Pho bo (Vietnamese soup with beef) 19.01.2009

This recipe comes from the Red Bridge Cooking School, where Sophie and I took a cooking class when we were in Hoi An, Vietnam. Pho is available pretty much everywhere from north to south, and it’s awesome at any time of day, particularly first thing. Quantities should suit 4 people, or 6 at breakfast time or as a starter. It all looks fairly involved, but the steps are reasonably straightforward and it’s very rewarding.


For the stock

  • 1 kg beef bones (shin etc)
  • 3 litres of water
  • 1 piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 whole white onion
  • 2 pieces of star anise
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 2 shallots
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar preferably rock sugar, which is available at Minh Phat and probably all other Asian grocers

For the pickle

  • 1 cup of white vinegar
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 shallots
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 green chilli
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

For serving

  • 4 spring onions
  • A couple of large bunches of Asiany herbs, definitely including coriander (sawtooth is best if available), and at least one other of Vietnamese mint, English mint or Vietnamese basil.
  • 2 limes
  • 2 large handfuls of bean sprouts (more if Virginia is coming to dinner)
  • 200gm fillet of beef
  • 2 cups of cooked rice noodles


For the stock

Bring water to the boil in a large stockpot. While you're doing that, barbeque the beef bones - srsly, this is important to reduce the fat and bring out the flavours for a few minutes, and the onion, shallots and ginger for a minute or so as well.

Add barbequed ingredients and spices to the water, then add salt.

Simmer it all for at least an hour and a half with the lid off; two hours is even better. Allow it to cool, then strain through muslin and skim the fat off.

For the pickle

  • Roughly chop the garlic, shallots and chilli
  • Stir all ingredients together for 30 seconds, and then leave to sit for as long as you like (and at least 15 minutes)

Serving accoutrement preparation

  • Pick the leaves of the green stuff and discard the stems (or just wash the herbs and leave them in a large pile)
  • Slice the spring onions finely
  • Slice the cheeks off the limes
  • Slice the raw fillet of beef SUPER finely


  • Reheat the stock so that it's boiling again
  • Divide the rice noodles among four bowls and drape the thinly sliced beef over them (you don't want to pile the beef up, because it needs to cook in the boiling stock)
  • Ladle the stock over the noodles and beef and watch the beef cook. Exciting!

The remaining steps can be performed at the table by the eaters, or in the kitchen by the control-freak:

  • Add some pickle (drained of vinegar)
  • Add herbs and bean sprouts and spring onions
  • Squeeze some lime-juice over the top

Delicious (and never 'yum', because apparently 'yum' means 'horny' in Vietnamese).

File under vietnamese healthy

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