Memories of Hanoi

Rich and I were lucky enough to travel to Hanoi last year. I’ll be honest – it was a total junket, with all the good stuff laid on, but it gave us a great opportunity to briefly visit a country we’d never seen before.

I’ll write more about this trip, the highlights, the food, etc, and post a few snaps so you can get a feel for why Hanoi is a place worth seeing. Aside from anything else, the food is beyond sensational. Although hotel food can be sub-par at the best of times, we were staying at the Intercontinental Westlake (amazing!). Breakfast every morning was wide ranging, but we always managed to plough through a bowl of beef or chicken pho.

I’ve been craving this fragrant, fresh soup a great deal recently (likely because it’s cold and I’m missing summer). I turned to Luke Nguyen’s comprehensive Vietnamese cookbook, Vietnam, and the recipe gave me the basics, but was too much for a Wednesday night!

So I messed with it a bit to make the recipe something a bit more achievable when time is short and you can’t be travelling all over town for ingredients.


2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions roughly chopped
large thumb ginger roughly sliced
2 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
1tsp whole peppercorns
2 litres good quality beef stock
1/3 cup fish sauce
500ml water
2 tbsp raw sugar

4 pieces of sirloin steak (approx 150g pre-trimmed), fat trimmed
250g packet rice noodles

Picture 070


Mint (Vietnamese if you can get it)
Spring onions, sliced
Red onions, thinly sliced
Lime wedges
Red chilis, thinly sliced
Chili oil
Fish sauce

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over a moderate heat.
  2. Add onions and ginger, and cook until beginning to turn brown
  3. Add spices and cook until fragrant
  4. Pour in stock, fish sauce, water and raw sugar and bring to the boil
  5. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until reduced by approximately a third
  6. Meanwhile, cook noodles in boiling water as per instructions. Drain, rinse and set aside
  7. Heat a barbecue or griddle pan until very hot, and sear steaks very briefly (no more than a minute each side) until steaks are charred but still very rare in the middle
  8. While steaks are resting, arrange noodles in four large, deep bowls. Strain soup, discard onions and spices and pour over noodles
  9. Slice steaks thinly and arrange on top
  10. Serve with garnishes and allow everyone to garnish their soup to taste


  • Vietnamese mint is really hard to find in Auckland (I’ve had no success so far). It’s not quite as authentic as I’d like, but I use common mint instead
  • Luke Nguyen recommends using cassia bark. Cinnamon sticks are a suitable replacement (which I’ve used above), but if you can find cassia, use that instead in the same quantities
  • If you want to substitute beef for chicken, change the stock to chicken stock, and change out the beef for chicken breast or thighs, depending on your preference. I would recommend ¬†poaching the chicken until cooked, which you can do in the soup base for approximately 15 minutes or until no longer pink in the centre.

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