Pho Bo Tai Nam (The Perfect Vietnamese Beef Rice Noodle Soup)

Pho Bo Tai Nam (The Perfect Vietnamese Beef Rice Noodle Soup) Recipe

Gooooood morning, Vietnam! Phở is the National Vietnamese food. Phở bò tái nạm is a beef broth served with rice noodles and tender, thin pieces of flank steak flavored with traditional Vietnamese spices. It's one of my favorite Asian soups. When I visited Saigon 10 years ago, I remember having a big bowl of phở for breakfast! It's as good in the morning as it is for lunch and dinner. I think it's THE best street food in the world. Oh and it's pronounced "fuh" like the beginning of the word "fudge".

OK. Here goes... I might get in big trouble for handing out this recipe. I got it from my Tatie Danielle (aunt) who, unlike the one in the French comedy classic, is a sweetheart and an amazing cook, except that she does not share her recipes. She used to run a restaurant in the early 90s. She doesn't know the existence of this site yet and she's not very computer literate, so I hope that keeps me safe. At any rate, I figure I can't call myself a femme fatale if I don't do a little bit of recon and intel gathering. Shhh...

If - like me - you're a fan of Anthony Bourdain, you might be interested to know that Pho is one of his favorite dishes. Tony, this pho is for you .



Yields: 10 servings

6 1/2 quarts water
1 dozen oxtail bones
5 lbs large knuckle beef bones with marrow
1 yellow onion
1 chunk fresh ginger, about 4 inches
1 chunk daikon , peeled
3 sticks cinnamon, broken in half
2 Tbs coriander seeds
1/3 cup star anise seeds
2 Tbs whole cloves
2 black cardamom pods
8 green cardamom pods, slightly crushed
1/3 cup salt
4 tsp mushroom powder
1 tsp MSG, (optional)
3 Tbs sugar
2 to 2-1/2 lbs "outside" flank steak, very cold
2 packages rice noodles
2 cups bean sprouts
1 bunch Thai basil
1 bunch Vietnamese mint
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro
2 limes, cut into wedges
3 fresh green jalapeno peppers, sliced
5 red Thai bird chiles
5 Tbs hoisin sauce, as needed
5 Tbs chili garlic sauce, or Sriracha
1 white onion (milder in flavor), sliced paper-thin
1/2 bunch green onions, finely chopped


For the beef broth (the most important part to me):

In a pot, soak the knuckle bones in about a quart of water with 1 tablespoon of salt overnight. The next day, rinse the bones and place them with the oxtail bones in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the water. Rinse the bones under running tap water and set aside. This step is important to get a clear broth before starting the long slow-cooking.

In a giant spice strainer (see tips below), combine the cinnamon, star anise, cloves and both kinds of cardamom. Set aside.

Char the onion and ginger: Wash the whole unpeeled ginger; pat dry. Peel the whole onion without cutting the stem to make sure the onion doesn't fall apart in the broth. Place a grill on your stove, then char all the skin of the ginger and onion. Wrap them in aluminum foil. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Wash the ginger and onion under running tap water; the blackened skin will come right off. Bruise the ginger using a hammer to loosen the flesh and help release all its flavor.

Fill a 12-quart stockpot with 6 1/2 quarts of water. Place the oxtail bones from before, whole daikon, the strainer of spices and the charred ginger and onion in the pot. Bring the liquid to a boil. Then lower the heat to a bubbly simmer. Cook for about 2 hours. Regularly skim the impurities rising to the surface of the broth using a fine mesh strainer. Add salt, mushroom powder, sugar and MSG if you choose to. Cook for another 30-45 minutes.

Fish out the oxtails bones using a slotted spoon, transfer to a big bowl. Cover with cold water and set aside for about 15 minutes. (Note: The method used to ensure that the meat does not darken as the broth cools down is basically the same procedure as that used to keep vegetables a bright green color). Drain the water from the oxtail bones, then refrigerate until it's time to serve.

If you're health conscious, you can remove the fat from the broth: Let the broth cool down to room temperature, plastic wrap the pot tightly and place the whole pot in the refrigerator. The fat from the broth may pick up some other odors from the refrigerator if the container is not sealed properly. A layer of fat will form at the surface, which can be removed using a spoon. You can skip this step by regularly degreasing as the broth cooks using a fine mesh strainer.

At the end, add the bones with marrow into the beef broth and cook for another 15 minutes.

The beef broth is ready. Get the rest of the pho preparation ready...

For the rice noodles:

Soak the dry rice noodles in a big bowl filled with cold water for 45 minutes. Drain the water using a colander. Set aside until the beef broth is ready.

When you're ready to serve, fill a medium-sized pan with about 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil. Then place deep size bouillon strainer (or a large strainer that can fit in the pan) and add about 1 cup of the rice noodles. Wait for the water to come back to a boil (about 1-2 minutes) then cook for about 30-45 more seconds. Lift the strainer, drain the liquid and transfer the noodles to a serving bowl. Repeat for each individual bowl.

For the beef slices of flank steak:

You can ask your butcher to thinly slice it for you. My local Asian store provides this service. Just mention you need flank steak for phở bò.

Your other option is to place the whole piece of meat in the freezer for about 30 minutes. Then thinly slice the meat using a sharp chef's knife.  Make sure to cut the meat perpendicular to the grain so that the slices remain tender.

I like to make the bowls of pho individually. Pour about 2 ladles of beef broth into a small saucepan. Add one oxtail and one knuckle bone. Bring the broth to a boil. Then add about 2 tablespoons of the sliced raw flank steak. As soon as the beef slices are in the broth, transfer immediately to your serving bowl so that the meat keeps a slightly pink color and remains tender.

Repeat for each individual bowl.

Serving time:

Be organized. Line up the serving bowls. Place a little chopped white onion, some green onions, bean sprouts and cilantro in each bowl. Add the boiled drained rice noodles. Add the slightly cooked slices of beef along with the boiling broth you have prepared.

Serve with chili garlic sauce and hoisin sauce, Thai basil, mint, jalapeno peppers and the bird chiles. Squeeze some lime juice into the beef broth to finish.

Call your gang as soon as each bowl is ready, then dig in!

Beef Pho Recipe

Beef Pho Recipe
If at the end of the meal, you see empty bowls and no broth left, it means that you successfully made an excellent pho


I prefer using the dry banh pho rice noodles. I buy the Ba Co Gai (Three Ladies)  brand for this dish. I always pick the small-sized flat rice noodles. You can also use the medium-sized ones. I think this is the best brand of dry rice noodle on the market; you can find it in Asian stores.

The key to a good pho is a good, clear, fragrant broth. If, at the end of the meal, you see empty bowls and no beef broth left, it means that you successfully made an excellent pho. Cooking very slowly and gently keeps the broth relatively clear. It's very important to get rid of the scummy foam that rises to the surface of the broth as it cooks. Never bring the broth to a full boil, always keep a gentle simmer. Also to ensure a clear broth, if the broth is too salty, only add boiling water, NO cold water. I usually have a kettle of boiling water on the side.

I purposely do not salt the broth at the beginning, but wait to add salt until the bones are fully cooked. This way the broth remains clear.

If you do not own a giant spice strainer for the pho spices, you can use a cheesecloth. Place all the spices in the cloth and tie it in a tight knot.

Mushroom seasoning salt brings a very distinct, earthy flavor to the sauce. You can get it at any gourmet specialty store or in most Korean stores. I get mine at Marina Foods, 10122 Bandley Drive, Cupertino, CA 95014. They also have a great food-court. I love their Chinese duck.

Daikon (củ cải trắng in Vietnamese) is an Asian turnip that looks like a large white carrot. I use this root a lot for making broth. Discard the root when the broth is ready. It's also delicious when it's pickled with carrots and is commonly used in Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches. They are yummy Vietnamese baguette sandwiches stuffed with pickled daikons and carrots, tofu or grilled meat and green sliced chiles.

I love bean sprouts; they add some crunchiness to the dish.

Technically, I do not use flank steak but the outside flank of the steak (the best part), called nạm. Placing the meat in the freezer helps you control the thickness of each slice of meat. Make sure the slices are as thin as you can make them. Also make sure the meat is sliced against the grain to ensure optimum tenderness.

When you're ready to serve, you can drizzle in some fish sauce (nước mắm in Vietnamese) but I personally am not a big fan.  I like fish sauce, but I don't think it's a good complement to this dish.  It's great with seafood however, like pan fried catfish.

Vietnamese mint has a very different flavor than regular mint. It also has darker vein markings on the leaves. It's commonly used in Asian salad like Vietnamese chicken salad and also springrolls (gỏi cuốn in Vietnamese).

Check out my recipe for chili garlic sauce, tướng ớt in Vietnamese. It's ultra easy, all you need is super fiery, spicy, deep red chiles.

I am not a big fan of MSG (monosodium glutamate), Aunt Danielle likes to add it to her broth, but I don't.

If you have pho beef broth left over, place the broth in containers and store in the freezer. You can keep this up to 6 months.

Making pho is time-consuming. I always make this dish on the weekends. I make a huge batch and invite all the carnivores I know. This is one case where your patience will definitely be rewarded. Savor your steaming bowl of pho!

UPDATE: To produce a truly authentic pho, you can substitute an equal amount by weight of Asian rock sugar for the sugar in the recipe.

Check out the vegetarian version with my phở chay.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on March 23, 2009.


Although I'd rather go to a Pho house and buy a bowl for 5 bucks than follow this recipe.
[ Posted at 2:47 PM on 3/23/09 | Reply ]
Although if you could just go to an asian market and get good premade broth, I think I could handle doing the rest. I don't know if I've ever looked for cans or jars of the broth.
[ Posted at 3:42 PM on 3/23/09 | Reply ]
[-] I understand but - Jackie
the result of a homemade broth is so worth it, if you can bare the effort. That's why I make sure there is enough people to share pho with before making it.
[ Posted at 3:47 PM on 3/23/09 | Reply ]
[-] It usually comes in short fat little cans - Guest-SpacemanSpliff678
It tastes pretty good and can be a quick easy meal...
[ Posted at 7:39 PM on 3/23/09 | Reply ]
[-] Lol K3NNY - Jackie
You're right, it's very soothing and warm after a hangover
[ Posted at 3:45 PM on 3/23/09 | Reply ]
[-] Pho may well be - Guest-sotonohito
the perfect food.
[ Posted at 3:30 PM on 3/23/09 | Reply ]
[-] Ooh, thanks for posting this - Guest-msgsquared
I've been looking for a good pho recipe that doesn't involve the pre-made cubes. Love to cook from scratch when I have the time.
[ Posted at 3:32 PM on 3/23/09 | Reply ]
[-] @msgsquared - Jackie
do not hesitate to contact me if you have any trouble
[ Posted at 3:49 PM on 3/23/09 | Reply ]
If you don't live in a place where pho is plentiful, I'm sad for you. Just another reason why multicultural toronto is a great place to live!
[ Posted at 6:51 PM on 3/23/09 | Reply ]
[-] Raw beef for breakfast - Guest-VicinSea
No thank you
[ Posted at 6:53 PM on 3/23/09 | Reply ]
[-]'s raw until - Guest-SpacemanSpliff
you put it into boiling water...then not so much.
[ Posted at 7:12 PM on 3/23/09 | Reply ]
it cooks in the beef broth. it's raw steak that you dip in hot boiling broth. Technically, it's not raw anymore. It's just that the name in Vietnamese "tai" translate to raw in English. In Vietnam, it's like eating eggs, sausage and bacon for breakfast.
[ Posted at 7:16 PM on 3/23/09 | Reply ]
[-] True - Guest-charlestheoaf
After a few minutes, it'll be colored just like any other cooked meat.
[ Posted at 7:23 PM on 3/23/09 | Reply ]
and not Foe.

Listen Website Link
[ Posted at 7:40 PM on 3/23/09 | Reply ]
[-] Pronounciation - Guest-Spazsquatch
Fah gettabout it.
[ Posted at 7:50 PM on 3/23/09 | Reply ]
[-] Or just say with a vietnamese accent - Guest-befsoopliketheydoinmyfavoriterestaurant
"bef soop" like they do in my favorite restaurant.
[ Posted at 12:06 AM on 3/24/09 | Reply ]
[-] my EASY recipe for pho - Guest-scrunchcrunch
get zone 1 rail card get off at footscray (or if you live next door to my parents, meander up paisley street) go to one of 15 pho houses off hopkins street order pho eat pho go home happy, stopping off at olympic doughnuts for desserts.
[ Posted at 7:46 PM on 3/23/09 | Reply ]
[-] Good recipe, but - Guest-Pilebsa
I also add a few cloves into the onion before I char it.

Instead of sugar, the traditional recipe calls for Asian rock sugar. You can find this at most Asian markets.
[ Posted at 12:09 AM on 3/24/09 | Reply ]
[-] Good point - Jackie
You're right you can add the same amount by weight of rock sugar for 6 1/2 quart of water. Thanks for pointing that out.
[ Posted at 11:47 AM on 3/24/09 | Reply ]
[-] I just hope I have the patience - Guest-TangledNoodle
Unfortunately, I don't think I can rustle up enough people (or have enough room to store) this much broth. Can I make a 1/2 recipe by halving the ingredients or would that throw the flavors off? Otherwise, I'd love to give it a try!

Tangled Noodle Website Link
[ Posted at 8:27 PM on 4/9/09 | Reply ]
[-] It should work - Jackie
I guess you could divide the quantity by 2 but put maybe 3/4 of the amount of beef bones and bone marrow. That's what will make the broth stand out more, compared to the one served at the restaurant pho house. To cut on the cost, restaurants usually put less beef bones and add a bunch of MSG (glutamate) as a flavor enhancer. Once you try it though, I think you'll want to make a full batch and store it for whenever you need a pho fix. Good luck and let me know how it turns out!
[ Posted at 9:38 PM on 4/9/09 | Reply ]
[-] oxtail bones? - ktjmom
Jackie, when you say oxtail bones, do you mean I need to take the meat off or do you mean the pieces in packages that I can buy at the Asian market?
[ Posted at 10:07 PM on 5/18/09 | Reply ]
I get oxtail bones from the Asian supermarket. It's usually sold in packs of 6. Just find the butcher and ask for his help if you can't find them. Mention that you want to make some pho.
[ Posted at 11:27 PM on 5/18/09 | Reply ]
[-] Perfect / Jackie - Guest-cindy
[ Posted at 1:34 PM on 6/2/09 | Reply ]
[-] homemaker - Guest-carolina
I love this soup. I was introduced to it almost 6 yrs ago, but only last week did my wonderful friend Han/Amy teach me how to make it. I have made it 3 times within a week. I've told my other friends that I now know how to make it and they are all coming next weekend to eat the soup. I am a regular at the market now. My soup looks just like your soup picture.
[ Posted at 8:41 PM on 6/18/09 | Reply ]
[-] Congrats - Jackie
I'm glad that you enjoyed the pho. It may be time-consuming but it's definitely rewarding.
[ Posted at 5:00 AM on 6/19/09 | Reply ]
Thank you for the Pho recipe . When I was a child, I’m in love with my mom’s Pho recipe. She often cook that special noodle for our family in the weekend. All the member gathered in the kitchen, helped her to repair the dish. But either me and my sister don’t know how to make the broth of Pho. Because it’s so difficult and takes a lot of time. 20 years pass, when we want to eat Pho, we used to come to the restaurant, it’s quicker and more convenient. But they don’t have the flavor of my mom Pho. One day, I discovered this insanely good and easy Pho product called Happy Pho that I can use to make pho from scratch in 15 mins I've found it hard to motivate myself to cook Pho without it. It's by a comapny called Star Anise Foods and the founder used a secret family recipe from her grandparents' restaurant from Nam Dinh where Pho came from to make the spice packet in the kit. You get a spice packet with all natural and organic spices, and brown rice noodles and just have to add some chicken or beef broth and fresh herb and mushroom or meat if you like. I was skeptical at first but now I completely LOVE them. I got mine from Noe Valley Whole Foods, you can get them online at -- check them out here
[ Posted at 2:18 AM on 5/10/10 | Reply ]
I have grown up eating Pho as my best friend is Vietnamese. Her mom owned a restaurant but never would share recipe, just "show you"! I'm really excited to try this! I will let you know how it turns out. My 14 year old's favorite food... not pizza, not McDonnalds... it's Pho.. so today we hit the asian grocer and start to cook! Wish us luck!
[ Posted at 5:10 AM on 8/4/10 | Reply ]
[-] pho vietnam - Guest-trantran
Healthy foods is pho , you may eat slow or fast , vegetable, beef, mint,soupis very delicious.egg roll
[ Posted at 4:38 AM on 8/11/10 | Reply ]
[-] Thank you! - Guest-CathyD
I'm forwarding this to my mother! She just returned from Vietnam and raved about the pho! She doesn't really cook much any more though... Maybe I'll just have to surprise her with this dish someday! :-)

Cathy D Website Link
[ Posted at 5:31 PM on 10/24/11 | Reply ]
[-] Yum - Guest-RobertHaffner
A pain to make but it is the best hangover food ever. Make and freeze 1 cup per morning after and life is good.
[ Posted at 7:42 PM on 11/30/12 | Reply ]
If I skip the MSG, would the flavor be blah? I don't know of anyone that cooks from scratch or not use MSG and afraid to try.
Love you detailed recipe.
[ Posted at 11:57 PM on 2/12/13 | Reply ]
At this point do I also add the knuckle bones back in?? "Fill a 12-quart stockpot with 6 1/2 quarts of water. Place the oxtail bones from before, whole daikon, the strainer of spices and the charred ginger and onion in the pot."
[ Posted at 10:46 AM on 3/6/13 | Reply ]
How many oz. is each serving? Thank you!
[ Posted at 9:53 PM on 8/25/14 | Reply ]

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