Home-cooking: Recipe for Vietnamese Pho Soup

Home-cooking: Vietnamese Pho Soup

I love pho…I would have it everyday if I could. Now it’s not the most expensive meal in the world but it would be such an accomplishment if I could make it myself… So off to the inter webs I went in search for an easy recipe.

My first attempt at making any kind of bone broth was actually the Korean version. It didn’t require a lot of ingredients, but it does require a lot of time…2-3 days actually.  What results though is a rich, white broth full of gelatin and collagen…recipe for that coming soon.

Anyway back to pho…it turns out pho soup base is less time consuming to make, but takes just a bit more ingredients.  If you’re Asian, you should already have most of the stuff in your cupboard.  I grabbed a great recipe off Viet World Kitchen….it’s great cuz it’s seems to be the easiest with the least amount of ingredients.  However I found that the pictures from Steamy Kitchen and Inspired Taste to be a great resource and they would be especially helpful to those of you unfamiliar with certain cuts or meat, spices or bones.


With the spices, I just put them into a teabag that you can buy in packs of 100 from Daiso.  It makes it easier to take out all the little pieces of spices at once without searching for them.  You can also make your own condiment variations once you’ve got the broth down..the most important part is the broth after all.  For us, we substituted Korean sweet potato noodles instead of white rice stick noodles just to make it a tad healthier.  However I found the sweet potato noodles kind of bland in this soup…so the next time I just used brown rice vermicelli instead.  That’s available everywhere, even Walmart.

As for the bones, I was able to find shank bones/bone marrow from a local butcher shop.  I’ve seen soup bones with lots of marrow at IGA Marketplace also so that shouldn’t be too hard to find.  I also got some Ox Feet for the broth for the added gelatin.  Those seem to only be available in Korean supermarkets, which also carry soup bones.

Also for charring the onions and ginger…follow Steamy Kitchen’s method…MUCH easier than using an open fire,

Home-cooking: Vietnamese Pho Soup

Well here’s the recipe verbatim:

Beef Pho Noodle Soup
(Pho Bo)

Makes 8 satisfying (American-sized) bowls

Ingredients:

For the broth:

  • 2 medium yellow onions (about 1 pound total)
  • 4-inch piece ginger (about 4 ounces)
  • 5-6 pounds beef soup bones (marrow and knuckle bones)
  • 5 star anise (40 star points total)
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 pound piece of beef chuck, rump, brisket or cross rib roast, cut into 2-by-4-inch pieces (weight after trimming)
  • 1  1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 ounce (1-inch chunk) yellow rock sugar

For the bowls:

  • 1  1/2-2 pounds small (1/8-inch wide) dried or fresh banh pho noodles (“rice sticks” or Thaichantaboon)
  • 1/2 pound raw eye of round, sirloin, London broil or tri-tip steak, thinly sliced across the grain (1/16 inch thick; freeze for 15 minutes to make it easier to slice)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced paper-thin, left to soak for 30 minutes in a bowl of cold water
  • 3 or 4 scallions, green part only, cut into thin rings
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro (ngo)
  • Ground black pepper

Optional garnishes arranged on a plate and placed at the table: 

  • Sprigs of spearmint (hung lui) and Asian/Thai basil (hung que)
  • Leaves of thorny cilantro (ngo gai)
  • Bean sprouts (about 1/2 pound)
  • Red hot chiles (such as Thai bird or dragon), thinly sliced
  • Lime wedges

Prepare the pho broth:

  1. Char (From Steamy Kitchen): Turn your broiler on high and move rack to the highest spot. Place ginger and onions on baking sheet. Brush just a bit of cooking oil on the cut side of each. Broil on high until ginger and onions begin to char. Turn over and continue to char. This should take a total of 10-15 minutes.
  2. Let cool. Under warm water, remove charred onion skin; trim and discard blackened parts of root or stem ends. If ginger skin is puckered and blistered, smash ginger with flat side of knife to loosen flesh from skin. Otherwise, use sharp paring knife to remove skin, running ginger under warm water to wash off blackened bits. Set aside.
  3. Parboil bones. Place bones in stockpot (minimum 12-quart capacity) and cover with cold water. Over high heat, bring to boil. Boil vigorously 5-7 minutes to allow impurities to be released. Dump bones and water into sink and rinse bones with warm water. Quickly scrub stockpot to remove any residue. Return bones to pot.
  4. Simmer broth. Add 6 quarts water to pot, bring to boil over high heat, then lower flame to gently simmer. Use ladle to skim any scum that rises to surface. Add remaining broth ingredients and cook, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours. Boneless meat should be slightly chewy but not tough. When it is cooked to your liking, remove it and place in bowl of cold water for 10 minutes; this prevents the meat from drying up and turning dark as it cools. Drain the meat; cool, then refrigerate. Allow broth to continue cooking; in total, the broth should simmer 3 hours.
  5. Strain the pho broth through fine strainer. If desired, remove any bits of gelatinous tendon from bones to add to your pho bowl. Store tendon with cooked beef. Discard solids.
  6. Use ladle to skim as much fat from top of the pho broth as you like. (Cool it and refrigerate it overnight to make this task easier; reheat before continuing.) Taste and adjust flavor with additional salt, fish sauce and yellow rock sugar. The pho broth should taste slightly too strong because the noodles and other ingredients are not salted. (If you’ve gone too far, add water to dilute.) Makes about 4 quarts.

Assemble pho bowls:

7.  The key is to be organized and have everything ready to go. Thinly slice cooked meat. For best results, make sure it’s cold.

     8.  Heat the pho broth and ready the noodles. To ensure good timing, reheat broth over medium flame as you’re assembling bowls. If you’re using dried noodles, cover with hot tap water and soak 15-20 minutes, until softened and opaque white. Drain in colander. For fresh rice noodles, just untangle and briefly rinse in a colander with cold water.

     9.  Blanch noodles. Fill 3- or 4-quart saucepan with water and bring to boil. For each bowl, use long-handle strainer to blanch a portion of noodles. As soon as noodles have collapsed and lost their stiffness (10-20 seconds), pull strainer from water, letting water drain back into saucepan. Empty noodles into bowls. Noodles should occupy 1/4 to 1/3 of bowl; the latter is for noodle lovers, while the former is for those who prize broth.

If desired, after blanching noodles, blanch bean sprouts for 30 seconds in same saucepan. They should slightly wilt but retain some crunch. Drain and add to the garnish plate.

     10.  Add other ingredients. Place slices of cooked meat, raw meat and tendon (if using) atop noodles. (If your cooked meat is not at room temperature, blanch slices for few seconds in hot water from above.) Garnish with onion, scallion and chopped cilantro. Finish with black pepper.

     11.  Ladle in broth and serve. Bring broth to rolling boil. Check seasoning. Ladle broth into each bowl, distributing hot liquid evenly so as to cook raw beef and warm other ingredients. Serve your pho with with the garnish plate.

Lastly…I thought this was very cute/funny: Hitman is not yet completely Asian-ified yet…twice he’s lost his Asian soup spoon underneath everything when he went to refill…asking “Where’s my spoon??!”

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