recipe for vietnam’s classic noodle soup

stewed cookbookAlan Rosenthal has just released his delicious new cookbook stewed! 80 Irresistible stews and One-Pot Wonders. It’s a feast of international dishes, from jambalaya and curries to tajines, and best of all, the 80 recipes are economical, tasty, comforting and simple to make at home.

Alan travelled the world researching this book, so Intrepid Express asked Alan what was his favourite dish in Vietnam, and his answer was instantly pho. This iconic dish is so delicious and healthy and thanks to Alan, now you can give it a try…

Vietnamese beef pho:
Pho is the classic noodle soup that has become one of the hallmarks of Vietnamese food. Packed with fresh coriander, mint and basil, this wonderful dish captures the essence of Vietnamese food perfectly.

Pho can vary from one region to another or from one family to another, but it will always consist of a fragrant hot broth poured over rice noodles with fresh herbs, bean sprouts, noodles, chilli and lime. Seafood, chicken or beef are then commonly added to create a wonderful complete meal. Like much of the food in southeast Asia, the finishing touches are made at the table; an extra squeeze of lime, a few more slices of chilli, a little bit more fish sauce… it’s up to you to make is just how you want it!

To make a truly authentic pho, it’s really important to make a really good stock, which is the backbone of the whole dish. And that means having the time to do it! Once the stock’s made, the rest is pretty quick.

Serves 4

For the broth

2kg beef shin with bone – ask your butcher to slice it into 3-4cm thick pieces
3 onions
100g ginger
2 carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks
5 star anise
7 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1tsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp salt
4 tbsp fish sauce
5 ltrs water

For the bowls

300g thick flat rice noodles (bahn pho) – if you can’t find these use any other rice noodle
250g beef sirloin or fillet
150g bean sprouts
3 tbsp roughly chopped coriander leaves
1 spring onion finely sliced

On the side

Bunch of fresh coriander
Bunch of fresh mint
Bunch of Thai basil
Lime wedges
Fish sauce
Red hot bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced

First, remove any loose skins from the onions and place them, along with the unpeeled ginger, under a hot grill for about 15-20 minutes. Turn the onions and ginger fairly frequently. The skins will blister and turn black in parts. This is absolutely fine – you’ll be releasing some of the sweetness from the onions which will impart their flavour on the broth. Now allow them to cool before removing the onion skins and roughly peeling the ginger and giving it a bash with a rolling pin to bruise it.

Place the beef in a large, deep saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for a few minutes until scum rises to the surface. Drain the shin, give the bones a rinse under the cold tap to remove any more impurities and give the pan a quick scrub. Return the beef bones to the clean pan, cover with 5 litres of water and slowly bring to simmering point. Throw in the peeled grilled onions, the ginger and the carrots.

In a dry pan on the hob, roast the star anise, cloves, cinnamon and black peppercorns for a couple of minutes until the colours of the spices darken a little and you can smell the aromas being released. Add the roasted spices to the beef, carrots and water. Add the fish sauce and salt to the broth and allow to simmer, very gently, for 3-4 hours depending on how much time you have.

Strain the broth; the meat from the beef shin should still be quite tasty so pull this off the bone and set aside. Keep the broth warm on the stove. Cook the noodles following the instructions on the packet. Whilst you’re waiting for the noodles, thinly slice the beef (as thin as you dare!).

Now assemble the pho. Place a heap of noodles at the bottom of 4 large soup bowls followed by several strips of beef and scatter around some pieces of the reserved cooked shin. Ladle the broth over the top, submerging the beef to cook it. Finally sprinkle coriander leaves and sliced spring onions on top.

Serve fresh coriander, mint, Thai basil, sliced chillies, bean sprouts and wedges of lime in bowls on the side for people to take as they please.

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About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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Christian Friborg / Reply

I’ve once tried eating at Pho Hoa, and I must say, I really enjoyed the food. I think I’ll try to cook this over the holidays.'

I made this recipe yesterday and it was fantastic! The beef shin with bones are stupidly expensive in the US though so can only make for special occasions. I will absolutely make this again though.


sorry im vege, but i love your idea!'

Wow! This is fantastic. I have an ongoing obsession with Pho and am in constant pursuit of the perfect serving from Vietnamese restaurants.

I’ve had a stab at making Pho myself at home several times, but I’ve never seen a recipe with such detail instructions about how to achieve that divine broth! I’ve only ever used pre-made stocks and added my own pepper & chilli.

Can’t wait to try it out. Thanks for sharing!!

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