Phở Bò (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)



For Broth

2 pounds Ox Tails, optional, washed

4 pounds Marrow and Nuckle Beef Bones (3 pounds of beef bones if used with ox tails), washed

2 tablespoons Coriander

2 tablespoons Dried Fennel Seed

1/2 tablespoon Whole Cloves

1 Amomum Costatum (thao qua)

4 Star Anise 

1 Stick Cinammon

1 Onion, peeled

1 piece Fresh Ginger, about 3 inches, washed, cut in half lengthwise, lightly smashed with the flat side of a knife to release the flavor

1 medium White Radish (củ cải trắng), cut into 3 inch pieces
6 Liters of Water, (close to 6 quarts) 
3 tablespoons Salt

1 1/2 tablespoons Mushroom Seasoning (gia vi rau cai), substitute MSG if preferred but add less MSG

1 tablespoon Yellow Rock Sugar aka Lump Sugar

Noodle and Meat

3-4 bags Rice Noodle (Pho)

2 pounds Filet Mignon or Beef Rib Eye, thinly sliced

1-2  pound Beef Tendon (gân), optional, washed thoroughly with salt

1 pound Beef Stripe (sách), optional, washed thoroughly with salt

1 piece (about 2 pounds) of Beef Flank (thịt nạm), optional, washed thoroughly with salt

Vietnamese Meatballs, optional, click here for recipe (also available at Asian market)


Basil Leaves

Saw-Leaf Herb Leaves (Ngo Gai), optional

Bean Sprout

A bunch Spring Onion, finely chopped the green part, keep the white part

Split the White Part of green onion into quarters

A bunch Cilantro, finely chopped

1/2 Onion, thinly slice with a slicer

Lime, cut into wedges

5 Thai chilies or 1 serrano chili, cut into thin rings

Fresh Ground Black Pepper


 Charring Onion and Ginger

Place onion and ginger on a stove burner or grill at medium heat. Char until the skin is burnt and is fragrant and the ginger and onion slightly cook. Let it cool down a little bit, then rinse to remove the charcoal. Set aside.


Cooking Broth

In a large stockpot, bring 6 liters of water to a boil.

In a second pot, place the bones and oxtail and add water to cover and bring to a boil.   Boil vigorously for about 4 minutes to allow impurities to be released.  This step is just to get rid of the smell of old bones and also to keep the broth clear.

Discard the water and rinse the bones and oxtail under cold water then add to the first pot of boiling water along with the beef flank if used, charred onion and ginger.  Bring to boil over high heat, uncovered, then reduce the heat to a gently simmer.  Often time, use a fine strainer to skim any scum and fat that rises to surface.

If you simmer the broth in the same pot that you just parboiled the bones, oxtail and beef flank,  make sure to wash pot to remove any residue before returning the ingredients to the pot.


Cooking Stripe (sách)

In a small pot, bring 1/2 cup of vinegar and 4 cups of water and half of an onion to a boil (vinegar eliminates the smell of stripe).  Add stripe and bring it back to boil. Remove and rinse with cold water. Cut into smalll stripes. Set aside. 


Cooking Beef Tendon (gân)

In a small pot, bring a tablespoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of sugar and half an onion, tendon and enough water (about an inch above the tendon) to a boil. Slow cook it for 2-3 hours until tender. Be sure to strain the white form often. Remove tendon and rinse with cold water. Cut into thin pieces.


Preparing Spice Bag

Place spice in a frying pan and roast over medium heat for a minute or until the fragrant released.  Pour spice into a cloth bag  or wrap it up in a cheesecloth and tight it tightly.  Set aside.


Back to Cooking Broth

After the broth is simmering for 2 hours total,  check beef flank and oxtail to see if  tender.   Remove beef flank and oxtail.  Soak  in cold water for a bit to prevent the meat turn dark color. Drain and place beef flank in the freezer or fridge to keep it cold. This will make it easier to thinly slice the beef.   Drain and set oxtail aside.  Thinly slice beef flank when it cools down.

Continue simmering the broth with the remaining bones for another hour (3 hours total), then add white radish, spice bag, salt, yellow rock sugar and  mushroom seasoning.   Continue simmering the broth for another 1/2 hour.  Remove spice bag, ginger, white radish and onion. Leaving the spice bag in the broth too long will develop too strong of a licorice flavor; onion and white radish will fall apart which clouds the broth.  Skim as necessary.  The broth can be used after simmering for  at least 3 and half hours.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.  

If desired, strain the pho broth through fine strainer for clear broth. I usually skip this step. (by this time, there's limited patience and can't wait to eat Pho)  


The Meat Line Up
Thinly slice steak

Thinly slice beef flank


Meatballs (click here for recipe)




Preparing Banh Pho (Pho Noodles)

Remove noodles from bags. Wash and soak noodles in hot sink water for a couple minutes. Rinse. Set aside.  I like this method as it's quick to prepare the noodle and also to keep the noodle from being too soft.  I personally don't like my noodle too soft.  

But if you want you noodle softer, fill saucepan with water and bring to boil. When you're ready to serve Pho, for each bowl, use a strainer to blanch a portion of noodles. As soon as noodle sink into the boil water (5 seconds), remove strainer from the water, jiggle the strainer to let water drain back into saucepan. Empty noodle into bowls.  

Another way to prepare noodle is to wash and rinse noodle. Set aside.  When you're ready to serve Pho, add a portion of noodle in a bowl and microwave it for 30 seconds.   


To serve, place the noodles in a bowl. Place a few slices of the steak and flank on the noodles. Bring the broth to a rolling boil; ladle about 2 to 3 cups into each bowl. The broth will cook the raw beef instantly. (If you prefer to keep the broth clear, bring a small pot of water to a boil, dip the raw steaks and immediately transfer to the noodle bowl). Add oxtail, tendon, flank, meatball as desired. Garnish with mixed herbs. Sprinkle or grind on some black pepper. Garnish the bowl with bean sprouts, basil and saw-leaf herb, chilies, lime juice and enjoy immediately while it's still steaming hot. 

If you like, remove all the beef bone (xương súp) from the broth pot and serve on a side as an appetizer.