The most authentic Beef Pho recipe

by Lilian Nguyen
authentic pho recipe_a bowl of beef pho

Pho is considered a traditional and typical Vietnamese food, favored by tourists from all over the world as well as by Vietnamese people in the homeland and abroad. You can easily find Pho in the menu of many Vietnamese restaurants around the world however the authentic beef Pho recipe is not always available.

In Vietnam the taste, the way of eating and serving Pho are different. In the North, Pho is cooked in a classic style where the broth is sweet and clear by cooking from the beef bone. The secret to creating the special smell for Pho is to use dried sá-sùng (a type of sea worm). Besides the sweetness from the beef bones, people also often add MSG (Monosodium glutamate) in the broth. The north beef noodle soup is sometimes served with chili sauce, or just with a few kumquats.

The recipe that I am going to show you below is the authentic beef Pho recipe in the south which is different from the North in many different ways.

Firstly, the broth is still cooked from the beef bones with grilled onions, grilled ginger to eliminate the smell of the beef, however, more spices such as anise, cinnamon, and clove are added to the broth and makes it more flavorful and tasty.

Secondly, the Southern version of Pho uses rock sugar to enhance the light sweetness of the broth instead of using MSG in Pho in the north.

Thirdly, Pho in the south is served with bean sprouts and a variety of herbs such as Thai basils, sawleaf, fresh lemon and fresh chili which are available on the table for diners to choose from.

Prep Time: 30M | Cook Time: 90M | Total Time: 120M |  Servings: 15

(Not including the broth cooking time 4-8 hours)

Ingredients

   3kg fresh rice noodles (flat stick for Pho)

authentic pho recipe_rice stick
The rice noodles for Pho are thin flat sticks.

Authentic beef  broth recipe

Authentic Pho_broth recipe
  • 1kg beef marrow bones
  • 5 litres water
  • 1kg beef shank (bắp bò)
  • 0.5kg beef belly (nạm bò)
  • 0.5kg flank steak, thinly sliced, kept in the fridge 
Authentic Pho-aroma spices

Authentic aroma spices

  • 100g fresh ginger
  • 100g whole shallots  
  • 300g onion
  • 6g cinnamon stick (quế cây)
  • 6g anise stars (đại hồi)
  • 10g cardamoms, slightly crushed (thảo quả)
  • 3g cloves (đinh hương)
  • 3g fennels (tiểu hồi)
  • 3g coriander seeds (hạt ngò)

Seasoning

authentic pho recipe_seasoning
This exact amount of seasoning is used for 5 liters of broth.
  • 55g fish sauce
  • 45g salt
  • 70g Knorr seasoning/ broth mix
  • 140g rock sugar/ brown sugar

Dipping sauce 

authentic pho recipe_dipping sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Chili sauce
  • Lime

Garnish 

garnish
  • Vietnamese basils, whole leaf/ chopped
  • Sawleaf (ngò gai), chopped
  • Bean sprout
  • Green onion, chopped
  • Onion , sliced
  • Fresh chili, sliced
  • Black pepper

Directions

The secret of Pho lies in the clear and tasty flavor of the broth. It takes some time and effort to prepare.  However, you will find it worthy when you can make the authentic broth for Pho on your own. Just follow these steps:

Authentic-beef-pho_clear-broth
The perfect beef Pho is clear and light brown.

1. Cook the broth:

  • Rinse the bones and beef thoroughly under the tap.
  • Slice some fresh ginger and lightly crush it.
  • Boil the water, add in 2 tsp of salt and ginger then quickly boil the bones, beef shank and beef belly for 1 minute each.
  • Remove the bones and beef out of the pot then discard the water. This way will help remove the dirt and keep the broth clear.
  • Cut the onions, ginger, and shallots in halves. Keep the outer layer of the skin of onions and shallots and lightly crush the ginger.
Authentic-beef-pho_fresh-aroma
The fresh aroma spices before grilling
  • Place all the ingredients including the beef bones, onions, shallots and ginger on a pan to grill for 30 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. This step not only eliminates the smell of the beef bones but also enhances the flavor of the broth as well. 

Note: remove the burning parts on the skin of the onions and the shallots.

In a big pot, add 5 litres of cold water, then place the grilled beef bones in and cook for 30 minutes at medium high heat (7/10). Remove the foam that forms at the top until the broth is quite clear. 

Reduce the heat to  medium low and cook for at least 4 hours, cover the lid half way to minimize the evaporation. If you cover the lid fully, the boiling water will cloud the broth.

Note: Frequently fill the pot with boiling water to make sure you‘ve got 5 liters of broth in the pot as the water is going to evaporate considerably while cooking for a long period of time.

2. Prepare the aroma spices:

While cooking the broth, let’s prepare the aroma spices

  • In a pan, roast the cinnamon stick, cardamoms and anise stars for 1 minute then add in, fennels, coriander seeds and cloves; continue to roast for 1 more 10 seconds until fragrant. Remember to stir quickly and frequently because the cloves are easy to burn.
  • Put all spices in a spice bag or a filter.

3. Cook the beef and finish the broth:

  • Add the grilled onions, shallots and ginger in.
  • Place the spice bag in the broth pot.
  • Then place the beef in and cook the beef in the broth until it is soft and fully cooked inside. You can use a sharp stick to poke the meat to test its texture and see if it’s cooked. If there is no blood that leaks out, that means the meat is cooked inside. Usually, the cooking time for beef shank is about 1.5 hours
  • 30 minutes before finishing the broth, add all the seasoning in a bowl. Use the boiling broth to dissolve the spices in a separate small bowl before pouring the seasoning in the pot. At this stage, the aroma and spices will have enough time to release in the broth and absorb in the beef as well.  Avoid putting the aroma spices too early, as it will lose its flavour when evaporating. 
  • Remove the beef from the pot and slice the beef when it cools down.

4. Cook the rice noodles:

Boil the water in a pan, then quickly boil the bean sprouts

Boil the noodles for 10-30 seconds until the noodles are cooked and soft.

5. How to serve Pho

  • Place the bean sprouts, noodles then some slices of beef shank, beef belly and raw beef on top.
  • Garnish with some sliced onion and herbs.
  • Pour the boiling broth directly on the raw beef to have the medium- rare Pho. If you want a well-done beef, you can put the raw beef in the ladle and soak it in the boiling broth for 10 seconds before placing it in the bowl.
  • Finally sprinkle some black pepper and chili.
Authentic-beef-pho_broth_a-bowl-of-Pho
A bowl of beef Pho

Pho will be served with the dipping sauce including hoisin sauce, chili sauce and a bit of lime juice. Let’s enjoy your Pho while it’s still steaming hot!


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authentic pho recipe_a bowl of beef pho
Prep Time: 30M | Cook Time: 90M | Total Time: 120M | Servings: 15 Family Meals The most authentic Beef Pho recipe European Print
Serves: 15 Prep Time: Cooking Time:
Nutrition facts: 200 calories 20 grams fat
Rating: 5.0/5
( 1 voted )

Ingredients

 3kg fresh rice noodles (flat stick for Pho)

  • 100g fresh ginger
  • 100g whole shallots  
  • 300g onion
  • 6g cinnamon stick (quế cây)
  • 6g anise stars (đại hồi)
  • 10g cardamoms, slightly crushed (thảo quả)
  • 3g cloves (đinh hương)
  • 3g fennels (tiểu hồi)
  • 3g coriander seeds (hạt ngò)

Seasoning (Please note that this amount is for 5 liters of broth)

  • 55g fish sauce
  • 45g salt
  • 70g Knorr seasoning/ broth mix
  • 140g rock sugar/ brown sugar

Dipping sauce

  • Hoisin sauce
  • Chili sauce
  • Lime

Garnish

  • Vietnamese basils, whole leaf/ chopped
  • Sawleaf (ngò gai), chopped
  • Bean sprout
  • Green onion, chopped
  • Onion , sliced
  • Fresh chili, sliced
  • Black pepper

Instructions

The secret of Pho lies in the clear and tasty flavor of the broth. It takes some time and effort to prepare. 

However, you will find it worthy when you can make the authentic broth for Pho on your own. Just follow these steps:

1. Cook the broth:

  • Rinse the bones and beef thoroughly under the tap.
  • Slice some fresh ginger and lightly crush it.
  • Boil the water, add in 2 tsp of salt and ginger then quickly boil the bones, beef shank and beef belly for 1 minute each. Remove the bones and beef out of the pot then discard the water. This way will help remove the dirt and keep the broth clear.
  • Cut the onions, ginger, and shallots in halves. Keep the outer layer of the skin of onions and shallots and lightly crush the ginger.
  • Place all the ingredients including the beef bones, onions, shallots and ginger on a pan to grill for 30 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. This step not only  eliminates the smell of the beef bones but also enhances the flavor of the broth as well. Remove the burning parts on the skin of the onions and the shallots.
  • In a big pot, add 5 liters of cold water, then place the grilled beef bones in and cook for 30 minutes at medium high heat (7/10). Remove the foam that forms at the top until the broth is quite clear.
  • Reduce the heat to  medium low and cook for at least 4 hours, cover the lid half way to minimize the evaporation. If you cover the lid fully, the boiling water will cloud the broth.

Note: Frequently fill the pot with boiling water to make sure you‘ve got 5 liters of broth in the pot as the water is going to evaporate considerably while cooking for a long period of time.

 

2. Prepare the aroma spices:

  • In a pan, roast the cinnamon stick, cardamom sand anise stars for 1 minute then add in, fennels, coriander seeds and cloves; continue to roast for 1 more 10 seconds until fragrant. Remember to stir quickly and frequently because the cloves are easy to burn.
  • Put all spices in a spice bag or in a filter.

3. Cook the beef and finish the broth:

  • Add the grilled onions, shallots and ginger in.
  • Place the spice bag in the broth pot. 
  • Then place the beef in and cook the beef in the broth until it is soft and fully cooked inside. You can use a sharp stick to poke the meat to test its texture and see if it’s cooked. If there is no blood that leaks out, that means the meat is cooked inside. Usually, the cooking time for beef shank is about 1.5 hour.
  • 30 minutes before finishing the broth, add all the seasoning in a bowl. Use the boiling broth to dissolve the spices in a separate small bowl before pouring the seasoning in the pot. At this stage, the aroma and spices will have enough time to release in the broth and absorb in the beef as well.  Avoid putting the aroma spices too early, as it will lose its flavor when evaporating.
  • Remove the beef from the pot and slice the beef when it cools down.
 4. Cook the rice noodles:
  • Boil the water in a pan, then quickly boil the bean sprouts.

  • Boil the noodles for 10-30 seconds until the noodles are cooked and soft.

5. How to serve Pho

  • Place the bean sprouts, noodles then some slices of beef shank, beef belly and raw beef on top.
  • Garnish with some sliced onion and herbs. 
  • Pour the boiling broth directly on the raw beef to have the medium- rare Pho. If you want a well-done beef, you can put the raw beef in the ladle and soak it in the boiling broth for 10 seconds before placing it in the bowl.
  • Finally sprinkle some black pepper and fresh pepper. 

Pho will be served with the dipping sauce including hoisin sauce, chili sauce and a bit of lime juice. Let’s enjoy your Pho while it’s still steaming hot!

Tips

  • To save energy and cooking time, I usually plan to cook the broth in the evening for 2 hours then I turn off the heat before going to bed to make use of the remaining heat during the night. The next morning, I bring the broth to a boil and cook the beef and add spices as directed above.   
  • To save time for the next Pho making, you can keep the broth (without adding any aroma or seasoning) in the freezer. The flavor is exactly the same as the freshly- cooked broth when being defrosted. 
 
 

Notes

To save energy and cooking time, I usually plan to cook the broth in the evening for 2 hours then I turn off the heat before going to bed to make use of the remaining heat during the night. The next morning, I bring the broth to a boil and cook the beef and add spices as directed above. To save time for the next Pho making, you can keep the broth (without adding any aroma or seasoning) in the freezer. The flavour is exactly the same as the freshly- cooked broth when being defrosted.

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