This is pretty time-consuming on the front end, but once you make the broth this comes together quickly. Pho, pronounced “fuh,” is a classic Vietnamese recipe typically done with beef. I switched up and substituted wild duck, and the result is very satisfying. Don’t try to skip the broth-making here — the broth makes or breaks a good pho, and besides, this is a perfect use for leftover duck carcasses!
Once made, the broth can be frozen for months or refrigerated for a few days. When you serve, have everything set out beforehand and bring it all together quickly.
Makes 1 gallon broth
- Carcasses, necks, feet, giblets from 5-10 ducks
- 2 sliced onions
- 6 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
- 10 cardamom pods
- 5 star anise pods
- 1 tablespoon coriander seed
- 6 cloves
- 1 tablespoon fennel seed
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1/2 cup Vietnamese fish sauce
- I/2 duck breast per person
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- Pho ba noodles or Japanese soba, or buckwheat noodles
- 2 thinly sliced onions
- 4 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
- bean sprouts
- cilantro or Asian basil
- thinly sliced chiles, such as serrano
- To make the broth, put all the duck bits into a large stock pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Skim the scum that rises to the top, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Do not let it boil from here on in.
- While the water is coming to a boil, toast in a dry frying pan the coriander, cloves, fennel seed, cardamom and star anise until fragrant. Stir often to keep from burning.
- Once the water in the stockpot is pretty much scum-free, add the onion, ginger, spices, fish sauce, sugar and salt and stir well. Move the pot off the center of the burner a little and simmer for at least 2 hours — I do three hours. Moving the pot off to the side a little allows you to periodically skim the top. You want to get most of the fat off the top.
- Once the broth begins to taste yummy, turn off the heat and discard all the duck bits, onion, etc. Then strain the broth through a piece of cheesecloth set in a fine-meshed sieve. Pour slowly and discard the last dregs of the broth, which will have sediment in it.
- If you want to be fancy, cool the broth now and once it has been refrigerated for a while, pick off the fat cap that may form.
- To serve, heat the broth — do not let it boil — with the 4-inch piece of ginger and the sliced onions. Let this heat through until the onions are wilty, about 10 minutes.
- Set out an array of condiments: Herbs, bean sprouts, sliced chiles, fish sauce, hot sauce and hoisin sauce. This is traditional, although you can improvise if needed. The one thing you must have is fresh herbs, however.
- Boil water, salt it, and cook the noodles. Traditional pho noodles (available at Asian stores) are best, but I also like Japanese buckwheat noodles, which, while untraditional, taste perfect with the gaminess of wild duck.
- Put 2 tablespoons sesame oil in a pan and get it hot. Sear the duck breasts on all sides under a very hot fire — you want a nice sear on the edges but for the duck to still be raw inside. You need not do this, but the seared edges add something to the dish.
- When the noodles are done, gather up portions and put them in serving bowls.
- Slice the duck breast as thin as you can and lay them on the noodles.
- Pick out the ginger from the broth, then pour some broth over the noodles and duck. Be sure to give everyone some onions.
- Serve at once. Let everyone add whatever condiments they want.