How to Make the Great Vietnamese Beef Pho

The classic Vietnamese beef pho
Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

The Vietnamese beef pho is a dish that speaks volumes of that country and its peoples like no other. The pho is part of this culture and for many Vietnamese it has a romantic, almost divine relationship with themselves. It is their national dish.

As a dish, it has relatively recent beginnings and it is not known when it started to be prepared in the country but it became a symbol of street food and then branched out to the rest of the world. 

Variety. It’s one of the features of the dish. Sauces and spices that come to hand. Regional differences – all are entertained within this dish as long as it is hot and full of flavour. No Vietnamese restaurant could ever be without its own signature version but this is a friend’s take using ingredients found at any grocer. Clearly, an Asian supermarket is a good starting point but I was shown all the ingredients available from any local ‘western’ corner shop. The key feature was a good homemade beef stock and the freshest beef possible. That was evident from the care that was taken in preparing it. I know stock cubes might have to suffice but we have our own beef stock recipe to draw on. 

Beef is an expensive meat in any place but one way to bring out the intense flavour is to turn it into this fabulous chunky noodle soup. The beef needs to be as fresh as possible because it is not cooked although for many of us, raw beef is not straightforward to eat. It would reasonable to pan-fry it before serving but it should be ‘rare’ at the very least.

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Serves 6; Preparation time: 20 to 30 minutes, cooking time: 1 hour. Ready in 1 hour, 10 minutes.


  • a stock pot or  enamelled saucepans, stainless steel pans or even a copper-lined saucepan.

Ingredients For A Vietnamese Beef Pho

  • 3.5L (6 & 3/8 pints) beef stock (see below for a Vietnamese take on this)
  • 1 -2 large onions, sliced into rings
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 500g (1¼ lb) beef flank or sirloin steak, cut into thin slices. As fresh as you can get!
  • 225g (8 oz) beansprouts, remove the seed coats and tails. Blanch until cooked.
  • 6 slices fresh root ginger
  • 1 stalk lemon grass
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves only
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, leaves only
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander/cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 3 fresh green chillies (chilies), sliced into rings
  • 2 limes or lemons, cut into wedges
  • 1 (500g) packet dried rice noodles
  • hoisin sauce to serve
  • chili sauce to serve
  • fish sauce to serve

A beef stock is prepared with these ingredients in the following way:

  • 500g beef shank or brisket
  • 2.5 liters beef stock – could be 4 or 5 beef stock cubes dissolved in water
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and crushed slightly
  • 2 in (5cm) fresh ginger root
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 1 tsp crushed peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp salt


  1. In a large stockpot, combine the beef stock, onion rings, ginger slices, lemon grass, cinnamon and peppercorns. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 1 hour.
  2. Make sure the beef is thinly sliced at this point.
  3. Arrange beansprouts, mint, basil and coriander on a platter with chilies and lime.
  4. Soak the noodles in hot water to cover for 15 minutes or until soft. Drain. Place equal portions of noodles into 6 large soup bowls, with slices of raw beef on top. Ladle hot stock over these noodles and beef.
  5. Pass the dish around with any garnishes and sauces
  6. Drink with a cold lager.

This article has been revised and updated from one that was written in February 2010 as part of a business review of old posts on recipes.

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