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a bowl of beef pho
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4.5 from 8 votes

Authentic Vietnamese Beef Pho (Phở Bò)

Phở Bò (Vietnamese Beef Pho Noodle Soup) is the national dish of Vietnam, a dish that many Vietnamese hold dear to their heart. Learn the authentic way to make beef pho and serve it like a true Vietnamese.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time6 hrs 30 mins
Total Time7 hrs
Course: Main Dish, Noodle and Soup
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Keyword: authentic
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 384kcal
Author: Sophie

Ingredients

For the Broth

  • 3 lbs beef bones
  • 1.25 lbs beef brisket
  • 1 lb beef shank
  • 14½ cups water (about 3.75 quarts)
  • 1 tablespoon salt (and more for seasoning)

For the Spice Blend

For the Aromatics

  • 2 medium yellow onions, skin-on, slice in half (about 12 oz)
  • 2 big thumb-sized pieces of ginger, slice in half lengthwise plus 2 more slices (about 2.5 oz)
  • 4-5 shallots

For Seasonings

  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon rock sugar

For the Bowls

  • 1.5-2 lbs cooked rice noodles
  • thinly sliced steak, such as tenderloin or sirloin (optional, if you want to have rare beef pho)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced into half moons (try to make them paper-thin)
  • white scallion part, shredded
  • green scallion part, thinly sliced
  • cilantro, thinly sliced
  • freshly-cracked black pepper

Instructions

Prepare the Broth

  • Par-boil beef bones in plenty of boiling water for 10 minutes then transfer to a bowl of cold water and clean the bones. Bring a stock pot with 3.75 quarts of water to a simmer, then add the bones together with 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 slices of ginger (about 2-inch long).
  • Let everything come to a boil and skim off any foams, then reduce to a simmer. Cover with the lid askew and simmer very gently for 6-8 hours.
  • While simmering the bones, use kitchen twine to tie the beef brisket and shank. Par-boil them in boiling water for a couple of minutes. Rinse and add them to the stock pot. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and skim off foams. Cover with the lid askew.
  • Cook the beef brisket and shank until tender to your liking. Beef brisket may take 2.5-3 hours and beef shank may take 1-1.5 hours. Once they are ready, remove them from the broth and add them to a bowl of iced water. Once cool, refrigerate them if the broth isn't ready yet.
  • About 2.5 hours before finishing simmering the broth, char onions, ginger and shallots (all with skin-on) on a grill pan or broil in the oven. It may take 10-15 minutes and you will see charred marks on their skin. The onions will feel softer with some juices bubbling. Peel off the skin and blackened part from the charred onions, ginger and shallots.
  • In a skillet over medium-low to medium heat, toast the spices for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Be careful to avoid burning them (especially the cloves). Add them to a spice bag.
  • Skim off excess fat from the broth (note: leave some fat in the broth). Place the spice bag, onion, ginger and shallot in the stock pot and simmer them in the broth for about 2 hours prior to serving, then remove them.
  • Right before serving, season the broth with additional salt (I often add another teaspoon of salt), fish sauce and rock sugar to taste. Also check to see if too much water evaporates and you can add a splash of water to the broth if needed. Each bowl needs about 1½-2 cups (360-480ml) of broth depending on size (medium or large).

Assemble Beef Pho Bowls

  • Slice beef brisket and shank thinly against the grain.
  • Place rice noodles in serving bowls. Top with sliced cooked beef, raw beef slices (optional), thinly sliced onions, thinly sliced scallions, cilantro and freshly cracked black pepper.
  • Bring the broth back to a boil. Add the white parts of scallions to the broth to poach for several seconds, and then immediately ladle the soup into pho bowls. Serve right away with accompaniments of your choice. See list of accompaniments in the Notes below.

Notes

You can serve beef pho with accompaniments of your choice: fried dough sticks (quay), lime wedges and bird's eye chili, poached egg, hoisin sauce, sriracha, veggie platter with bean sprouts, Thai basil and saw-tooth leaves. Each region in Vietnam use different accompaniments and you can read more about that in the post.
The beef brisket and shank can be added any time while simmering the bones. Just make sure to leave enough time to simmer them with the bones since the bones take 6-8 hours while the brisket needs 2-3 hours and shank needs over an hour. The bones can even be simmered for 8-12 hours for stronger flavors. The onions, ginger, shallot and spice blend should be added during the last 2 hours of simmering the broth.
If you cannot find beef shank, you can use oxtails instead. Oxtails will need to be simmer slightly longer, around 3-4 hours until the meat is tender.
I use this recipe to serve 6 people. You can stretch it to serve 7-8 people by adding a bit more water, fish sauce and rock sugar. Just taste before adding water to avoid diluting the flavors too much
My pho broth recipe leans toward Northern-style, but generally you can add more fish sauce and rock sugar and simmer the spices a little longer to make it more like Southern-style if you want.
If you also want to serve the soup with rare beef topping in addition to well-cooked beef, I suggest 2 oz raw beef slices per serving.
To make ahead the day before and store pho: there are 2 options:
  • Stop when there are about 2.5 hours of simmering required for the bones (after Step 4 in the Prepare the Broth section). Refrigerate the broth. The next day, skim off excess fat that has solidified (note: leave some fat in the broth) and continue cooking from Step 5.
  • Stop after Step 7 in the Prepare the Broth section. Refrigerate the broth. The next day, heat the broth on the stove with a small piece of ginger and a small amount of spice (like a small piece of cinnamon, a star anise and a clove) for 20-30 minutes if you feel the spice fragrance is not as potent as the previous day.
To freeze: the broth can be kept frozen very well in a Ziploc bag. The cooked meat can also be frozen whole, and then when you want to eat it, let it thaw and slice.

Nutrition

Calories: 384kcal | Carbohydrates: 41g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 76mg | Sodium: 1558mg | Potassium: 678mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 82mg | Iron: 4mg