Phở Bo – Vietnamese Noodle Soup

I remember the first time that I accompanied several friends to Pho 75. I had never had any Vietnamese food before, at least that I could remember, and Phở (pronounced Fuh) really seemed like a glorious meal. A huge bowl with steam rising quickly with chunks of beef, scattered onions, green onions, cilantro all floating in a pool of beef broth. I had a few more of these bowls in the coming months, but for some reason the magical Phở eluded me for quite some time.

Flash forward to a little over two years ago. I started working in Northern Virginia, a local mecca of Vietnamese restaurants, including the fortress called the Eden Center. With Phở joints all over, I began making it my mission to try to find my favorite, oh, and try as many as I could at the same time. While enjoying a bowl at Pho 98, or Pho 75 is great, I really wanted to try and make this soup on my own. I’m sure that many families keep their secret recipe on lock down, but with the millions of food blogs out there, I knew a good recipe existed.

The Steamy Kitchen, one food blog I follow regularly, has many recipes for Vietnamese and other Asian cuisine, including Phở bò. I had to make some slight variations due to the ingredients I had on hand, plus some changes based on what I have had in restaurants. It ended up not being as difficult as I had thought, and over time, I hope to perfect the broth even more. What is great about Phở is that you can use whatever meats you want, flank, filet, brisket, tendon, tripe, whatever floats your boat. Hope you enjoy.

Recipe adapted from the Steamy Kitchen
Serves 6-8

Printable Recipe
The Broth
2 yellow or sweet onions, halved
3-4″ inch piece of fresh ginger, halved lengthwise
5-6 lbs. beef bones, knuckle or leg, if possible
6 quarts water
8 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
1 1/2 tablespoon sea salt (or table salt)
1/4 cup fish sauce (I like 3 crab brand)
2 tablespoon sugar (rock sugar if possible)

The Garnish/Bowls
2 lbs. rice noodles, cooked according to bag
1/2 lb lean steak, preferably sirloin or eye of round, sliced thin
Thai Basil
2 limes, cut into wedges
1 yellow or sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 jalapeno peppers, sliced (I didn’t have any)
Bean sprouts (~ 1/2 lb)
Hoisin Sauce

To prepare spices, place in a small pan over low heat and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Place spices into a mesh bag or wrap in cheese cloth and tie at top.

Preheat broiler to high. Place onions and ginger onto a baking sheet and brush with cooking oil or spray. Place in oven on highest rack and cook, turning occasionally, about 15 minutes, until charred.

While broiling, fill a 10-12 quart stock pot with cold water. Bring to boil and add bones. Keeping a strong boil, cook for 10 minutes. Drain pot, rinse bones, and clean pot. Refill pot with bones and 6 quarts of cold water, don’t worry about being exact. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer, skim off any fat that rises with strainer or ladle.

Once bones are boiling, add onions, sugar, fish sauce, salt and spice pack. Simmer, uncovered for 3-3.5 hours. Strain broth into another large pot. Taste broth and if more flavor is needed add pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 tablespoons fish sauce. Repeat if needed.

If you are eating soup immediately following the above steps, skip this step. Let pot cool and store in refrigerator overnight. The top will form a layer of fat. Skim fat and then bring to a boil and prepare bowls.
Place steak into freezer for 15-20 minutes and then slice as thin as possible against the grains. Cook noodles according to package, however, if dry, you may cook them slightly al dente as they will finish cooking in the bowl.
Once broth has reached a boil, fill each bowl with noodles, some sliced onions, cilantro, green onions, mint and some of the beef wrapped in the center. Create a platter of lime wedges, jalapenos, basil, bean sprouts.
Ladle broth into each bowl. The broth will cook the beef. Garnish your soup with your desired sauces and sides. Enjoy!!

About Evan Halperin

I like to eat. I like to cook. I like to eat what I cook. Now, I will share with you what I like to cook. My wife and I may be a vegetarian and a carnivore, but it doesn’t mean we can’t cook a nice meal with both, without compromising taste. I will share my creative meals of the Carnivore and the Vegetarian.
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9 Responses to Phở Bo – Vietnamese Noodle Soup

  1. Angela says:

    Oh, WOW. I'm absolutely making this soon, maybe this weekend. I've yet to turn Mark on to pho, but maybe if I make it at home, he'll be more on board.

    Great pics!

  2. Thanks, for every good pic, there were 3 bad ones. The process wasn't that hard. I want to try a different spice blend next time.

  3. Noelle says:

    This looks great!!! Good job. I actually have yet to try this dish. I have it on my list of things to make and try.

  4. Thanks! I've been meaning to for months. you could definitely do a veggie, chicken or turkey version

  5. I've made pho in the past, but never with beef. That peace of meat looks great! I was just saying today how I wanted a bowl of pho: at least I get to look at one.

  6. haha, glad to be of service:)

  7. DailyChef says:

    Yes!! I loooove pho, and I'm still working on perfecting my own version. Thanks for sharing this!

  8. nice job! it's not that hard but it does take time, but well worth it!

  9. Jeff Webster says:

    This was definately a good recipe. I actually halved the recipe and thought that the broth got a bit salty. I would suggest that you only add more salt/fish sauce at the very end. I added it along the way and as it reduced, the salt hit you in the face. I ended up adding extra water to dilute it a bit. I used the same amount of spices, but would have liked to let it simmer longer, but it was reducing too much and wouldn’t yield enough for two people. With Pho you always are anticipating a huge flavor wallop of star anise, but I didn’t get the desired flavor in this recipe. I definately got the aromatics, but not the taste. Also, make sure you use the right noodles. I used thin rice noodles and they just didn’t do the trick. Spend the extra time to get good noodles as that is what fills you up when eating Pho.

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