The traditional way to make this soup taste the best is to make your own stock for it; but this soup will taste delightful even if you use a good shop-bought liquid stock. I had this soup in Hanoi, where it is traditionally called pho, pronounced ‘fuh’, and made with beef or chicken. My version has prawns in for a little variation. serves 4
1.5 litres of good chicken, beef, veg or fish stock
3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
2 red chillies, deseeded for less heat if preferred, very finely chopped
2 sticks of lemon grass, first two layers removed, the white bit finely chopped
3cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and very finely chopped 3 tbsp soy sauce
10 black peppercorns
3 whole cloves
2 star anise
1 small cinnamon stick
300g rice noodles
400g raw, peeled king prawns
Juice of 1 small lime
1–4 tsp fish sauce (optional) to serve Sriracha and/ or hoisin sauce
Small handful of fresh Thai basil leaves (optional)
Put the stock in a large pan with the garlic, chillies (reserving a small handful for garnishing later if liked), lemon grass, ginger, soy sauce, peppercorns, cloves, star anise and cinnamon, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the noodles and continue to simmer for as long as the packet says they need to cook. Add the prawns 3–4 minutes before the end of the noodle cooking time. The noodles should be tender and the prawns turned pink and cooked through.
Remove the peppercorns, whole cloves, star anise and cinnamon stick if you like (and if you can fish them out!). Add the lime juice and then taste the soup. Add more soy sauce or some fish sauce if you think it needs it, tasting as you go. Divide among four serving bowls and serve immediately with the any reserved chilli and some Thai basil leaves, if using, scattered over on top.