Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

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Carol has been in the mood for Pho lately, and inconveniently, our closest Vietnamese restaurant recently closed.  She also spotted a copy of Lucky Peach magazine’s The Pho Issue (Summer 2016), so we decided to make it ourselves with good results.  This will make enough broth for 6-8 servings.  I ate mine with the usual rice noodles and Carol enjoyed hers with bean thread noodles.

I made the soup with pork vs. beef bones since at the New Grand supermarket they were both cheaper and meatier.  (There were good ox tails, but they were 3 times the price of the pork bones.)  I bought frozen steak thinly sliced for sukiyaki, but ended up not using it since there was so much stewed meat available from the bones.  Cooking the fresh steak in the hot broth would have been another enhancement to the soup.

This takes some preparation from the previous day plus most of a day to cook, almost all of which is unsupervised.

For the Broth

1 lb. beef brisket

2 Tbs. salt, divided

1 large onion, unpeeled

3-inch piece of ginger, unpeeled

8 lbs. meaty bones, cut in small pieces

1 oz. palm sugar (or 2 Tbs. light brown sugar)

1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

3-inch cinnamon stick

1 whole star anise

1 clove

1 black cardamom pod (or ¼ tsp. ground cardamom)

Other Soup Ingredients

Meat from the broth

Thinly sliced raw steak

Green onions, thinly sliced (about 2 per person)

Rice noodles (about 3 oz. per person, cooked per package directions)

Thai basil


Bean Sprouts

Sliced jalapenos

Fish sauce

Hoisin sauce

SriRacha or other hot sauce

The night before, put the brisket on a rack over a pan and sprinkle with 1 Tbs. of salt.  Allow to rest overnight in the refrigerator uncovered.

The next day, heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Roast the onion and ginger on a sheet pan for an hour.  Allow to cool.  Cut the ginger into thin slices.  Peel the onion.

Blanch the meat bones in boiling water for about 3 minutes and then drain them and rinse out the pot.  Return the bones to the pot and cover them with water by about an inch.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Cook them for 2 hours, removing any scum which forms on the top.

Add the brisket, roasted onions and ginger, sugar, and pepper and simmer for an hour.

Add the cinnamon, star anise, cloves and cardamom and simmer for an hour.

At this point, check the brisket to see if it is tender.  If so, remove it from the pot and quickly chill it in a ice water bath.  When chilled, slice it thinly to later add to the soup.  If it is not tender, continue to simmer it.

Simmer the soup for about another 30 minutes after the brisket is removed.  Then defat the stock and strain out the bones and spices.  Check for seasoning.  It will probably need fish sauce or more salt.  If the bones are meaty, save the meat from the bones.

Cook the noodles according to their package instructions.

In each large bowl, put the meat, noodles and various flavorings, vegetables, and herbs to taste.  Heat each bowl in a microwave if the soup is not hot enough.  Enjoy.


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