Vietnamese Beef Pho’

After a weeklong fight against a bad cold I’m beginning to feel human again. I followed the instructions from my doctor and took antibiotics but ultimately I think that it’s this large bowl of Vietnamese beef pho’ that did more for my well-being than any prescription drugs. Maybe I have too much imagination but I see beef pho as a distant and exotic cousin of “Pot au feu”, the provincial French dish of simmered beef and vegetables, the epitome of comfort food. The great thing about beef pho is that you could make the broth, portion it and freeze it and have it ready in about as long as it takes to cook the rice noodles. Not a bad surprise to find in your freezer.

The broth for beef phở is made by simmering different cuts of beef and oxtails with charred onion and ginger and sweet spices such as Saigon cinnamon, star anise, black cardamom, coriander seed, fennel seed, and clove. Vietnamese dishes are typically served with lots of greens and herbs to refresh and brighten the flavors and this is no exception with its garnish of green onions, Thai basil, chili peppers, lime wedges, bean sprouts, fresh coriander and mint. I served it with the fork tender beef from the broth and saved some bone marrow to add an extra layer of richness to an already delicious soup. Enjoy!

  • Vietnamese Beef Pho’

    • Serves 6
    • For the beef broth:
    • 1 large onion, halved
    • Two 3-inch pieces fresh ginger
    • 6 quarts water or chicken broth
    • 4 lbs beef brisket, top round, cheeks or oxtail or a combination
    • 6 garlic cloves
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1 tablespoon black peppercorn
    • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
    • 4 star anise
    • 3 whole cloves
    • 1 black cardamom pod
    • 1/2 cinnamon stick
    • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
    • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
    • Sea salt
    • For the beef pho’:
    • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
    • 8 ounces rice noodles
    • 2 cups bean sprouts
    • white onion, finely sliced
    • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
    • 1/4 cup mint leaves
    • 1/2 cup Thai basil
    • 4 scallions, sliced
    • Thai bird chili, sliced
    • 3 limes
  • For the beef broth:
    • Heat a heavy pan or cast iron over high heat. Add the onions halves cut side down and the ginger pieces and cook until well charred (black) on all sides.
    • Fill a stock pot with 6 quarts of cold water or chicken broth, or a combination of both. Add the beef brisket, top round and/or oxtail and bring to a simmer. Skim and discard the foam that comes to the surface and add the charred onion, ginger, garlic, sugar, peppercorns, fish sauce, star anise, cloves, cardamom, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and a large pinch of sea salt. Bring to a simmer. Cook for 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is fork tender. Turn off the heat and cool. Refrigerate overnight.
    • Remove the beef from the broth, trim the fat and cut the meat into slices. Remove the fat from the broth, strain into a clean pot and bring to a simmer. Add fish sauce to taste. Season with salt and pepper.
    • For the beef pho’:
    • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the rice noodles until tender. Drain and rinse the noodles.
    • Divide the rice noodles among the bowls, add some of the meat, bean sprouts, onions, cilantro, mint, basil and scallions.
    • Add some of the hot beef broth to each bowl and serve with lime wedges and sliced hot chilis.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Minaki/560410552 Peter Minaki

    A beautiful meal, soup, cold remedy, comfort food…all in one dish!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1405246165 Frank A Fariello Jr

    Pho should be named by UNESCO as a part of humanity’s patrimony! 

    And I definitely do see the connection with pot au feu. 

  • http://www.extravirginchef.blogspot.com/ Extra Virgin Chef

    This brings me right back to Saigon!

  • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

    Ummm… can we make this a staff meal in August?

  • kitchenriffs

    Sorry to hear you’ve been sick!  But this looks like a great restorative.  For some reason I’ve never made Pho’ which is weird – I love noodle soups.  Your recipe looks great – lots of beef flavor there – and I really like the addition of the ox tail (it gives the stock such great body).  Really nice recipe and excellent presentation – thanks.

  • jenjenk

    i *love* pho when I’m sick! this looks beautiful!

  • Bee

    Zen, bravo. It’s one of those recipes that I cringe thinking about making it at home (because Little Saigon is 15 minutes away). LOL. 

  • Kate

    I’m Vietnamese and have been making (and enjoying!) pho for years. My grandma’s secret is adding a chunk of daikon radish when making the broth :) DELICIOUS. Thanks for the recipe!

  • http://yireservation.com/ Yireservation

    Beef pho is definitely one of my favorite noodle soups of all time! I know it’s a lot of hassle to make it at home but it is probably the only way I can enjoy this without MSG lol 

  • http://twitter.com/cakeb00k vic@cakebook

    this looks excellent and very authentic – will definitely be giving it a whirl!

  • zenchef

    haha.. that’s for sure!

  • zenchef

    Oh, great tip! I’ll be sure to try that next time. Thanks!

  • zenchef

    Hey, Bee. If Little Saigon was 15 minutes away I would probably NOT make it as well. haha

  • zenchef

    Thank you, Jennie!

  • zenchef

    Good idea! We could even make it a lunch!

  • zenchef

    That’s the best compliment. Thanks!

  • zenchef

    Thank you, Petah!!

  • zenchef

    Oh, I remember that list. I think Pho was even on first position. 

  • zenchef

    Thank you so much!

  • Sp1187

    Zensei,
    in the most excellent photo, I see thinly sliced beef that doesn’t look like it was cooked for 2 1/2 hours. what did I miss?

  • zenchef

    You miss nothing! :) It’s just some thinly sliced beef that I had. I just finished it up in the hot soup. Optional but delicious of course. 

  • http://saucycooks.com/ Jill

    Glad you’re feeling better and I can see why this would do the trick! Your photo is exquisite and I love the recipe for the beef broth-great flavors! Like Bea, I find too many Pho places nearby to make the effort, but I think you just converted me!

  • http://www.ouichefnetwork.com Oui, Chef

    Oh my…. I think I’d like to bathe in this broth.

  • http://www.unintentionalsteam.blogspot.com Chris Chang

    That looks great! I’ve always wondered what went into Pho broth and so glad I have your recipe now! I’ll definitely give it a go! Although I might omit some of the spices since I don’t have them…

  • http://twitter.com/thetomatosnob Jaime Verk Pérez

    Pho is one of my all time favorite soups, I can’t wait to use your recipe. 

  • Brightclouds

    Hi Zen. I’m Vietnamese and my English not well.
    First thanks for your share about recipes.
    I’d like say a little thing, Pho need spring onion, if not, onion is ok. Spring onion choped (onion slice) sprinkled surface …
    Sorry if I disturb you.

  • Mike

    I don’t have access to a lot of these spices, can I substitute chinese 5 spice? it contains a lot of the same stuff I think. any idea how I would figure out a conversion, or just do it by taste?

  • zenchef

    Hard to convert. Best way is to do it by taste.

  • Allie

    I love beef pho and have been thinking of making it, maybe now it’s time to give it a go!

    Allie from Urban Feast

    http://theurbanfeast.wordpress.com/