July 2, 2021
Low Waste Meat Scrap Pho
Pho is the national dish of Vietnam and it’s ALSO one of my favorite soups. The broth is full of complex flavor, there are noodles in it, and I can eat it with an outrageous quantity of fresh herbs. So anyway, what can I contribute to the long history of this soup? Well, it’s not much, but I did eliminate the need to buy meat specifically for the dish. This recipe for meat scrap pho uses the trimmings from previous meat-based meals, that you would otherwise throw away.
Stop throwing away all of those meat scraps and instead use them for something tasty. Every time you trim meat for another dish, simply place the extra bits and bones into a sealable bowl, bag, or other preferable storage vessel and toss it in the freezer. Once you have enough scraps, they can be added to this pho recipe still frozen.
Have extra vegetable scraps? Make your own chicken stock.
Chicken: I think that chicken is the best meat for this scrap broth. Trimmings from chicken tend to have more bones and less fat. That means less work for you and bones provide a ton of flavor.
Beef: This is my second favorite choice for this pho. The extra fat content means that you have to spend a little more time skimming the broth. However, beef has a nice deep flavor that really compliments the broth.
Pork: You can use pork but it requires the most work for the smallest pay off. Don’t feel deterred if you have a ton of pork scraps but keep in mind you’ll need to skim quite a bit.
Tips for Making Meat Scrap Pho
Char your onion and ginger well. These ingredients are the aromatics for this dish. They contribute extra depth of flavor, particularly when well charred. Wait for your oil to get sizzling hot (see video below) before adding the aromatics. They’ll char quickly when added to a very hot pot.
Make sure to use enough trimmings. In order to get really flavorful broth you will want to have at least 2.5 pounds worth of meat scraps. Depending upon how often you eat meat, that may take a while to accumulate. It takes me about 2 months to acquire enough scraps for pho.
Do extra skimming. Compared to a standard pho recipe, there will inherently be more fat in this one, due to the nature of the protein used. That means that you will want to take a little extra time skimming the fat off the top. This will ensure that you end up with a nice clear broth.
Use the meat from your scraps. After you strain your broth, you will be left with a pile of mush. Within that mush is some amazingly tender and flavorful meat. See, you have effectively been slowly braising your scraps, the fat has melted down, and you’re left with a surprising amount of meat (unless your meat trimming skills are excellent).
Toppings for Pho
One of my favorite things about eating pho is finding out how many fresh herbs and jalapeño slices I can shove into my bowl. I also like to mix in a little lime juice, sriracha, and hoisin to finish it out. Mix and match your favorite ingredients from below. Check out this guide to Asian sauces to decide which you might want for topping your pho.
- Shredded meat or air fryer tofu
- Bean Sprouts
- Sliced Jalapeño
- Thai Basil
- Fish Sauce
- Hoisin Sauce
How to Store the Broth
Store broth in the fridge for about 5 days.
This broth freezes very well, making it a great make ahead option. The quality will remain high for around 6 months in the freezer.
Get your broth a’simmering, melt into your couch, and enjoy your free aromatherapy session.
Meat Scrap Pho
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 large or 2 small onions cut in half
- 1 " long piece of fresh ginger cut into ~1/4" slices
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 4 cups water
- 2 ½ lb meat scraps minimum
- 1 oz cilantro a small bunch
- 5 star anise
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 ½ tsp whole coriander seeds
- 6 tsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp white sugar
- 2 tsp coarse salt divided
The bowls – only the noodles are required – mix and match
- 14 oz pack of rice noodles stir fry, or pad thai noodles work well
- bean sprouts
- jalapeño sliced thinly
- lime for the juice
- fresh cilantro
- fresh mint
- fresh thai basil
- hoisin sauce
- fish sauce
- Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium-high until the oil sizzles dramatically when splashed lightly with water.
- Add the onions and ginger to the pot and cook them on the first side until it they're well charred ~45 seconds. Then flip the pieces and cook them long enough to char that side as well.
- Pour water and broth into the pot carefully, to avoid steam burns.
- Add your meat scraps into the pot, straight from the freezer.
- Mix in the the rest of the ingredients, except for the salt.
- Bring the broth to just below a boil, then reduce your heat to the lowest setting and cover the pot most of the way. It will take a little while for your broth to heat up, remember that you just contributed a lot of meatcicles to it.
- Give the broth a quick skim to remove some of the fat that has risen to the top.
- Cook the broth for 1 ½ hours, skimming another 2-3 times during that time.
- Mix 1 ½ tsp of coarse salt into the broth, then replace the cover and cook for another 15 minutes.
- Pour soup through a fine mesh sieve (or less fine but with cheesecloth) into a vessel large enough to contain that much hot liquid. Mix in the last ½ tsp of coarse salt.
- When it's no longer burning hot, paw through the leavings in your sieve and pull out your slow braised, shredded meat. The fat will have mostly melted from the protein and you'll be left with extremely tender meat.
- Meanwhile, prepare the rice noodles according to box directions.
- Wash, chop, or otherwise prepare your chosen toppings from the above list.
- Put ⅕ of the noodles in a bowl, top with your shredded meat, then pour hot broth over everything.
- Add all of your chosen toppings over the top, stir, and enjoy.
- Eat the broth within about 5 days or freeze it for up to 6 months (for best quality).