Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's Pho-tastic!

I printed off this recipe in the winter with plans of spending a cozy weekend making and enjoying some homemade pho. And then Kris made fun of me for making too much Asian food, so this recipe was sadly forgotten for months. UNTIL NOW. I'm not sure what finally made me step up and buy those beef bones but let me tell you that it felt good. The butcher had to ask another butcher and the woman behind me had to ask: "What is that? you're buying bones?" "Why yes! I'm making soup!" to which the butcher agreed: "Yes, Marrow bones are GREAT for making soup" to which the woman said: "They would be good for dogs, wouldn't they?" Now I love my dog and all dogs in general- but marrow bones for dogs? Only in London, I tell you. But I digress- This noodle soup is really fantastic- it's warm and cozy but I still want to eat 3 bowls in one sitting in the middle of spring because it's also light and fresh. This is quickly becoming a year round staple. So a big thank goes out to Jaden of Steamy Kitchen for this wonderful addition to my repertoire.

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup - Pho Bo
  • 2 onions, halved
  • 4″ nub of ginger, halved lengthwise
  • 5-6 lbs of good beef bones, preferably leg and knuckle
  • 1 lb of beef meat - chuck, brisket, rump, cut into large slices [optional]
  • 6 quarts of water
  • 1 package of Pho spices [1 cinnamon stick, 1 tbl coriander seeds, 1 tbl fennel seeds, 5 star anise, 1 cardamom pod, 6 whole cloves - in mesh bag]
  • 1 1/2 tbl salt
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 inch chunk of yellow rock sugar (about 1 oz) - or 1oz of regular sugar


  • 2 lbs rice noodles (dried or fresh)
  • cooked beef from the broth
  • 1/2 lb flank, london broil, sirloin or eye of round, sliced as thin as possible.
  • big handful of each: mint, cilantro, basil
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • 2-3 chili peppers, sliced
  • 2 big handfuls of bean sprouts
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Cock sauce (Sriracha)
Although you have to parboil the bones and then boil the broth for about 3 hours, the amount of total effort involved is pretty minimal. It's mostly gathering with a little bit of cutting/chopping.

Char: 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.

Some truly delicious flavors get boiled into this broth: star anise, cardamon, cinnamon sticks,fish sauce, fennel seeds, char grilled ginger and onions!

Parboil the bones: Fill large pot (12-qt capacity) with cool water. Boil water, and then add the bones, keeping the heat on high. Boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse the bones and rinse out the pot. Refill pot with bones and 6 qts of cool water. Bring to boil over high heat and lower to simmer. Using a ladle or a fine mesh strainer, remove any scum that rises to the top.

Boil broth: Add ginger, onion, spice packet, beef, sugar, fish sauce, salt and simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the beef meat and set aside (you’ll be eating this meat later in the bowls) Continue simmering for another 1 1/2 hours. Strain broth and return the broth to the pot. Taste broth and adjust seasoning - if you want a little more flavor, add a few dashes more of fish sauce, large pinch of salt and a small nugget of rock sugar (or large pinch of regular sugar).

Here we have some thinly sliced steak and TWO spice sachets (one is definitely enough)

Prepare noodles & meat: Slice your flank/London broil/sirloin as thin as possible - try freezing for 15 minutes prior to slicing to make it easier. Remember the cooked beef meat that was part of your broth? Cut or shred the meat and set aside. Arrange all other ingredients on a platter for the table. Your guests will “assemble” their own bowls. Follow the directions on your package of noodles - there are many different sizes and widths of rice noodles, so make sure you read the directions. For some fresh rice noodles, just a quick 5 second blanch in hot water is all that’s needed. The package that I purchased (above) - needed about 45 seconds in boiling water.

Then all you want to do is gather your accompaniments- Bean sprouts, mint, basil, cilantro, peppers, lime wedges... a dash of Hoisin sauce and/or Chili sauce add a nice touch too.

Ladling: Bring your broth back to a boil. Line up your soup bowls next to the stove. Fill each bowl with rice noodles, shredded cooked beef and raw meat slices. As soon as the broth comes back to a boil, ladle into each bowl. the hot broth will cook your raw beef slices. Serve immediately. Guests can garnish their own bowls as they wish.

Kick back, relax and enjoy.


  1. This recipe looks wonderful , wish I ate meat. The photos are great,I like your chopsticks!

  2. kris is going to make this dish for us, he helped set the table and cleaned up the kitchen, and said that he was going to start doing his own claire, you made the impossible happen. kris looks great, i forgot what great "hugs" he gives..we miss you!