Pho Tai Ve Don (Vietnamese noodle soup)

Bowl of Pho

My love affair with Pho (pronounced “FUH” not “FOH”) began in my fourth or fifth year in college (yes I was one of those 5 year people). At first I thought it would be a fleeting thing, but as time passed and I moved to the mecca of Pho in Northern CA it grew all the more passionate. As much as I felt I was betraying my beloved Ramen, I couldn’t help myself.

The clear mahogany soup was light, while rich and round in all the right places with a voluptuous earthy aroma of beef, roasted onions, and ginger; and gorgeous anise highlights. The various cuts of meat, basil, lime and bean sprouts add subtle texture, character and personality. Ramen on the other hand tends to be all about an intense barrage of T&A (that’s Taste and Aroma).

A move to the east coast turned the tables and gave Ramen the last laugh with an alluring selection of my long cherished Japanese noodles contrasting a poor selection of lifeless, insipid Pho. Restless with my mono-national choice of noodle soup I decided to take matters into my own hands and set out to make the perfect bowl of Pho.

Toppings and condiments for Pho

Based on the Vietnamese I’ve learned in restaurants I think this would be called Pho Tai (rare eye of round) Ve Don (skirt flank skin-on), but if I have this wrong feel free to correct me. I also added the bits of gelatinous cartilage, marrow and tendon from the bones to the finished soup for some added richness. If skin-on fatty meat or creamy bits of collagen is not your cup of tea you could always just serve this with a brisket or regular flank steak (the bones however are necessary for the soup).

To cut back on the amount of skimming of fat, foam, and funk, I par boiled all the meat and bones for about 10 minutes to remove most of the crud before proceeding. This yielded a beautiful clear, rich brown soup, and I only had to skim it once to remove the excess fat. You could make this healthier by removing all the fat, but leaving a little fat adds some richness and flavor to the soup, so don’t worry about getting it all out.

A plate of basil, mung bean sprouts and lime is usually served alongside the bowl of hot noodle soup for each person to mix in as desired. I like to eat this with a small plate of hoisin and hot sauce for dipping the bits of meat, but some people prefer adding the condiments straight into the soup. Other condiments include chili peppers or onions pickled in vinegar.

for soup
6″ long ginger halved lengthwise
2 medium onions halved
2.5 lbs. beef shins (knuckle bones)
2.5 lbs. ox tail
2 lbs skirt flank steak (with skin still attached if you can find it)
5 star anise pods
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks (or a single 3″ piece if you’re using Vietnamese cinnamon)
1/4 C fish sauce
2 Tbs brown sugar (I used yellow rock sugar)
salt to taste

add to soup
2 scallions thinly sliced
1/4 sweet onion thinly sliced
handful of cilantro chopped
salt to taste

To serve
7 oz. Pho noodles rehydrated in warm water (for 2-3 people)
1 semi frozen eye of round steak (I couldn’t find one so used a fillet mignon)
mung bean sprouts
thai basil
lime wedges
hoisin sauce
Sriracha or other hot sauce

Charring Onions for Pho
Onions and Ginger Charred for Pho

Move your oven rack to the highest position and turn on the broiler. Place the onions and ginger an the rack and allow them to char on one side the flip and char on the other side. If you don’t have a broiler, you can do this over a gas stove.

Par boiling meat for Pho
Rinsing meat off for Pho

Bring a large pot of water to a boil then par boil the beef shins for about 10-12 minutes. Remove with tongs into a bowl of cold water and gently scrub off any brown scum that’s accumulated on the outside. Repeat with the ox tail and skirt flank steak. Dump the now murky water, wash the pot out and add the onions, ginger, bones, meat, spices, fish sauce and sugar. Add just enough water to cover everything.

Ginger, Onions, Oxtail, Shin Bones and Skirt Flank in along with spices for Pho

Bring this to a boil and season lightly with salt (it will reduce a little while cooking so go light on the salt). Skim off any scum that floats to the surface then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for at least 5 hours.

After the soup has been simmering for about 3 hours, use a spoon (or better yet a fat skimmer) to remove most (but not all) of the fat. If you’re using a skinless skirt steak, flank steak, or brisket, remove the meat from the soup when its fork tender, cool and refrigerate.

When the soup is done, use tongs to transfer the meat, bones, onions, etc to a bowl. If you haven’t already done so, refrigerate the skirt flank as it’s much easier to slice thinly when cold. Then use a fine mesh sieve to strain the soup into another pot. I like adding the bits of meat from the oxtail and the tendon and gelatinous cartilage from the shin bones into the finished Pho, so I separate this stuff before tossing the bones out.

Taste the soup and add salt if needed. Bring to a boil and add the scallions, onions and cilantro just before serving.

Bring a pot of water to a boil then boil the rehydrated rice noodles for a minute or two until they are tender (but not soft).

Remove the skirt flank from the fridge and use a sharp knife to slice as thinly as possible across the grain. Take your semi frozen eye of round steak and slice across the grain as thinly as possible (should be about 1mm thick).

To serve, put down a layer of hot noodles, top with the raw eye of round steak, sliced skirt steak, and any meat/tendon you saved from the bones. To eat, let the hot soup cook the eye of round adding basil,bean sprouts and lime juice to taste. I like using a small plate of hoisin and sriracha to dip my meat in, but some people prefer adding these condiments directly to the soup.

  • http://www.souvlakiforthesoul.com/ Peter G

    Pho is a lovely comfort food…delicious and very inviting! You’ve done great with your version Marc.

  • http://www.souvlakiforthesoul.com Peter G

    Pho is a lovely comfort food…delicious and very inviting! You’ve done great with your version Marc.

  • http://www.cookeatfret.com/ claudia (cook eat FRET)

    dear pho post
    i’ve been waiting for you
    love
    ceF

    ps – no knuckles in nashville, naturally

    • marc

      A butcher might have them? Otherwise any bones with a lot of marrow would work.

  • http://www.cookeatfret.com claudia (cook eat FRET)

    dear pho post
    i’ve been waiting for you
    love
    ceF

    ps – no knuckles in nashville, naturally

    • marc

      A butcher might have them? Otherwise any bones with a lot of marrow would work.

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com/ Heather

    As you are well aware, this is a thing for which I hanker. Perfect diet food, too. I see much pho in my near future.

  • http://voodoolily.blogspot.com Heather

    As you are well aware, this is a thing for which I hanker. Perfect diet food, too. I see much pho in my near future.

  • http://www.notquitenigella.com/ Lorraine E

    Thanks for sharing this recipe! Hubby will be ever so pleased as he loves Pho!

  • http://www.notquitenigella.com Lorraine E

    Thanks for sharing this recipe! Hubby will be ever so pleased as he loves Pho!

  • http://www.figandcherry.com/ Christie @ fig&cherry

    I absolutely adore a good bowl of Pho. When the stock is complex and rich with flavour it can’t be beat!

    That’s my fav brand of chilli sauce too!

    ps. Did you see your photos are on the home page of Foodbuzz? Under ‘Explore’ and ‘Browse’ – I’m pretty sure that’s yours from the 24 event.

  • http://www.figandcherry.com/ Christie @ fig&cherry

    I absolutely adore a good bowl of Pho. When the stock is complex and rich with flavour it can’t be beat!

    That’s my fav brand of chilli sauce too!

    ps. Did you see your photos are on the home page of Foodbuzz? Under ‘Explore’ and ‘Browse’ – I’m pretty sure that’s yours from the 24 event.

  • http://www.palatetopen.com/ Jen

    Wish I had some of your tasty Pho right now to battle this wicked cold :-) Looks scrumptious!

  • http://www.palatetopen.com Jen

    Wish I had some of your tasty Pho right now to battle this wicked cold :-) Looks scrumptious!

  • http://feistyfoodie.blogspot.com/ Yvo

    Dear Marc,
    Please cook for me. Thank you,
    Yvo

    Hehe.

  • http://feistyfoodie.blogspot.com Yvo

    Dear Marc,
    Please cook for me. Thank you,
    Yvo

    Hehe.

  • TT

    looks good, but i don’t know any vietnamese people who cook their pho broth with ginger. i’ll have to give it a try sometime, i guess, and see what i’m missing out on.

    a great cut to use for a pho broth is the beef neck bone. it makes the soup cloudy and rich with marrow and other healthy proteiny goodness.

    • marc

      Maybe it’s a regional thing? I’ve seen it both ways, but I like the fragrance the charred ginger imparts.

    • Andy

      Hi, I’m vietnamese and and we do cook the broth with ginger. It’s removed when you strain the broth.

  • TT

    looks good, but i don’t know any vietnamese people who cook their pho broth with ginger. i’ll have to give it a try sometime, i guess, and see what i’m missing out on.

    a great cut to use for a pho broth is the beef neck bone. it makes the soup cloudy and rich with marrow and other healthy proteiny goodness.

    • marc

      Maybe it’s a regional thing? I’ve seen it both ways, but I like the fragrance the charred ginger imparts.

  • http://www.kalofagas.blogspot.com/ Peter

    Marc, I ate Vietnamese last weekend and a big bowl of “Phuh” was included. My fave is the broth perfumed with star anise…dreamy.

    Your rendition looks as good as any I’ve seen here.

  • http://www.kalofagas.blogspot.com Peter

    Marc, I ate Vietnamese last weekend and a big bowl of “Phuh” was included. My fave is the broth perfumed with star anise…dreamy.

    Your rendition looks as good as any I’ve seen here.

  • http://www.whitneyinchicago.wordpress.com/ Whitney

    I am lucky enough to be able to get a good bowl of Pho for $6.99 from a place in my area (Chicago-Hai Yen…wonderful)

    One day, I will try to make this myself. But its hard to justify buying all the bones when I can get a great bowl for cheap.

    I actually got some last night, perfect for a snowy evening.

    • marc

      Fillet mignon aside, this set me back less than $20 and it made enough stock for 7-8 bowls of pho or about $3 a bowl. Still, it does take a bit of labor I suppose.

  • http://www.whitneyinchicago.wordpress.com Whitney

    I am lucky enough to be able to get a good bowl of Pho for $6.99 from a place in my area (Chicago-Hai Yen…wonderful)

    One day, I will try to make this myself. But its hard to justify buying all the bones when I can get a great bowl for cheap.

    I actually got some last night, perfect for a snowy evening.

    • marc

      Fillet mignon aside, this set me back less than $20 and it made enough stock for 7-8 bowls of pho or about $3 a bowl. Still, it does take a bit of labor I suppose.

  • http://www.musicbyday.com/ Marvin

    I’m a huge pho fan and have long wondered if maybe I could make it myself. I’ll have to give your recipe a go.

  • http://www.musicbyday.com Marvin

    I’m a huge pho fan and have long wondered if maybe I could make it myself. I’ll have to give your recipe a go.

  • http://gagainthekitchen.blogspot.com/ gaga

    Yum, I love pho, esp in the winter. Looks great!

  • http://gagainthekitchen.blogspot.com gaga

    Yum, I love pho, esp in the winter. Looks great!

  • http://okieats.blogspot.com/ kim

    wow! i got hooked on pho in college in california as well. thanks for sharing!

  • http://okieats.blogspot.com kim

    wow! i got hooked on pho in college in california as well. thanks for sharing!

  • http://spham.blogspot.com/ Sean Pham

    Marc: You forgot a very very important ingredient. You need to add daikon radishes (cut into wedges) into the broth. The daikon radishes soften and balance the harsh taste of the beef broth. Remove the daikon radishes once you are done simmering the broth.

  • http://spham.blogspot.com Sean Pham

    Marc: You forgot a very very important ingredient. You need to add daikon radishes (cut into wedges) into the broth. The daikon radishes soften and balance the harsh taste of the beef broth. Remove the daikon radishes once you are done simmering the broth.

  • http://www.recipesvalley.com/ Recipes Valley

    How do I add this to my RSS reader? Sorry I’m a newbie :(

  • http://www.recipesvalley.com/ Recipes Valley

    How do I add this to my RSS reader? Sorry I’m a newbie :(

  • piercival

    Yes the Pho has been simmering for hours and the house is so fragrant. Heading out to the garden to harvest some Thai Basil. As I live in Nor Cal, I am spoiled with much good Pho available, but this is the first I have ever made at home.

    My son’s BD party tonight; we’re serving Banh Mi (which we have made for them many times and they always request) along with the Pho. Possibly the ULTIMATE in soup and a sandwich!

    If heaven doesn’t smell like my house right now…. it should!

  • piercival

    Yes the Pho has been simmering for hours and the house is so fragrant. Heading out to the garden to harvest some Thai Basil. As I live in Nor Cal, I am spoiled with much good Pho available, but this is the first I have ever made at home.

    My son’s BD party tonight; we’re serving Banh Mi (which we have made for them many times and they always request) along with the Pho. Possibly the ULTIMATE in soup and a sandwich!

    If heaven doesn’t smell like my house right now…. it should!

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  • Justletthemeatcake

    you sound so retarded calling beef ‘voluptuous’ and describing the soup with colors. fail at talking bout food

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, it’s always nice getting some honest feedback. I’m just curious how you’d describe a soup so full of flavor?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_72ODUOIFAFXTKQJIVCW5VOZDT4 bowcutPA

      how about some “constructive” criticism. if you dont have anything nice to say, dont say anything at all.

  • Harmonyzdream707

    ive loved my grandmas thai beef noodle soup since i was a child,now i make it but not like hers and its still yummy, i see so many different ingredients of what people use, but no matter what additional ingredient flavor you use they are all delicious and all taste somewhat similair

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  • Kgreenwalt69

    I really enjoy your writing! (and the recipe sounds delicious too!)

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  • Brendanwheatley

    You are my new friend.  Reading your blog makes me happy.  I struggle to find people that will break down the soup stocks for Asian soups.. Thank you

  • Ell

    I have a question. Is the soup transparent or dark brown? I want to know before I try out your recipe. Nevertheless, looks amazing! 

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      It’s a translucent (i.e. not cloudy), dark brown.

  • Brenton mac

    Thank you Marc for your fabulous recipes – I have found both the beef and chicken vietnamese noodle soup recipes divine. I discovered Pho Bo while I was in Saigon a few years ago and since then I have been hooked and constantly on the look out for the perfect pho… I have since discovered that the best possible pho is the one you can make at home.. a lot of recipes use powdered stock however which is nothing like the real thing.. and your recipes provide the perfect detail for these stocks – thank you again!

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  • Charlie

    This made a fantastic bowl of soup. The broth is insane! I ended up with a lot more meat than I needed plus I had trouble slicing the round steak thin enough even though it was part frozen. Next time I may use my mandolin or see if the butcher can use his slicer. Also, it was kind of expensive. I tried to use slightly less amounts than called for since it was for only my wife and I. The costs: Flank – $10, Round $10, ox tail $10, bones $2.50 plus other ingredients it was probably $40 min. In our area you can buy bowl for pho for around $7-8 so my wife was quick to point out that it cost about the same to make it. The oxtail made a ton of meat that my wife and I are both scared to eat, so our dogs are quite happy :-). I’m thinking next time to keep costs down if I could drop the oxtail and double the marrow bones. Also, see if I can get the butcher to thinly slice a smaller amount of the round for me. Just some thoughts. Thanks again to Marc for this great blog!

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Glad to hear you enjoyed it! You don’t need a ton of round, so if the butcher can do it on the meat slicer that would be best. As for the oxtail, it will make a difference in flavor, but $10 sounds like a lot. I usually get my marrow bones and oxtail at a Chinese butcher for a few bucks for the lot. The meat the comes off the tail has a lot of blood in it, so it has a strong taste, but it’s tender and absolutely edible.

      • Charlie

        Thanks Marc! I’ll remember that for next time. I was able to enjoy the soup all week by reheating some broth and throwing in soaked noodles, meat, and garnish at the last second… yum! I was also able to use the extra uncooked round steak for making stir fry… so it was definitely a good week! I look forward to making the chicken version of soup in a week or two.

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  • song xuan

    Marc,

    It’s me again.

    You are missing coriander seeds, roasted on a sauce pan, with the cinnamon (not burning it) then put them in a tea ball and drop the ball in the soup.

    You want to drop anise in the last hours so the soup doesn’t turn brown (because authentic phở bò Hà Nội has clear as water or light golden color) and its fragrance is not too strong. Light is the key.

    And I simmer my soup for seven hours. I also use grass-fed Chateaubriand beef for tái.

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  • Triston

    This looks delicious im a huge fan of this website I refer all my friends to it

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Thanks Triston!

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