This extreme cheater’s version of beef pho takes several shortcuts to keep the prep and cook time to only 1 hour (instead of up to 12). We start with store-bought beef broth rather than making it from scratch—but to make the soup even richer, you can substitute bone broth. Instead of roasting then simmering onions and ginger in large pieces for hours, they’re simply sliced and given a quick high-heat saute to coax out as much flavor as possible in the shortened cooking time. In place of dried rice stick noodles, we opted for fresh ones that cook in mere seconds and come out perfectly toothsome every time.
Cut the flank steak in half lengthwise and place in the freezer until the steak starts to freeze around the outer edges and is easy to thinly slice, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the cinnamon sticks, star anise and peppercorns in a large Dutch oven or wide pot. Toast over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the spices are very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer the toasted spices to a small bowl.
Increase the heat to high and pour the oil into the Dutch oven. Add the white onions and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Carefully pour in the beef broth and stir in the garlic and toasted spices. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to a strong simmer and cook until the broth is deeply flavored and fragrant, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, fill a large stockpot halfway with water, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Arrange the red onion, jalapeño, lime, bean sprouts and Thai basil on a small serving plate. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Remove the flank steak from the freezer and slice very thinly on a slight bias against the grain (about 1/8 inch thick). Lay the sliced steak on a large plate and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Strain the broth into a large bowl then return to the Dutch oven; discard the solids. Stir in the fish sauce and sugar and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, add the noodles to the boiling water and cook, giving them a quick stir, until they lose their shape and almost wilt down, about 5 seconds. Drain the noodles well. Working quickly, divide the noodles among 4 large serving bowls. If the noodles start to get too sticky, give them a quick rinse under hot water.
Shingle the sliced steak on top of the noodles in a single layer. Pour the hot broth over the noodles and steak. Serve immediately with the plate of toppings, hoisin sauce, Sriracha and more fish sauce on the side.
Fresh rice stick noodles can be found in the refrigerated section of most Southeast Asian grocery stores, but you can also substitute 12 ounces of good-quality dried flat rice noodles and prepare them according to the package directions.
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