Authentic Vietnamese recipes from the Motherland

Restaurant Recipe: Authentic Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Pho Bo)

For a second, I thought we would get a good amount of rain in the Bay Area on Wednesday. It was cold and wet. What better time to make Pho?  I went to the grocery store to get all the ingredients. By the time I got back, it was bright and sunny. What?!?!? 

 Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Pho Bo)

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Pho Bo)

If you love Vietnamese food, chances are you have tried Vietnamese rice noodle soup, Pho. Pho is one of the most popular Vietnamese dishes. In fact, it is considered the national dish of Vietnam. You can find it anywhere in Vietnam, from fancy restaurants to small alley ways with tiny make-shift kitchens.  In this beef version, Pho Bo, is a rice noodle soup in a savory and hearty beef broth, topped with fresh herbs. It is the classic meal-in-a-bowl, perfect for those long cold winter days, or in my case, bright and sunny 80-degree weather. 

 Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Pho Bo) before Broth

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Pho Bo) before Broth

restaurant pho recipe

There are two versions of Pho. The beef version and the chicken version. The beef version is fancier than the chicken version. Therefore, taking longer to cook. The beef version is made and eaten with assorted cuts and parts of beef (eye-round beef steak, flank, brisket, beef balls, tendon, tripe, etc). It's also spiced with more aromatics than the chicken version.

In Vietnam, Pho is very popular for breakfast. Vendors are shopping for the freshest ingredients in the wee hours and the deep and flavorful pho stocks are ready by the early morning hours, ready for the onslaught of customers who will have this dish for breakfast before heading off to work. It's hearty, delicious, and every item from all food groups are in one bowl. 

Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup is labor intensive so when I crave for pho at home, I make sure to make a lot at once. The broth can also be kept in the freezer for a tasty leftover.

 Thai basil, onion, limes, green onions, cilantro, Hoisin sauce, and Sriracha sauce

Thai basil, onion, limes, green onions, cilantro, Hoisin sauce, and Sriracha sauce

Pho Beef Broth Recipe

Serves 7-10

This recipe is a popular restaurant version. It has been scaled down for home-cooking. Quantity listed utilizes a food scale. Happy weighing! 

  • 5 liters water
  • 4 lbs beef bones (shanks, knuckles or ox tail)
  • 3 oz shallots (roast for 20 minutes until softened)
  • 3 oz ginger (charred over open flames for 30 seconds to 1 minute)
  • 0.13 oz Asian cinnamon
  • 0.13 oz cardamons
  • 0.13 oz cloves
  • 0.13 oz coriander
  • 0.25 oz star anise
  • 2.1 oz rock sugar
  • 1.9 oz salt
  • 1.3 oz MSG (optional but highly recommended)
 The pho aroma: star anise, Asian cinnamon sticks, cloves, coriander, and cardamon

The pho aroma: star anise, Asian cinnamon sticks, cloves, coriander, and cardamon

  1. First and foremost, clean the bones. Cleaning the bones thoroughly will ensure a clear broth. Completely submerge the bones in a pot of boiling water. Boil for 5-7 minutes until scum rise to the top. Drain in a colander and rinse thoroughly.
  2. Add 5 liters of water into a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Record or memorize where the water line sits inside the pot (important step).
  3. Add the cleaned bones and cook for 4.5 hours on medium low heat. Occasionally, use a ladle to scum off the impurities that float to the top.
  4. Remove bones. There may be good amount of tender meat on the bones so remove the meat from the bones before discarding.
  5. Add 1/2 the amount of salt, sugar, and MSG to the pot. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. 
  6. Add water back into the stock point to the original water line. We are putting back the water that was boiled off. This is why we record the water line earlier.
  7. Lower the heat to a small simmer and cook for an additional 30 minutes.
  8. In a small pan, dry roast the cinnamon, star anise, cardamon, cloves, and coriander until fragrant (30 seconds to 1 minute). Tie the spices in a cheesecloth and add to the stock pot. Simmer the pot for 30 minutes with the spices. Then remove cheesecloth and discard.
  9. Add the remaining rock sugar, salt and MSG a little at a time until it suits your liking. Taste as you go. Depending on your stock, you may not need all the seasoning.  
 Mung bean sprouts and Serrano peppers

Mung bean sprouts and Serrano peppers

Pho Toppings/Garnish

  • 3 lbs of fresh or dried rice noodles
  • 1 lb eye-round beef steak (Slice thinly)
  • 2 bags of cooked beef balls (Bo Vien)
  • 1 bag mung bean sprouts
  • 5 green onions (Slice thinly)
  • 1 medium white/yellow onion (Slice thinly and soak in water for a few minutes. Then drain)
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro (Mince)
  • 3 small jalapenos (Slice thinly)
  • 1 bunch of Thai basil
  • 3 lemons or limes (Cut into wedges)
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sriracha sauce
 Vietnamese meat balls and rare slices of eye-of-round beef 

Vietnamese meat balls and rare slices of eye-of-round beef 

  1. Soak the fresh rice noodles in cold water for at least 30 minutes. This will help remove some of the starch and will prevent the noodles from sticking together when cooked. If you are using dried noodles, soak them in cold water for at least an hour before cooking. It is best to cook the noodles per serving. To cook the noodles, bring a small pot to a boil and blanch a large handful of rice noodles for a few seconds. For dried rice noodles, you will need to cook a bit longer.
  2. For each bowl of rice noodles, add cooked meat toppings, beef balls and the raw slices of eye-round beef steak (some people like to have raw slices of eye-round beef on the side to prevent them from getting overcooked and tough. They would dip the rare steaks into the hot broth to quickly cook them).
  3. Ladle in hot broth.
  4. Add the other toppings as desired (bean sprouts, onions, green onions, cilantro, jalapenos, Thai basil leaves, a squeeze of lemon and a few squirts of Hoisin and Sriracha sauce)