I’m a huge fan of Asian cuisines, well I’m a huge fan of all cuisines to be honest. But, venison pho is something I really wanted to check off my list.
I’m not going to lie to you, it is a complex dish that takes a whole day and then some to make. I does’t help that I failed on the first attempt, (More on that later)
Ingredients For Venison Pho
A good pho is made entirely from scratch. It’s a mix of homemade broth, fresh herbs and aromatics, and choice cuts of meat.
A pho is built from the bottom up, so I’ll start that way.
Broth: This is the part I kinda messed up. To make a good broth for pho you need some good venison bones. Now I’m not the type of hunter to leave much behind in the field, I actually brought the bones back.
But you see I have two large, very hungry dogs, who get much of the scraps and bones. (They’re gundogs and earn their keep).
Anyways, my point is keep as many bones as you can for this broth. Rib bones are good for as are joint bones for cartilage.
I first made the broth using only shank bones, it wasn’t terrible but it was a little weaker than I liked.
The second attempt I used chuck roast and shanks again, this was much better. However, if you have more bones I recommend using them.
Aromatics: I don’t like to go to overboard with the aromatics here, I stick to onions and ginger. Coupled with the spices I find this enough to give the broth a complex flavor profile.
Spices: A pho soup isn’t all about a deep rich meaty broth. There are a few select spices used to elevate the soup beyond one flat flavor.
The spices are all very strong flavored and aromatic, but used in a small quantity compared to the liquid to leave a hint and not overwhelm the dish.
Meats: Pho is typically served with two cuts of meat, the one you used in making the soup, and then another prime cut that is sliced very thinly. I used venison tenderloin for this but you could also use backstrap.
Toppings: There are no hard and fast rule for toppings. The soup works extremely well with the venison, so we are looking to compliment this and not outcompete.
I like to keep it simple, some red chili for color and a little spice, lot’s of cilantro because I love it, some spring onion, and lime to provide a balance to the rich broth.
Cooking the pho is not overly complicated but has a few steps to it.
First is the meat preparation. I like to get the meat as clean as possible and remove all the bone dust after cutting.
I then powerboil the meat for five minutes and dump this water.
All these steps are to create a clean broth with no scum. However, you will still need to skim the broth a little but not as much as you would if you skipped these steps.
After this is the aromatics. This step is real simple. Keep the onions whole, slice the ginger in half. You can use a gas hob, torch, grill, or real hot cast iron pan.
Whatever your tool of choice the goal here is to get a real good char.
Next using a hot pan toast the spices for five minutes to release the aromas.
That’s most of the steps done. Next you will simmer for a long while. After which you will drain through a cheese cloth and plate.
- 2 large venison shanks 5-6 lb (see note 1)
- 1 lb venison chuck see note 2
- 2 medium onions
- 1 large piece of ginger
- 2 sticks cinnamon
- 4-5 star anise
- 3-4 cardamom
- 4 cloves
- 1 tablespoon fennel
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- Rice noodles
- Venison tenderloin sliced thinly (see note 3)
- Chuck from broth
- Meat from shanks
- Red chili deseeded and sliced thinly
- Lime sliced
- Cut the venison shanks into 2-3 pieces.
- Chop the lemon and place in a large basin of water along with salt. Add the meat and gently wash. Rinse under cold running water when done
- Set a large pot of water to boil and power boil the shanks for 5 minutes. Run under cold water afterward.
- Place the shanks and chuck in a large pot and cover with 6.3 quarts of cold water. Gently bring to a simmer.
- While waiting for the water to simmer, heat a pan over medium high heat and add in cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, fennel, cloves, and coriander seeds, and and toast for 5 minutes. When cool tie I a cheesecloth.
- Slice the ginger lengthwise through the middle. If using a gas stove char ginger and onions over flame. Alternatively use a really hot cast iron or carbon steel pan.
- Once the meat has been simmering for 5 minutes use a spoon or skimmer to remove the scum from the top.
- Add in cheesecloth with spices, fish sauce, brown sugar, and charred veg. Cover with lid and gently simmer for 4-5 hours, until the meat is tender but not falling apart.
- Remove chuck and shank meat from bones and return bones to pot. Meat can be set aside for later.
- Simmer bones for another 30-40 minutes uncovered.
- Remove bones and season with salt.
- Strain stock into a large bowl using a cheesecloth or strainer.
- Cook rice noodles according to instructions
- Plate noodles in a bowl, add raw venison on top.
- Pour over hot broth to cook venison
- Serve with toppings of your choice
- I used venison shanks because I had no other bones to hand. If you prefer you can use other bones. For best results use a mixture of marrow bones and knuckle bones.
- If you don't want to use chuck, you can also use brisket. I left this out the first time and it was a mistake.
- The prime meat needs to be sliced very thinly, to make this easy, partially freeze the meat before slicing. I used venison tenderloin, but you can also use backstrap.