In Vietnam, pho, as this rice-noodle soup is known, is often enjoyed for breakfast. Nutritionists recommend incorporating red meat into one's diet just as it's used here -- in small portions and as a complement to other foods. The soup also includes bean sprouts and a handful of fresh herbs. The stock needs to be refrigerated for at least six hours; make it a day ahead.
* FOR THE STOCK
* 8 whole star anise
* 1 whole cinnamon stick
* 6 whole cloves
* 1 piece (4 inches) peeled fresh ginger
* 2 medium onions, halved
* 4 pounds oxtail, rinsed thoroughly
* 6 scallions, white and pale-green parts only, cut into 2-inch pieces, plus 4 thinly sliced on the diagonal
* 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
* FOR THE SOUP
* 1 teaspoon coarse salt
* 8 ounces eye of round or sirloin of beef
* 8 ounces thin rice noodles (rice-stick)
* 2 shallots, thinly sliced
* 3/4 cup fresh bean sprouts
* FOR THE GARNISH
* 3/4 cup fresh cilantro sprigs
* 3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
* 1 lime, quartered
1. Make stock: Heat star anise, cinnamon, and cloves in a small dry skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a 6-quart stockpot.
2. Preheat broiler. Broil ginger and onions, flipping once, until blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to pot. Add oxtail, 2-inch scallion pieces, and peppercorns. Add 5 quarts water; bring to a boil. Skim foam. Add salt. Reduce heat. Simmer, skimming occasionally, 2 1/2 hours.
3. Pour stock through a large sieve into a large bowl; discard solids. Let cool 20 minutes. Pour through a cheesecloth-lined sieve into a large bowl. Refrigerate, covered, 6 hours or overnight.
4. Make soup: Chill beef in freezer until firm, about 2 hours. Cover noodles with cold water. Let stand until noodles are softened, about 30 minutes; drain.
5. Cut beef in half. Place each half flat side down, and cut beef against the grain as thinly as possible. Allow beef to warm to room temperature.
6. Skim fat from stock; discard. Transfer stock to a pot; add shallots, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until shallots are soft, about 15 minutes.
7. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add noodles; cook until just tender, about 10 seconds; drain.
8. Divide noodles, beef, and sprouts among 4 bowls. Add simmering stock (it will cook beef gently). Top with thinly sliced scallions and herbs; serve each with a lime wedge.