beef pho

No matter the weather, if I’m sick or perfectly healthy, I will find myself devouring a bowl of beef pho once a week. I absolutely love Vietnamese cuisine and pho is one of the most popular dishes, with good reason. The clear broth is an intense combination of tart, slightly sweet and umami. Serve with thin rice noodles, rare beef, and various garnishes and you have an amazing meal!

Since I only know pho from restaurants, I had to do research on how to make the authentic version. After some experimenting, I am happy to say I was able to recreate beef pho in my own kitchen. Here is my take on the delicious soup.





Serves 6


Beef pho

6 hrTotal Time

Recipe Image
Save RecipeSave Recipe


  • 6 lb beef bones
  • 2 lb beef brisket
  • 1 lb beef tendon
  • 6 quarts water
  • 1 oz cardamom pods
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 8 star anise
  • 2 large onions, unpeeled, quartered, studded with 8 cloves per onion
  • 3 large shallots, unpeeled
  • 2 oz garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 oz rock salt
  • 0.7 oz yellow rock sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 5 oz coriander roots
  • 1 lb dried or fresh banh pho or 1/4 inch wide rice noodles
  • 1/2 lb thinly sliced beef sirloin
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • fresh Thai basil
  • fresh mint sprigs
  • 2 limes, sliced into wedges
  • 2 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 2 jalapenos, sliced


  1. Cover the beef bones with cold water in a large pot. Soak for 1 hour to remove impurities.
  2. Drain the water from the bones and rinse. Clean the pot and place the bones back inside, filling it with enough cold water to cover the bones. Heat the pot over high heat and bring to a rapid boil for 5 minutes. Remove the bones from heat, drain, and rinse.
  3. Clean the pot and place the bones back inside along with the beef brisket and tendon. Cover with 6 quarts of cold water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and continue to simmer, occasionally skimming the surface to remove impurities and fat.
  4. Meanwhile, place the cardamom, cinnamon sticks, and star anise in a small pan and heat over low heat. Toast spices until they release their oils and become aromatic, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and place spices in cheesecloth, binding the cloth with a string to make a sack. Set aside.
  5. Preheat broiler to high. Place the studded onions, ginger and shallots on a baking sheet. Char under the broiler, turning the ingredients occasionally to evenly char on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Once the broth begins to simmer, add the bag of spices and the charred ingredients. Stir in the rock salt - coriander roots. Continue to let the broth slowly simmer for 5 hours; there should barely be any bubbles. Skim the fat and impurities occasionally while cooking.
  7. Remove the beef brisket and tendon once they are tender but not falling apart, about 3 hours. Thinly slice the brisket and tendon when cool enough to handle. Set aside and continue to cook the broth.
  8. Remove the broth from heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Do not push the solids to strain the juices out. Pour the broth into a clean pot and skim once more. Adjust seasoning if needed, adding more fish sauce, salt or sugar.
  9. Thinly slice the beef sirloin against the grain paper-thin.
  10. Cook noodles according to package directions. Portion into 6 bowls. Top each bowl with thinly sliced cooked and uncooked beef, chopped cilantro, sliced onions, and scallions. Pour the broth on top and serve alongside the basil, mint, limes, bean sprouts and jalapenos.


**Helpful tips and common mistakes

Pho has this reputation of being extremely difficult to make; however, it’s not as intimidating as you may think! Beef pho is all about the broth, which means there’s plenty of downtime while it is slowly cooking.

First things first, you will need beef bones as the base for the soup. The marrow in the bones allows the soup to achieve that rich flavor. Oxtail bones are preferable to beef bones because it gives more flavor, but I opted for beef bones. Before you start cooking, you need to clean the bones and remove as much of the impurities as you can to get that clear broth at the end.

Soaking the bones is the initial step in removing the impurities. Just look at the little bits of fat and the blood that seeps out!

beef bones

The second step to removing the impurities is quickly blanching the bones. This cooks out the blood and removes all the scum from the bones.

pho broth

In addition to the bones, you need the aromatics and spices to flavor the broth. For the spices, I was unable to find whole cardamom pods, so I had to settle for ground cardamom. Cardamom is one of the most expensive spices, second to saffron, so cherish this spice!

pho spices

Make sure to turn the onions, shallots, and garlic while charring to prevent it from completely burning on one side. Charring these ingredients give the broth a robust flavor.

charred ingredients

Now for the special ingredients. I discovered that to make beef pho like the pho in Vietnam, you need an ingredient called sa sung worms. Sa sung worms are marine worms that give pho the umami taste; unfortunately, these are not readily available anywhere other than Vietnam or China. To compensate for the lack of sa sung worms, people elsewhere use a combination of yellow rock sugar and MSG.

Yellow rock sugar is also known as lump sugar and is typically sold in Asian markets in a box. I was unable to find any in my area so I used brown sugar crystals instead. Yellow rock sugar rounds out the flavor as opposed to granulated which is just sweet and flat; do not substitute with granulated sugar!

brown crystal sugar

Rock salt, on the other hand, can be substituted with table salt. Table salt is rock salt that has been crushed, purified, and mixed with iodine. Think of rock salt as the pure version of table salt.

Although you are skimming the broth as it cooks, there will still be fat even when it is done. An easy way to skim the fat is to chill the broth overnight in the fridge. The fat will rise to the top and solidify, making it much easier to remove.


Now that the broth is done, it’s time to prepare the toppings. You can purchase thinly sliced beef at the market or request the butcher to do it for you. If you want to slice it yourself, freeze the beef for 15 minutes to make it easier.


You can use dried or fresh banh pho or rice noodles. If using dried, you most likely will have to soak the noodles in hot water for 15-20 minutes or until soft and opaque. If using fresh, simply boil water and cook the noodles for 10-15 seconds (yes it’s that fast!).

banh pho

The dish already looks beautiful even before adding the broth! The whole idea of having the raw beef is that the hot broth will cook it once it is poured into the bowls.


Serve the garnishes on the side, allowing each individual to flavor their own soups. Traditionally, pho is consumed as is; nowadays, pho is served alongside hoisin and sriracha to dip the meats. How you have your pho is up to you! The great thing about this recipe is that you can adjust it to your preference.

You can choose to use tripe instead of the tendon, include meatballs, or even use chicken bones instead to have chicken pho. I loved the clean taste of the soup, even if it was missing the MSG. Time to make pho on the regular!



Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles.


Sharing is caring!