Phở is a hearty noodle soup that is the most well known of all noodle soups from Vietnam. The stock can be made with chicken or beef with the most popular type being beef noodle soup. Every region has its own take on phở bò and the noodle soup is often eaten for breakfast. Phở bò takes at least a few hours of just simmering the bones to get the right bone stock for the soup base. This is a dish that is made for long weekends and especially when the weather turns cold.
We redid the traditional phở recipe into 2 parts (beef stock and phở broth) to make it easier to measure the ingredients and to get a consistently good broth. This is one of the easiest recipe for phở that we wrote to create a very clear, rich and fragrant broth. You can make the bone stock in advance and freeze it. Whenever you want to make phở, just defrost the bone stock and season the stock to make the phở broth.
Difficulty: Medium / Time: 3 hours for bone stock, 45 minutes for phở broth / Serves: 6-7 bowls
1.5 lbs of beef tendon
2.5 lbs of beef bones (include marrow)
1.5 lbs of eye round roast
3 lbs of boneless beef bottom chuck roast
1 package of beef balls
2 packages of dried phở spice (Spices include cinnamon sticks, cloves, coriander pods, star anise and cardamom.)
A spice cloth bag or spice balls to hold the phở spice
2.5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of rock sugar
1 teaspoon of regular sugar
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 peeled yellow onion
2 shallots with skin
A bunch of culantro or ngò gai
A bunch of Thai Basil or regular basil if it’s not available
1 lb of bean sprouts
4 green onions/ scallion
1 bunch of cilantro
1 package of phở noodles
Hot chili sauce like Sriracha
Fish sauce (optional to taste at the table)
A. Clean the beef bones of impurities (15 minutes)
Fill a large stock pot halfway with water and add ½ tablespoon of sea salt. Boil the water.
When the water comes to a boil, add the bones and allow the bones to cook for approximately 5 minutes so that there are no longer blood in the bones.
Remove the bones and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Discard the broth.
B. Make the bone stock (3 hours):
Fill another large stock pot with 6 liters of water. Add the bones to the pot and make a note of where the water line is in the pot. You will need to add the water back to this line as the water evaporates during the cooking process.
Add 1 tablespoon of rock sugar and 1 tablespoon of sea salt to the stock.
Allow the stock to be on low boil for 2 hours and continue to add water to the stock as the water evaporates back to the original water line. Make sure the stock doesn’t boil over or the stock will become cloudy and gets ruined. Skim the stock of any impurities.
After 2 hours, add the boneless chuck to the stock and cook on low boil for another hour. Continue to skim any impurities. The total cooking time for the bone stock is 3 hours.
After 3 hours, remove the beef chuck and set aside. The broth should be clear.
C. Cook the tendons (at the same time as the bone stock – 3 hours):
Fill a smaller pot with 2 liters of water and boil the tendon until the tendons are softened. Add ½ tablespoon of rock sugar and ½ tablespoon of salt. This will also takes approximately 3 hours. If you have a pressure cooker, you can use it to cook the tendons and that will only take approximately 30 minutes.
Once the tendons are cooked and softened, remove from the broth and set aside. Discard the broth.
D. Make the phở broth (45 minutes):
Roast approximately 1 cup of ginger slices (roughly 3 large slices) and 2 packages of phở spice in a toaster oven at 400 F for 5 minutes. The goal is to allow for the spice and ginger to release the oils. (*We normally use 1 package of phở spice for each pot of phở. Since we are cutting the cooking time for the actual phở broth, we doubled the spice quantity.) Transfer the spices into a cloth bag.
Transfer 5 liters of strained bone stock to a clean pot. Heat on high to a low boil. Add the spice bag and ginger to the broth.
Season the broth with:
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of rock sugar
1 teaspoon of regular sugar
Optional: You can add 1 teaspoon of MSG to enhance the flavor. Most phở will have MSG, but my family prefers not to use MSG when we cook.
While the broth is simmering, roast 1 peeled yellow onion and 2 shallots with skin until the juices start to release. This takes approximately 5 minutes. After cooking the broth on low boil for 15 minutes, add the onion and shallots. Cook the broth on low boil for another 30 minutes.
The broth will be done after 45 minutes. Turn the stove to a simmer and add the beef balls to the broth.
Cut 4 scallion ends (white part) and add to the broth. The phở is ready to be serve.
E. Prepare the meat, noodles and condiments (while the broth is cooking):
Thinly slice the eye round against the grain.
Thinly slice the beef chuck against the grain.
Slice the tendons into bit size pieces.
Prepare the garnishes by thinly slicing some onion and scallions (dicing the green part and cutting the white part lengthwise).
Cut each lime into eights without the center parts with the seeds.
Boil the phở noodles according to package instruction.
F. Plating the bowl
Plate each bowl with a handful of noodles, 1 bone marrow, a few slices of beef chuck, beef balls and few slices of raw beef.
Ladle the hot broth over the raw beef to cook it.
Top each bowl with scallions, onions and cilantro. Serve each bowl with a plate of bean sprouts, basil and culantro. Add hot sauce, hoisin sauce and a squeeze of lime to the broth before eating. If needed, add fish sauce to taste.
Try our easy Vegetarian Phở as well.