How to cook Phở !


oh holy pho
[Whole recipe can be downloaded in VIETNAMESE LANGUAGE at the end of the post!]

Phở, the Vietnamese love affair.
A VNese mans wife is his rice, is what he needs, a strong, reliable and much valued constant. But Phở, they said, “Phở is what every man wants, but can’t have.”

That’s how good it is.

It is the masterpiece, my friends, because I woke up at 6am on a Saturday morning for this, to spend 6 hours dedicated to this delicacy, that probably is worth to be chosen your last supper. One of Vietnam’s national dishes, THE dish that every tourists knows but pronounces wrong, heard or seen on a TV show or read in his lonelyguidebook. Not for nothing, between all the fantastic soups this country perfumes its streets with and enchants his visitors, Phở is the most particular one, with a special taste that simply screams ‘Vietnaaaam’.

It’s not mainly the masterpiece because I woke up at 6. But I want you to appreciate my moves!! Even though the first steps that morning weren’t as hard as they usually are, because I knew I was going to learn something important for my next 100 years on earth. To get an authentic recipe for this soup is a gift, I think. I had a private lesson with a wonderful housewife and her cousin, and my friend Kien who did all necessary translation. Vinh’s daughter said ‘everything my mom cooks is the best’! Just to make you believe in this recipe, if you don’t trust me or the pictures ;). The family I cooked with comes from Hanoi originally. Vietnamese are still not sure about the origin of Phở. It first appeared about a hundred years ago, when the French were here, and a few assumptions go north, saying that the soup comes from a place around 100km from Hanoi.

It was a beautiful morning, I watched every little step and I really hope I can pass this on to all of you out there and make it possible for you to bring a taste of Vietnam home.

So here is the simple key for a good Phở:
It has to

1) taste good
2) smell good
3) and look good


Let’s watch Vinh’s and Huyen’s every step and see how we can achieve these three points.

To cook a real good pot of Phở is not even cheap in Vietnam. It cost around 60 Dollars. BUT, you can get about 30 bowls out of this, which seems relatively fine. You need big amounts of everything, because there’s just no way in cooking the right broth (which is the core..) without a freaking crazy amount of super delicious huge parts of meat and bones. So if you’re planning on cooking this, invite everyone you know. Or maybe focus on the people you truly love, they deserve it most!

Off we go, to the market.

For ‘The Core’

Star Anis

Coriander (seeds)
Fennel (seeds)

The Meat

Bones from a cow’s leg (around the ankle)
The biggest piece of ‘rib-eye’ you can imagine (see picture)
Cows tenderloin for the raw meat part


Spring Onions

At the table

Fresh Chili
Bean sprouts

If you want to have guests over in the evening, get up as early as you can. Get all the necessary ingredients, and start with roasting cinnamon, star anise and cardamom in a pan. No oil. Low flame, DON’T BURN IT, for about 15 minutes, until a magical smell leaves your pan. Put it all in a mesh bag and start hitting it with a mortar, while, in the same pan, fry fennel and coriander pits for about 5 minutes, same way, low heat, no oil, don’t let them get burned. Add them to the mesh bag.

After you’ve washed and cooked your bones and meat, you get started with the very important, beefy part of  Phở Bò. First, you want to cook the strong smell out of the bones. So you cook them for about 10-20minutes in boiling hot water, until you’ve turned them at all sides. Then you simply take them out and pour the water away. First step towards point #2. “We don’t want it to smell too cowy!”

Put the bones and the meat (except the tenderloin!!!!) all in one huge pot (the bigger the better) and add new water to it.

(*If you want it to be even better, use two pots. Cook the meat in a different one, until tender and use only the bones for the broth!)

Let it boil and then reduce heat, ready to let it simmer for hours. As soon as it has boiled for the first time, you have to start taking out all the scum. You could use a little very fine strainer, or as Vinh did, just use a dipper, but you would have to be more careful. You have to continue this procedure regularly to achieve point #3. You want a clean broth. Repeat the procedure especially when you add something to the broth.

Like ginger onions and shallots, after you roasted them long enough. To get the best taste it is perfect if you can roast them in coal. For us it was easy, as we used the coal cooker for the whole soup. If you can’t grill them like this, use your oven. You burn them until they are black and wash and roughly peel them afterwards. Squeeze the ginger and add all 3 ingredients right to the broth, also add the mesh bag to the pot.

Let it cook. 6 hours are ok, 10 are better! Take out the meat when it is super tender (you can easily push through it with a chopstick). Slice it thinly and add it to the bowl before serving.

Meanwhile take care of the tenderloin, that is going to be added to the soup raw right before serving it. You wash this one with salt and water, wash it clean, put it in a bag and put it in the freezer. You take it out 15 min before you want to slice  it. It will be extra tender with this method.

Cook the rice noodles for a second. They are first to enter the bowl. Followed by the cooked beef, onions, spring onions, the raw beef (dip the slices into the boiling water for a few seconds), and then filled up with broth. At the table you have the above mentioned herbs ready, add lime and those to your soup. Mix it. Prepare a little bowl with chili sauce/hoisin sauce to dip your meat in. Or create this delicious dip out of both of them. ‘Culantro’ is the most important herb to add to this soup. It is a cousin of cilantro, you could call it a ‘long cilantro’, but it tastes and looks completely different.

That is it. That is the result. It tasted so damn good, my only comment was ‘maybe I want to eat this right before I die’.




Pho Tiếng Việt

4 thoughts on “How to cook Phở !

  1. Kilotu says:

    Hi Zim. May I correct some information here (it might have been caused by…translation:D).
    1. It’s said that Pho appeared in Vietnam around 100 years ago (not hundreds)
    2. I don’t think we use Cardamom, but tsaoko
    3. We do not use Corriander and Fennel but their seeds (dry) only
    4. Shallots were used? No, right? :D
    5. At the table, we serve Lime, fresh chilli, bean sprouts, basil, long coriander, orion (sliced) and green orion (others are optional). Chilli sauce as well.
    6. In typical preparation, we process beef meat and bone separatedly (separated cooker). The combined way is just to save time:D.

    1. zupadream says:

      Oh yes you’re right, I will mention the separate cooking, forgot about that! and yes, shallots were used, the tiny onions! thanks for your comment, will help people cooking it at home :) I will edit the historical fact.

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