Hanoi Beef and Noodle Soup

Millions of North Vietnamese eat this fragrant soup for breakfast.


serves 4 - 6
1 onion
1.5 kg (3 - 3 1/2 lb) beef shank with bones
2.5 cm (1 in) fresh root ginger
1 star anise
1 bay leaf
2 whole cloves
2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) fennel seeds
1 piece of cassia bark or cinnamon stick
3 litres (5 pints) 12 1/2 cups water
fish sauce, to taste
juice of 1 lime
150 g (5 oz) fillet steak
450 g (1 lb) fresh flat rice noodles
salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the accompaniments

1 small red onion, sliced into rings
115 g (4 oz) beansprouts
2 red chillies, seeded and sliced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
handful of coriander leaves
lime wedges


1. Cut the onion in half. Grill under a high heat, cut side up, until the exposed sides are caramelized, and deep brown. Set aside.

2. Cut the meat into large chunks and then place with the bones in a large saucepan or stock pot. Add the caramelized onion with the ginger, star anise, bay leaf, cloves, fennel seeds and cassia bark or cinnamon stick.

3. Add the water, bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 2 - 3 hours, skimming off the fat and scum from time to time.

4. Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat from the stock; when cool enough to handle, cut into small pieces, discarding the bones. Strain the stock and return to the pan or stock pot together with the meat. Bring back to the boil and season with the fish sauce and lime juice.

5. Slice the fillet steak very thinly and then chill until required. Place the accompaniments in separate bowls.

6. Cook the noodles in a large saucepan of boiling water until just tender. Drain and divide among individual serving bowls. Arrange the thinly sliced steak over the noodles, pour the hot stock on top and serve, offering the accompaniments separately so that each person may garnish their soup as they like.

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