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Vietnamese Pho - Beef Noodle Soup

Posted on April 12, 2015.


Phở is a noodle soup that originated from north Vietnamese street food in the early 20th century. It was originally sold in the morning and evenings by roaming street vendors who carried mobile kitchens on long poles. Pho uses beef bones, ginger, onions and lots of aromatic spices to create a seasoned broth that is served with rice noodles, fresh herbs, and a variety of meats (usually either beef or chicken). Making pho soup is fairly simple. All you need is a straightforward recipe, a nice big stockpot and a touch of your own creativity. Like most indigenous soups, Pho is typically prepared using whatever ingredients and spices were available at that time, so beyond the basic soup stock, you can pretty much add anything you like to this dish. I particularly love the unique blend of spices and flavors from star anise, cardamom, fennel seeds and cinnamon. Most traditional Pho soups use Yellow Rock Sugar to create a tint of sweetness to the broth, but this can sometimes be hard to find. I prefer to substitute Hoisin sauce for the Rock Sugar. I also like to add additional Hoisin sauce and Sirachi sauce to the soup right before eating to create a sweeter and spicier flavor.


5 to 6 pounds of beef bones, preferably with some meat attached
2 medium onions, sliced in 1” thick wedges
4-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and split in two
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup Hoisin Sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons salt

For the spice bouquet garni:
garni bag or cheese cloth and string
2 cinnamon sticks
6 star anise
8 whole cloves
6 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds

For the soup service:
1 to 2 pounds small (1/8-inch wide) dried or fresh “banh pho” noodles
1/2 pound raw eye of round or sirloin steak
1/4 cup thinly sliced onions
1 cup cilantro leaves
4 sprigs of fresh mint and/or Thai basil
Bean sprouts
Thinly sliced jalapeños
lime wedges
Sirachi sauce
Hoisin sauce


Vietnamese Pho Soup

One of the most important steps to creating the unique flavor of Pho is to char the onions and ginger and toast the spices.  Place the 1” thick onion slices and the ginger on a baking sheet and place under a broiler for 10-15 minutes, turning regularly to achieve a char on all sides.  Then spread the spices on a baking sheet and toast of 2-3 minutes. Pay close attention to this step as the spices can quickly burn. Set the charred vegetables aside and put the toasted spices in either a garni bag or wrap tightly in cheese cloth.

Prepare your noodles in advance according the directions on the bag, but make sure you pre are them al dente as they will be placed in the hot broth just prior to serving.

Create a garnish tray using the cilantro, mint (or Thai basil), bean sprouts, thinly sliced jalapeños, and lime wedges. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Slice the beef thinly across the grain. A good tip for slicing beef thinly is to place it in a freezer for 15-20 minutes until it gets hard enough to carefully slice into thin pieces. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.

The first step to creating the Pho broth is to clean the bones of impurities so the eventual broth will be clear.  In a large pot (at least 10 quarts), add beef bones and fill with cold water enough to cover the bones. Please pot on high heat and bring to a boil for up to five minutes. When the impurities and foam rise to the top, strained the bones in a large colander and rinse thoroughly.  Also rinse and clean the pot to remove any residue that may adhere to the sides of the pot.

Put the bones back in the pot and fill with at least 6 quarts of water and bring to a boil.
Add the charred onion and ginger to the pot as well as the garni of toasted spices, salt, a 1/4 cup of fish sauce and 1/4 cup of Hoisin sauce.

Bring to boil, the reduce to simmer and cover for 3 hours. Periodically check for foam or scum and skim this off as necessary.

Reserve the broth by straining it through a fine mesh strainer to remove all of the bones, onions and garni. Discard the bones, onions and garni.

Bring the broth a boil, then reduce to simmer and skim off the excess fat from the bones. If you are making your broth well in advance, you can let it stand covered in a refrigerator overnight, and as the broth cools, the fat will solidify, making it very easy to remove.


For each serving, pour at least 4 cups of steaming hot broth into a large deep bowl. 

Add about 1 cup of noodles to the broth, the sliced onions and about 8 ounces of sliced beef to each bowl. If you prefer your soup extra spicy, throw in a few sliced jalapeños to amp up the heat.

Serve the bowls with a plate of garnishes and enjoy!


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Posted By: Chief Foodie Officer