A bowl of pho with broth being poured over top.
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Vietnamese Phở: Beef Noodle Soup

This past summer, we were fortunate enough to have some authentic Phở at a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant up in Montreal. They had a great sign outside that said “Warning: The food here is seriously delicious. Eating here will likely become a habit.”, and after eating there, we really knew why! The bowls of intensely flavorful broth came piping hot with thinly sliced meat, and a whole tray of garnishes and sauces. We were in food heaven!

A woman sitting at a table sprinkling bean sprouts on pho.

A man sitting at a table with a bowl of pho.

We’ve been wanting to try making it at home ever since. We decided that the first Sunday of the year would be the perfect time to try it out. I did a search, and the first hit was a this recipe from one of my favorite bloggers, Jaden Hair. It’s a time consuming dish, but it’s so so SO worth it!

We had to go to several different stores to get all of the ingredients. One of the butchers told us that next time, we should call a week in advance, and he’ll save some beef bones for us. We ended up using some lamb leg bones, beef ribs, and beef shank bones. We used the meat on the beef shank sections for the meat that cooks in the broth for an hour and a half. We got a nice piece of sirloin to thinly slice at the end. This was the first time I’ve taken on making stock from scratch, and the time investment was well worth it. The complexity you get from cooking the bones and spices down for so long is a real treat. I had to start mine in two separate pots, as I didn’t have one quite big enough to hold it all, until it started to reduce. We found that adding the Sriracha and hoisin enhanced the flavors beautifully. Some Thai basil would have been excellent in this, but we didn’t come across any, so we used the regular stuff. This version of Phở definitely reminded us of the real deal.

Making the broth:

Boiling water with beef bones.

Boiling water with beef bones.

The spice blend (I put mine in a mesh herb ball):

A close-up of a spice ball filled with star anise, cinnamon sticks, and other whole spices.

Charring onions & ginger:

Broiler pan with charred onions and ginger.
Letting the flavors reduce:
Pho stock simmering.

Setting the table for the Phở-down:
A table with pho ingredients ready for assembly.

Ready for some broth:
A bowl of beef pho ready for broth.

A bowl of pho with broth being poured over top.

Seasoning it to perfection with lime juice, Sriracha and hoisin:
A bowl of pho with broth being poured over top. Bowl of beef pho with lime garnish.

Vietnamese Phở: Beef Noodle Soup
Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen (Adapted from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen)

Servings: 8

Sometimes, I omit the 1lb of beef meat in the broth (you’ll see I’ve made it optional) – as I’ve found that as long as I have good bones, the broth will have enough flavor to not need the extra beef meat.


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 Phở Spices [1 cinnamon stick, 1 tbl coriander seeds, 1 tbl fennel seeds, 5 whole star anise, 1 cardamom pod, 6 whole cloves – in mesh bag]
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (halve if using regular table 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
Sriracha hot sauce

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.

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 – this is a crucial step. If the broth’s flavor doesn’t quite shine yet, add 2 teaspoons more of fish sauce, large pinch of salt and a small nugget of rock sugar (or 1 teaspoon of regular sugar). Keep doing this until the broth tastes perfect.

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.

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.

Big Flavors Rating: 5 Stars

Ashley Covelli is a food photographer, recipe developer, and culinary instructor based in Ossining, New York. She loves helping people become enthusiastic and adventurous in the kitchen so that they can build skills and confidence to cook for themselves and their loved ones. She can almost always be found with at least 3 different beverages within arm's reach.


  • Mushrooms Canada

    Great recipe, I love Pho soups! I must admit though I am pretty lazy, and often end up using a premade broth. I also like to add shiitake mushrooms when making a vegetarian version. Beautiful photos btw!
    – Brittany

  • elizabethwillse.com

    I’m a little intimidated by the process of this but I love Pho so I might give it a go.

    Couple questions… do you think you could do the broth ahead in a crock pot (so I could set it up and ignore it overnight?)
    Also- could a tea ball stand in for an herb ball?

  • Lisa

    @elizabeth – if you check out Steamy Kitchen, you will find a crock pot Pho recipe there that I use often. My only complaint about it is that it doesn’t make enough. 🙂

    Love the photos – I know what I am making for dinner today. I have a stash of bones in the freezer.

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