Pho (Phở)


pho soup

I remember growing up having Pho for breakfast almost every day. My dad usually took us to a small indoor restaurant to have a bowl of Pho before school. A little rice noodle with steak in beef broth accompanied by many other vegetables would completely fill me up. As most common for breakfast, Pho is also a main meal for any time in the day. We have Pho for breakfast, Pho for lunch, Pho for dinner and late night meals. Pho is not only a meal, but also memory associated with all Vietnamese childhood. This meal is a sign for all Vietnamese to remember about our tradition.

Among all Vietnamese soups, Pho is the most famous and well known around the world. Pho pronounced variously as /fʌ//fə/, /fər/ /foʊ/ is a Vietnamese noodle soup containing of rice noodles, beef or chicken meat, beef broth and a few herbs. There are two main versions of Pho, southern and northern Pho. They are mainly different in the noodle width, sweetness of broth and different choices of herbs and vegetables. Southern Vietnamese, who comes from Hanoi, have Pho for breakfast while Northern Vietnamese, who comes from Ho Chi Minh City, eat Pho at any time in the day.

Pho originated in the early 20th century in Vietnam and was sold at dawn and dusky by roaming street vendors. After the Vietnam War, Vietnamese refugees brought Pho to many countries around the world. In the United States, Pho restaurants sprung up during the 1990s, starting in California and Texas. Not long after, Vietnamese emigrants decided to settle all over the country and brought Pho with them. Today, Pho can easily be found in campuses, cafeteria, food carts or fancy restaurants around the United States.

According to CNN Go in 2011, Pho is listed as the 28th on The World 50’s most delicious food. Pho is described as many beautiful expressions such as heavenly favored and it’s a comfort food. How can this simple food taste so good? The broth is the heart of this meal and its preparation is time-consuming. Beef bones are simmering in charred onion, charred ginger and spices over night. Chicken bones are also can be done in the same way to produce a similar broth. The spices contain clove, star anise, coriander seed, fennel, cinnamon and black cardamom are often wrapped in a soaking bag to prevent them from floating all over the pot. In addition to those ingredients, carefully cooked onion and ginger over an open fire is added to produce a clear broth. After an amount of time, usually 8 or more hours, salt or fish sauces are added to complete the broth.

The rest of a bowl of Pho including fresh boiled rice noodle, a choice of meat ranging from cooked beef to thinly sliced raw beef that cook in the hot broth just before serving. The bowl is lastly filled with green onions, white onions,

This meal is usually served with lots of greens, herbs, vegetables and various other components such as hot and spicy sauces, hoisin sauce and sometimes a squeeze of lemon.


Authentic Pho Recipe


  • 4 pounds beef soup bones
  • 1 onion, unpeeled and cut in half
  • 5 slices fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 pods star anise
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 (8 ounce) package dried rice noodles
  • 1 1/2 pounds beef top sirloin, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onion
  • 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
  • 1 bunch Thai basil
  • 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chile-garlic sauce (such as Sriracha®) (optional)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).

Bones are parboiled first for a good 10 minutes in rapidly boiling water – this gets rid of the yucky impurities like blood particles and extra fat. You’ll see gray foam float up to the surface as you boil. After 10 minutes, dump out all of the water, rinse out your pot, rinse the bones, and refill with clean, cool water. This will give you the pure, clean-tasting broth.

Place onion on a baking sheet and roast in the preheated oven until blackened and soft, about 45 minutes.

Place bones, onion, ginger, salt, star anise, and fish sauce in a large stockpot and cover with 4 quarts of water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer on low for 6 to 10 hours. Strain the broth into a saucepan and set aside.

Place rice noodles in large bowl filled with room temperature water and allow to soak for 1 hour. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and after the noodles have soaked, place them in the boiling water for 1 minute. Bring stock to a simmer.

Divide noodles among 4 serving bowls; top with sirloin, cilantro, and green onion. Pour hot broth over the top. Stir and let sit until the beef is partially cooked and no longer pink, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve with bean sprouts, Thai basil, lime wedges, hoisin sauce, and chile-garlic sauce on the side.


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