Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pho Bo - Beef Noodle Soup

I wrote an entry for crock pot pho last year and it was quite an experience. Crock pot cooking sure has its benefits but I much prefer cooking on the stove top. Maybe I have OCD in the kitchen but I can not leave something cooking on it's own for that long without tasting it.  It'll probably work if I started measuring everything precisely but I know that's not going to happen!

Living so far from my parents, I've develop a love for pho more than ever before. While living in Vietnam, my dad and I were pho buddies.  I didn't really have a choice, but it was our daddy and daughter time together.  After pho we would walk around and my dad would catch up with his friends and neighbors.  When we moved to the states, there were no pho shop and no friends to visit.  We still had our daddy daughter time though, grocery shopping in 3 feet of snow.  Those early years were tough!

Despite her busy schedule, my mom always made sure there was a pot of pho every Saturday morning.  It was something we all look forward to every weekend.  Now that I no longer live at home, I miss my mom's cooking more and more especially her pho.  It's definitely her best dish!

I have tried cooking pho in many different ways, believe me I've tried all the techniques!  And I don't think one technique is better than another, it's all about what you are comfortable with!  And these are the techniques I love and I hope they will help you on your next phoventure!

1.  Root Vegetables

When you of think of pho, you automatic think of beef and even more beef.  While beef play an important role in making a pot of beef pho, I feel we need to credit the root vegetables.  A lot of western soup are made by using a lot of roots vegetables such as onion, carrot, leek, celery, and etc.  Why?  Root vegetables are so good for broth because they give off a natural sweet flavor that's not going to take away or overwhelm the beef flavor.  I especially love using the onion family for pho such as yellow onions and leeks.  They are must haves whenever I make pho!

2.  Beef Bones

I love love my bone marrow but you have to use a variety of bones and meat.  Bones alone will not produce a great broth, that's why we use beef shank as well.  Look for beef neck bones or any bones with a little bit meat to it.

3.  Spices

One of the worst pho turn off for me is the over use of spices.  I definitely got this from my dad.  He hates pho that has a very strong aroma of spices, he feels it takes away the beef flavor.  There are pre-package pho spices at the Asian market but I tend to stick with only a few.  I usually only use cinnamon and star anise.  You want the spices to be subtle to linger but not to overwhelm.

4.  Roasting

While my mom feels roasting the ginger and onions are not needed, I love this step.  It takes these ingredients to a whole another level of sweetness.  You can also roast the spices as well but spices burn a lot faster so be careful.  I like to roast them and wrap in aluminum foil and place it in the pot, you can remove easier this way.

5.  Clear Broth

Certain soups you can get by without have a clear broth but murky pho is not as inviting.  I take the extra step to get my bones and meats very clean.  You'll want to par-boil your bones and then rinsing them with cool water right after.  I even use a different pot par-boil my bones.  The only thing that goes in my pot of pho are clean bones, fresh water, and clean meat.


4-5 lbs of bones (the more the better)
2 shank
beef balls bo vien (optional)
tendons (optional)
2 yellow onions
2 leeks
2-3 knob of ginger
rock sugar
black pepper
mushroom seasoning
fish sauce
2 cinnamon stick
7-8star anise
aluminum foil
thinly sliced beef (Pho Tai)
pho noodles
green onions/cilantro/sliced yellow onions (garnish)
bean sprouts/basil (optional)

Total cooking time:  5-6 hours minimum

1.  Par-boil beef bones/shank/tendons, thoroughly rinse both with cool water and set aside.  If you are using tendons, you’ll need boil this for 2 hours before you add it to your pot.
2.  Fill a new 10 qt. pot with water and add clean beef bones/shank/tendon.  Let everything simmer on low-med heat.  All the ingredients will be ready at different times, the best thing to look is the tenderness.  If the meat is falling off the bones you know you have cooked the bones sufficient enough.  Estimate time about 3 hours.
3.  Roast the ginger/onion in the oven or grill.  Remove the skin and then add to the broth.  Add the leeks to the pot along with your meats and bones. Add rock sugar about the same size as a knob of ginger. 1/2 cup of salt, 3 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning.  Remove scum when necessary.
4.  You should see fat at the top from the bones/shank, remove as much as you can or if you like the fat you can leave it.
5.  Remove shank when it's tender, I don't like my shank fall apart tender I like it a little firm which will be easier to slice as well.  Tendon will take longer so keep it in the pot until its tender to your liking.  Once meat/tendon is done; remove, let cool down, and the. sliced thinly.
6.  Taste the broth and add final adjustment now, add additional salt/sugar/fish sauce if needed.
7.  Lightly wrap the spices in aluminum foil and add to the pot for about 20 minutes and leave lid on.
8.  Prepare sliced rare beef, noodles, vegetables, green onion, sliced onion, and lime.
9.  When your pot of pho is done I like to remove all bones in to one bowl for munching.  Discard ginger, onions, leeks, spices.  So you are left with only the broth.  You can also take the extra step of straining your broth.
10.  Prepare a bowl to your liking and enjoy!


Ms. T said...

i'm totally against the use of spice powder packets from the market.

instead of shank, i use oxtail =) your bowl of pho looks so yummy!

Thuy said...

Ms. T,

Yes oxtail is great for pho! I stock up on oxtail whenever there is a special at the market which is very rare :/

Unknown said...

So much care goes into making pho. My husband and I enjoyed a bowl for breakfast everyday when we travelled in Vietnsm last year, and it tasted a bit different at every different place, so it's true that everybody has s different method. I haven't tried making it at home, but feel I should give it a go. Thank you for sharing your recipe.

Thuy said...


You should give pho a try at home! When you have had something so many times and enjoy eating it; cooking it will come really naturally. Good luck :)

Sapurah and the Lasharikidz... said...

I was fortunate to have had the chance to try authentic street pho while in Hanoi last year. It's one of my favorite noodle dishes. There are lots of pho places here in Houston. I have been on the look out for a good and simple recipe. Will definitely give this a shot. Thank you for sharing.

Thuy said...


There's definitely a lot of good pho places in Houston but nothing beats homemade pho made to your liking. Good luck Sapurah and let me know how it turns out :)

Ms. T said...

I need to try adding leek! my mom and i use daikon as well b/c we like the subtle sweetness of daikon.

i'm so with you on roasting the onion/ginger. my mom doesn't do it but man oh man do I love the smell and smokiness that adds to my broth from just putting those two ingredients under the broiler

Thuy said...

Yes i love using daikon in my soups too, especially hu tieu! it makes the broth super sweet!

Anonymous said...

Thank you

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