There’s no shortage of excellent Vietnamese diners in the inner-western Sydney suburb of Marrickville. But when Cuong Nguyen opened Hello Auntie with his mum in 2015, they were doing things a little differently, serving traditional banh xeo, pho and rice-paper rolls – along with a few experimental dishes – in a more sophisticated, formal dining space.

The formula proved popular enough that Nguyen opened a second, even more experimental, outpost of the diner in the enormous new Darling Square precinct last year (currently closed due to coronavirus restrictions).

This is a version of the pho dac biet (usually prepared with rare beef, brisket and meatballs) that is served at both Hello Aunties. To make it a bit easier on home chefs, Nguyen has simplified the recipe – but it’s no less flavoursome or hearty.

“This pho dac biet recipe is a modified version of my mother’s special recipe,” Nguyen tells Broadsheet. “I grew up eating this dish and whenever she cooked this pho, the fragrant smell of all the herbs and spices would fill up the house.

“Pho dac biet is my go-to dish for winter: the broth is packed with all the nutrients from the bones and spices, and the different textures from the meats is always fun to eat.”

This recipe makes enough to serve 10 to 15 people, but the broth can be stored in the freezer for up to three months. Fresh pho rice noodles can be found in Asian groceries, and dried pho rice noodles can be found in most supermarkets.

Pho dac biet
Serves 10–15
Preparation time: 50 minutes
Cooking time: 8.5–12.5 hours

Ingredients
1–2kg brisket or flank (depending on desired number of serves)
Pho rice noodles (fresh or dried – number of packets depends on desired number of serves)
Thai basil (regular basil can be substituted), to serve
Bean sprouts, to serve
Sriracha sauce, to serve
Hoisin sauce, to serve

Beef broth
2.5kg chicken frames
2kg beef marrow bones (femur)
100g ginger, peeled
2 large brown onions, peeled
150g rock sugar
65g salt
2g fennel seeds
5g cloves
8g star-anise
4g cinnamon bark
5g black pepper
1g liquorice bark
1 pod black cardamom

Meatballs
1–2kg lean beef mince (depending on desired number of serves)
For every 500g of beef:
1 egg
2g salt
2g pepper
2g garlic powder
2g onion powder

Method
Trim excess fat from chicken frames. Rinse both the beef bones and chicken frames thoroughly. Char the ginger and onion with a naked flame and rub off any excess burnt skin from the ginger. Place bones into a 10L pot, followed by the onion and ginger. Fill the pot with 7L of water, then add sugar and salt. Bring to a boil. Remove any grey foam from the surface, then reduce to a gentle simmer for 8 to 12 hours.

Add meatballs 4 hours into simmering. To make the meatballs, mix all meatball ingredients thoroughly in a bowl, then roll into your desired size. Add them to the broth and cook until firm. Remove when done.

Add spices after 6 hours, then simmer for a further 1 to 3 hours, depending on the desired strength of the broth. You need to simmer the broth for at least 8 hours – anything less won’t give you enough depth of flavour.

Add brisket or flank into the beef broth at any time, and cook until it reaches the desired tenderness. Remove once cooked as desired.

Cook fresh rice noodles in boiling water for a minute or dried noodles in boiling water per packet instructions. To serve, divide noodles between bowls, then spoon over the broth and add in beef and meatballs. Add basil, bean sprouts, sriracha and hoisin sauce to taste.

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