i'm crazy about pho but there's no pho to be had on my island so i had to get creative and start making it myself. i've progressed to where i'd say my pho is better than what you'd get at your average strip mall pho noodle joint. i start with a very meat intensive broth (i've had some success with lots of shrimp shells and ling cod bones too).
(this vague recipe coming up below is heavily influenced by the Mai Pham book Pleasures of the Vietnamese table. great book. the sizzling saimese crepes...oohhlala. and she turned me on to this wickedly good way of handling pork shoulder, thinly cut, marinated in a melted sugar/fish sauce concoction, then fried fast, wrapped in romaine, dipped in ginger/garlic/hot pepper/sugar/fish sauce/lime juice nectar-of-the-gods.........................)
my fav pho starter is a chunk of beef shoulder and some marrow bones. two stock pots with what would be just more than enough simmering water to cover the meat. meat goes in one pot for a few minutes until foam starts rising leave it in a few minutes longer, not quite boiling. once that foamy stuff has risen spoon it off and discard and transfer meat to next pot. quarter a onion and a big chunk of ginger. with some metal tongs char these pieces over a open flame till fragrant and add to broth. in a hot skillet toast some clove and star anise until they smell good, then add to pot. careful to keep pot below boiling and skim foam. add @1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup fish sauce. simmer for about two hours. remove meat and bones from pot. strain broth and discard solids. season broth to taste with more fish sauce. if you're thinking the broth is under-flavored worry not...it's the added aromatics later that liven things up.
i like to chill out at this point. refrigerate the meat and broth separately. once cooled you can de-fat the broth, salvage the marrow from the bones, and thinly slice the beef. heat broth. get a pot of water going and cook your favorite rice noodle. use about a cup or so of broth to warm the meat and marrow in a separate skillet. to serve i like to put noodles in bowl, top with meat, add a cup or so broth (and the broth from meat warming). finish with thai basil, fresh hot peppers (habanero is my fav but too hot to some, jalapeno, serrano...), lime, and hoisin and rooster on the side. party on!