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Traditional Vietnamese Beef Pho

Traditional Vietnamese Beef Pho

By Terri Paajanen

For the purists, here is a good idea of what a true Vietnamese pho recipe looks like. Yes, it’s more work than the quicky versions but you’ll see the difference in the final taste. Don’t try this if you’re in a hurry, or don’t want to work with a lot of beef parts. After you’ve had this “long version”, you’ll see why it’s just not the same to use pre-made stock.


  • 5 to 6 lbs beef soup bones
  • 5 to 7 star anise pieces (with lots of points)
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 3-in cinnamon stick
  • 1 lb cut of chuck, rump or brisket, rough cut into cubes
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 4 tbs fish sauce


  • 2 lbs dry rice noodles
  • 1/2 lb raw sirloin or tri-tip steak, sliced very thin
  • 1 small onion, sliced thin
  • 4 green onions or scallions, sliced
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped


  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 lb raw bean sprouts
  • Hot chiles, sliced
  • Lime slices

First step is to get the bones ready for the broth with a little parboiling. Just fill up a big stock pot with enough water to cover the soup bones. Bring it up to a hard boil for about 3 to 4 minutes. Then drain and rinse. Put the beef bones back in the pot and get ready to start cooking.

Cover bones with 6 quarts of fresh water, and bring it back to a boil. Turn down the heat until it’s just simmering. Remove any fat that starts to accumulate on the top. Now add in the rest of the broth ingredients, except for the fish sauce. Give it a stir, and let the whole thing simmer for about 90 minutes, uncovered.

After an hour and a half, check on the meat. It should be cooked but not tough. Remove the meat pieces (not the bones), and refrigerate it while you let the rest of the broth keep on simmering for another 2 hours. At this point, you can remove the soup bones and strain the broth. Add the fish sauce. If you are making the broth ahead of time, you can refrigerate it now and reheat when you are ready to serve. Otherwise, keep it hot on the stove while you make up the noodle bowls.

Heat a pot of water and cook the noodles until just soft. Don’t let them overcook. Drain and divide up between bowls. Add pieces of cooked meat, and/or the slices of raw meat (depending on preference). Top with sliced onions and a bit of cilantro.

Now ladle hot broth into each bowl. To make sure the raw meat is cooked, make sure the broth is very hot, and let any guests know that they have to let it sit for a few minutes to cook as well as cool.

Serve up the bowls with all your garnishes laid out on the table, and let everyone top their pho as they’d like. It’s been a lot of work, but now it’s time to enjoy your very traditional Vietnamese beef pho.

This is a big recipe and will make enough beef pho for about 6 to 8 people.

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