1-1/2 lbs beef brisket, point cut
2 quarts water
1-inch piece of ginger, sliced
3 whole star anise
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 Tbsp fish sauce (I use Three Crabs brand)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 lb flank steak
2 cups pad Thai rice noodles
2-3 scallions, finely sliced
2 limes, cut into wedges
1/2 cup nuoc cham, for dipping
1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup fresh spearmint leaves
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into large shreds (if you have lime basil in your herb garden, use that to add extra lime flavor to your soup)
To a large stockpot, add the brisket and water. Bring to a boil, then add the ginger, star anise, cloves and cinnamon. Reduce heat to simmer, partially cover the pot, and cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until the meat is quite tender. Remove the meat and set aside to cool. Skim the top of the beef stock, then strain the stock into a large bowl, and return it to the stockpot. Add the fish sauce, salt and black pepper to taste, stir, and set on the stove on lowest heat. When the meat is cool enough to handle, slice thinly, and set aside.
In the meantime, place the flank steak in the freezer.
In another pot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Blanch the rice noodles for 2-3 minutes to soften. Drain, and divide among 6 or 8 individual bowls. Top with some of the sliced cooked brisket.
Remove the flank steak from the freezer (it should be cold, but not frozen solid), and slice into paper-thin slices. Bring the beef stock to a boil, and fill each soup bowl. Divide the flank steak among the individual soup bowls. Sprinkle with chopped scallions, and add a squeeze of lime. Pass the platter with garnishes, so each diner can add his or her own herbs to the soup. Place nuoc cham in small bowls for dipping the meat.