Imbuing pho broth with whole spices is to be expected but when you want to define as well as reinforce the pho imprint, use this spice blend. I formulated it for The Pho Cookbook to give cooks a tool that could help them make something more “pho-ish”, to help it say, “I am pho-like!”
My initial motivation was to come up with a homemade hoisin sauce recipe on page 102 of the book. What’s bottled and sold as hoisin sauce for pho (tuong an pho) is incredibly sweet and lacking complexity. I wanted my condiment to take a turn toward the pho family of flavors (say that a few times). I analyzed the ratio of spices that I typically use for pho and came up with a formula for the recipe below.
The spice blend worked for hoisin but what’s the use of coming up with a single-use spice blend? That would be a disservice to cooks. So I played around and found that the pho spice blend was great in lamb meatballs (a variation of beef meatballs, bo vien, on page 96). Lamb is strong-tasting meat and the spice blend cut a bit of that and made the lamb pho-friendly.