Pho Bo – Beef Noodle Soup

Pho Bo 13

In recent years, it seems this week’s Mom’s 52 recipe has gained some notoriety among foodies all over.  It’s great to see everyone finally embrace Pho Bo – Beef Noodle Soup, and with Pho restaurants popping up in so many neighborhoods these days, this may be the first Vietnamese dish many people try.  Now, it’s time to try making this traditional Vietnamese dish at home.  (It’s not difficult!)

Although finding Pho restaurants is no difficult task these days, they never come close to this recipe of what I grew up on.  A steaming hot bowl of Pho Bo is a wonderful way to warm up your loved ones this winter, and you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to make once you gather the ingredients.  Make a big pot to ensure leftovers because you can’t stop at just one bowl!

Pho Bo – Beef Noodle Soup

INGREDIENTS – makes 6-8 servings:

  • 1 (1.5 oz.) packet of Gia Vi Nau Pho Bac seasoning packet (or an even combination of anise seeds, cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds, clove seeds, and coriander seeds, totaling 1/4 C.)
  • 1 (4″) knob of ginger, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 extra large shallots, peeled
  • 2.5 lbs. of beef oxtails
  • 2.5 lbs. of beef chuck soup bones (pick pieces that have some chunks of meat still attached)
  • 6 quarts (aka 24 C.) of water
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 1/4 C. rock sugar
  • 1 additional cinnamon stick
  • 3 additional anise seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 lb. of bo vien (Vietnamese meatballs), thawed
  • 1/4 C. nuoc mam (fish sauce)
  • 1 tsp. MSG (optional), to enhance the flavor
  • 2 (16oz.) packages of Banh Pho Tuoi (fresh pho noodles)
  • for garnish:  fresh bean sprouts, cilantro, green onion, basil, onions, jalapenos, limes, hoisin sauce, and sriracha hot sauce
  • 1 lb. of beef ribeye, thinly sliced (alternatively, you can use beef top sirloin or beef eye of round) – ask your butcher to slice it thinly, to save time at home.  Keep refrigerated until serving.

—–

STEP 1:  TOAST THE SPICES TO BRING OUT THEIR FLAVOR

  1. Empty the packet of Gia Vi Nau Pho Bac onto a piece of foil.  Crumple the foil to make a ball with the spices inside.

    Gia Vi Nau Pho Bac spice packet is a combination of anise seeds, cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds, clove seeds, and coriander seeds.    Use an even combination of these ingredients, totaling 1/4 C., as an alternative to this packet.
    Gia Vi Nau Pho Bac spice packet is a combination of anise seeds, cinnamon sticks, fennel seeds, clove seeds, and coriander seeds. Use an even combination of these ingredients, totaling 1/4 C., as an alternative to this packet.
  2. To bring out the flavor of the spices and make the most of your Pho Bo, toast the halved ginger, peeled shallots, and the foil packet of Gia Vi Nau Pho Bac.  It’s best to use a toaster oven at 300 degrees, or toast them on your stovetop on extra low heat.
  3. Proceed to Step 2 while these spices toast (roughly 20 minutes).
Toast spices first, to intensify their flavor, for Pho Bo.
Toast spices first, to intensify their flavor, for Pho Bo.

—–

STEP 2:  BLANCH THE OXTAILS AND SOUP BONES

  1. Fill a large stockpot halfway with water, and turn on high heat.
  2. Once the water boils, gently add the beef oxtails and beef soup bones, and stir for 10 seconds.
  3. Drain by carefully pouring the pot contents into a colander over the sink.
  4. Rinse the pot well, as it will be used in Step 3 below.
  5. Rinse the drained meat well to rinse off the scum, and drain again.

—–

STEP 3:  START THE PHO BO BROTH

  1. Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large stockpot.  Once the water boils, add the blanched beef oxtails and beef soup bones.  Turn the heat down to extra low.
  2. Remove the cinnamon from the toasted foil packet from Step 1, and add that cinnamon to the broth. Place the remaining contents of the foil packet from Step 1 into a spice sachet and tie closed.  Add this spice sachet to the broth.
  3. Using a mallet or the base of a small frying pan, gently pound the toasted ginger from Step 1 to smash it just a bit, bringing out more of its potent ginger flavor.  Add this ginger to the broth.
  4. Add 2 Tbsp. salt, 1/4 C. rock sugar, 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1 additional cinnamon stick, 3 additional anise seeds, and the toasted shallots from Step 1 to the broth.  Cook this broth for one hour at a very low heat level that maintains just below a simmer.  During this time, skim any scum that rises to the surface.

    The start of Pho Bo broth.
    The start of Pho Bo broth.
  5. After the first hour of cooking time has passed, add 1 lb. of bo vien meatballs to the broth and cook an additional 30 minutes.
    Bo vien meatballs, for Pho Bo.
    Bo vien meatballs, for Pho Bo.

    Pho Bo broth after an hour, and after adding the bo vien meatballs.
    Pho Bo broth after an hour, and after adding the bo vien meatballs.
  6. After an additional 30 minutes, remove the bo vien meatballs from the broth and set aside to cool.
  7. Add to the broth 1/4 C. nuoc mam (fish sauce) and 1 tsp. MSG (optional, to enhance the flavor).  Cook the broth for another hour.  (While waiting, proceed to Step 4 below.)
  8. After a total cooking time of 2.5 hours, the Pho Bo broth is ready.  Remove the tender soup bones from the broth and set aside to cool.

    Pho Bo is ready after approximately 2.5 hours of total cooking time.
    Pho Bo is ready after approximately 2.5 hours of total cooking time.

—–

STEP 4:  COOK THE NOODLES

  1. Prepare the Banh Pho Tuoi (fresh pho noodles) according to package instructions.

    Banh Pho Tuoi is found refrigerated in most Vietnamese markets. The package is usually vacuum sealed to maintain freshness for Pho Bo.  Dry pho noodles are also an option, if fresh noodles like these are not available.
    Banh Pho Tuoi is found refrigerated in most Vietnamese markets. The package is usually vacuum sealed to maintain freshness for Pho Bo. Dry pho noodles are also an option, if fresh noodles like these are not available.
Cooked pho noodles, for Pho Bo.
Cooked pho noodles, for Pho Bo.

—–

STEP 5:  PREPARE THE GARNISH & MEAT

  1. Mix together thinly sliced onions, chopped cilantro, and chopped green onions to make a garnish mixture.  Set aside.
  2. Cut additional green onions into large 3″ slices and set aside.
  3. Plate bean sprouts, (whole) cilantro, basil, lime wedges, and jalapeno slices.  Place these on the table for guests to garnish their own Pho Bo bowls.
  4. Remove the meat from the soup bones that were set aside in Step 3.6 above, and thinly slice.  This is the “thit chin” (cooked meat) for Pho Bo.
  5. Cut the cooked bo vien meatballs into quarters.
  6. Remove the sliced beef ribeye/top sirloin/eye of round from the refrigerator and plate.  This is the “thit tai” (raw meat) for Pho Bo.

    Prepared meat and garnish for Pho Bo.
    Prepared meat and garnish for Pho Bo.

—–

STEP 6:  SERVE

  1. Just before serving, bring the Pho Bo broth to a boil.  A boil is necessary because the soup will quickly cool once garnished.
  2. Create an assembly line of the following: cooked noodles, bo vien, thit chin, thit tai, green onion chunks, and cilantro/onion/green onion garnish.
  3. Add a bit of each ingredient from the assembly line to a large soup bowl.

    Customize each person's Pho Bo with his or her choice of ingredients from the assembly line before ladling boiling Pho Bo broth on top.
    Customize each person’s Pho Bo with his or her choice of ingredients from the assembly line before ladling boiling Pho Bo broth on top.
  4. Once the Pho Bo broth comes to a boil, use a large ladle to scoop ample Pho Bo broth on top of the ingredients in the large soup bowl.  Make sure to ladle from the bottom of the stockpot, to not ladle excessive amounts of oil into the soup bowl.  Ladle oxtails from the pot into the soup bowls also, if desired.
  5. Guests can top Pho Bo at the table with their choice of garnish (limes, jalapenos, basil, cilantro, bean sprouts), as well as with hoisin sauce and sriracha hot sauce.  Enjoy!

    Serve Pho Bo at the table with lime wedges, jalapenos, cilantro, basil, and bean sprouts.
    Serve Pho Bo at the table with lime wedges, jalapenos, cilantro, basil, and bean sprouts.

Was this Mom’s 52 recipe helpful?  Do you have any questions about this recipe?  Please post your comments below.  If I don’t know the answer, I’ll send your question to Mom! 

For email notifications about new posts like this one, please subscribe to Writing With Chopsticks by entering your email on the sidebar of this page.  Thanks for the compliment of sharing this post with others!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>