Vietnam Pho Bo (Spicy Beef and Noodle Soup)


Time and effort-wise, Vietnam Pho Bo is not for the faint-hearted. It involves several processes and a lot of ingredients, but the results are well worthwhile: spicy and fragrant from chillies and herbs, with different textures from two cuts of beef (slow braised rump steak; barely poached strips of fillet) and a long, deep flavour-packed finish. It’s a show-stopper.

I’ve adapted this recipe from Simon Cave’s excellent ‘Manly Food’ cookbook, but reproduce Simon’s original below.

He writes: ‘Pho is Veitnam’s national dish, obsession, subject of poetry, and often described as the ‘soul of the nation’. Served by street vendors, it is eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is a great restorative.”

Pho Bo, with beef, is originally from Saigon and  is Simon’s favourite. Mine too, now!

Serves 4-6

For the stock

20g fresh root ginger
2 shallots
3 star anise
1 black cardamom pop
1 x 3cm cinnamon stick
600g raw beef bones
3 cloves
2 tbsp fish sauce
250g beef rump
30g rock, palm or brown sugar


For the Pho

100g beef fillet, sliced very thinly
400g dried rice noodles
60g each of fresh mint and coriander
2 spring onions, sliced
2 red chillies, finely chopped
2 limes, cut into quarters



1. First char the ginger and shallots, either under a ver hot grill or, as I’ve done, over the open flame on a gas hob. Cut, peel or wash away the blackened outer layers.


2. Roughly crush the star anise and cardamom and put them in a piece of muslin with the cinnamon and cloves, then tie securely.

3. Mix the sliced raw beef fillet with a little of the ginger.

4. Rinse the beef bones and put them in a large pan with 3 litres cold water. Bring to the boil and cook briskly, skimming regularly for about 10 mins.

5. Add the ginger and shallots, spices, fish sauce and beef rump. Reduce the heat and simmer very gentler for about 3 hours.


6. Remove the spices and bones and discard them. Remove the beef rump and set it aside to dry.

7. Skim the stock again if necessary and season with salt and pepper if needed. Keep the stock hot but be careful not to let it reduce too much.

8. Slice some of the rump into bite-sized pieces.


9. Cook the dried noodles according to packet instructions, approx. 4 mins in boiling water.

10. Put herbs, chillies and spring onions in a serving bowl.


11. Now add the cooked and raw meat.


12. Add the noodles and pour over the stock to cover (if you don’t like your meat too rare, blanch it in the hot stock for a couple of minutes first).


13. Serve with fresh lime wedges on the side.



Filed under Beef, Recipe Shed

2 Responses to Vietnam Pho Bo (Spicy Beef and Noodle Soup)

  1. Pho is one of my favourite go-to soups. Between Pho and Thai rice soup I figure I could live happily forever. Going to have to give this one a go. What I really love about this recipe is that you can leave the chilli out of the serving dish for the kids and everyone eats the same.

    One question – how does charring the ginger and shallots affect the flavour if you’re going to remove/discard the charred bits? I know charring peppers and tomatoes makes them easier to peel…

    • keithkendrick

      To be honest, I’m not completely sure as I haven’t tried it without the charring method. I just followed the recipe and it turned out pretty amazing!