnishes as desired