Luke Nguyen’s Pho is one of the best-tasting versions of this aromatic Vietnamese Beef Soup I’ve ever tried, but it does take a while to make. If you’ve got the time, go for it, or checkout the 2 much quicker versions below.
Pho, pronounced “fuuur” or “fahr”, is a light but very aromatic beef broth, served with rice noodles, cooked brisket and slices of raw beef. It is gluten, dairy and egg free and can be served with chicken as well. A good Pho is said to have medicinal properties almost like the chicken soup, because it contains lots of sodium, potassium and chloride – natural electrolytes. Nutrition facts aside, Pho’s flavour is heavenly. The soup is light in consistency, like a broth or bouillon, but has a rich, sweet flavour.
As mentioned, it is served with a topping of paper-thin slices of raw beef and a garnish of bean sprouts, sliced onion, fresh chilli and fresh springs of Thai basil. Don’t be alarmed, or put-off by the thought of the paper-thin slices of raw meat as they cook almost instantly in the steamy broth as its poured into the bowls.
Now, I have never been to Vietnam, but from what I’ve heard from those who have been and from what I know of Vietnam’s most famed dishes, I would love it there. I mean I often have Malaysian curry laksa for breakfast, so having a steaming bowl of Vietnam’s famous Pho for breaky would be quite up my alley.
Luke Nguyen’s Pho | The Long Version
The recipe below is for Luke’s Pho (from Songs of Sapa, Murdoch Books) that takes a good few hours to make. Gluten, wheat, dairy and egg free.
Essential Asian Cookbook Pho | The Quick Version
If you want to make a quicker version of Pho, the Essential Asian Cookbook (also by Murdoch Books), suggests simmering regular beef stock with spices (feel free to use Luke’s spice pouch suggestion below) for 30 minutes before straining, adding noodles and all the extra trimmings. Gluten, wheat, dairy and egg free.
Asian Home Gourmet Pho | The Express Version
For an express 10-minute version, get yourself a Vietnamese Pho spice paste from Asian Home Gourmet, and follow the instructions on the packet. The great thing about the paste is that it is all natural and additive free but it does contain wheat/gluten.
Pho (Vietnamese Beef Soup) | Long Quick and Express Versions
For the Pho Spice Pouch:
- 1/4 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1/4 tbsp Sichuan pepper
- 1/4 tbsp cumin
- 1/4 tbsp fennel seeds
- 3 cardamom seeds
- 4 whole cloves
- 3 whole star anise
- 10 cm cassia bark
- 1/2 tbsp whole black peppercorns
- 40 cm square piece of muslin or gauze cloth
For the Pho Stock:
- 500 g oxtail chopped into 1 inch pieces
- 2 1/2 tbsp salt
- 1 small unpeeled garlic bulb
- 4 large unpeeled onions
- 75 g unpeeled fresh ginger
- 500 g beef bones
- 1 kg beef brisket)
- 1/3 cup fish sauce
- 40 g brown sugar
- Spice Pouch - see above
- 600 g fresh rice noodles or 200g stick rice noodles prepared according to instructions
- 250 g beef filet sliced thinly across the grain
Trimmings on the side:
- Bean sprouts
- Sliced onion
- Sliced Chillies
- Fresh lime juice
- Thai basil purple
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
To make the Spice Pouch:
- Dry roast all ingredients in a small pan over medium heat until fragrant. Cool then grind using a mortar and pestle.
- Add the ground spices to the muslin square and tie up tightly in a knot. Set aside.
To prepare the Oxtail:
- In a large pot, submerge oxtail in cold water, add 2 tablespoons salt and soak for an hour, then drain.
To prepare the Garlic, Onions and Ginger:
- Heat a barbecue grill or pan over medium-high heat and grill unpeeled garlic, onions and ginger evenly for 15 minutes until all asides are blackened. Peel the blackened skins and discard them. Roughly chop the garlic, onion and ginger.
To make the Pho Stock:
- Put the drained oxtail, beef bones, (brisket, if using), and 12 cups of cold water in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.
- Cook for 15 minutes constantly skimming any impurities off the surface. Reduce to a low simmer.
- Add fish sauce, 1/2 tablespoon of salt, brown sugar, garlic, onions, ginger and spice pouch.
- Cover and simmer for 3 hours, or until the stock has reduced to almost half.
- Strain the stock through a muslin cloth-lined sieve.
- (Remove the brisket, if using, set aside to cool then slice thinly)
- Blanch rice noodles in boiling water for 20 seconds. Drain and divide between serving bowls.
- (Place a few brisket slices in the bowl, if using)
- Arrange a few slices of raw beef fillet on top of the noodles and pour over hot Pho stock.
- Garnish with a handful of bean sprouts, sliced onion, chillies.
- Serve with a lime wedge, Thai basil and black pepper on the side.