Serves 4 generously
For the broth
1kg beef bones, with some meat on
a chunk (about 7cm) of fresh unpeeled ginger
120g red Asian shallots, unpeeled
800g beef brisket, with some fat
5 star anise
2 sticks of cassia bark
2 Vietnamese cardamom pods
2 teaspoons Vietnamese peppercorns
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon salt
400g dried flat pho noodles
½ small white onion, thinly sliced
300g rump or sirloin steak, sliced 2mm thick
4 spring onions, thinly sliced into long strips
a couple of handfuls coriander leaves
a couple of handfuls Vietnamese mint leaves
2 limes, quartered
a few small red chillies, sliced
smooth chilli sauce, to serve
For the broth, put the bones into a stockpot and cover with water. Bring to the boil, simmer for 5 minutes, then pour off the water. Rinse the bones, return to the pot, cover with 4 litres water and bring to a boil. Skim, then cover and simmer gently for 2 hours.
Heat a griddle pan or barbecue and cook the ginger and shallots until golden charred on all sides.
Add the shallots, ginger and remaining broth ingredients to the pot. Simmer, covered, skimming occasionally, for about 2. hours, until the meat is very tender when you poke it with a chopstick. Take off the heat and leave to cool, then skim off the layer of fat.
Remove the brisket and wrap in cling film until needed.
Strain the broth through a fine sieve. You should have about 2 litres; top up with water if necessary. Put into a pan and bring to a simmer.
Check the seasoning. Slice the brisket thinly, or into small pieces (leaving some fat on if you like).
To serve, cook the noodles in boiling water until tender. Meanwhile, bring about 375ml broth to the boil in a small separate saucepan. Have 4 large, deep warmed bowls ready.
Cut the steak into 4cm pieces. Drain the noodles and divide between the bowls. Add some brisket to each and divide the onion slices between them.
Drop half the steak slices into the boiling broth, swish them around for 10 seconds or so and, as soon as they change colour, scoop them out and divide between two of the bowls. Quickly cook the rest of the steak and divide between the other two bowls. Add a big ladleful of hot broth to each bowl.
Top each with a heap of spring onions and a small handful of coriander and mint leaves. Serve with the limes, chillies and chilli sauce on the side. To eat, squeeze in some lime juice and float a few chillies in the broth to release their heat.
This is an edited extract from Provence to Pondicherry by Tessa Kiros published by Quadrille RRP $49.99 and is available in stores nationally.