Vietnamese Beef Phở

Phở is a tasty dish of broth and rice noodles, topped with meat and herbs. There are many variations, and they are all delicious. This is a bit of a cheater recipe for the broth, but it is my go to for the beef version because it is quick, but still SO flavorful and complex. The combination of ginger, clove, cinnamon, star anise, and black peppercorn is unlike any other soup.

Most restaurant phở I’ve had uses thin rice noodles, so that is what I use, but I have also seen thicker ones used. You could really use whatever noodles you like and it would be great, but rice noodles are traditional. I use thinly sliced sirloin steak (freeze your steak for about 20-30 min before slicing to make this much easier) for the beef in this. I also sometimes add the beef tendon balls that are a typical phở topping if I’ve been to the Asian market and have them in the freezer.

One of the best parts of phở is the add ins. It is typically served with bean sprouts, Thai basil, cilantro or scallions, and jalapeno slices. Thai basil tastes different than the regular grocery store variety, and is really good in this dish, but if you don’t have any regular basil is fine too. I didn’t have Thai today so I used some regular and purple basil from my garden. Sometimes it is served with hoisin and hot sauce as well. We use all of these, and also add fried shallots. Fried shallots are pretty much the best thing ever. If you haven’t made them, you should. It is super easy. Just thinly slice some shallots, heat some oil in a frying pan, add them, and fry until they are browning but not burning, drain on paper towels, and sprinkle with salt.

Dish up a big bowl of noodles, broth and meat, and serve all the rest on the side, so everyone can customize their soup to their liking. This is one my family’s favorite meals, and I hope you like it too.

This recipe uses my favorite fish sauce that I have mentioned before. It is this one:


  • 1 lb 85/15 ground beef
  • 1 onion, peeled and one half sliced thin
  • 2 quarts beef stock
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce (plus more to taste)
  • 4 inch piece of ginger, washed and sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 6 star anise pods
  • 1 tbsp whole cloves
  • 2 tbsp sugar (plus more to taste)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1-2 lbs boneless strip steak
  • 1 package rice noodles
  • 1/2 bunch clilantro, washed
  • 1/2 bunch basil, washed
  • sliced jalapenos or pickled jalapenos (I use pickled)
  • 1 package bean sprouts, washed
  • limes or vinegar
  • hoisin sauce
  • sriracha sauce

Add beef stock plus 4 cups of water to a stock pot. Crumble in the ground beef (you don’t need to brown it first, it is just for adding flavor and will be removed later – you can use it in something else or let your dog eat some like I do). Add the spices, sugar, fish sauce, onion, and ginger. Bring to a boil and then simmer for an hour or longer to really flavor the broth. Don’t worry about all the gross meat foam. You are going to strain this broth later and it will be removed.

After the broth is done, remove from the heat and let it cool off some. Line a strainer with cheese cloth, a clean kitchen towel (not the fuzzy kind), or some clean paper towels, and strain the broth through it. You want just the clear broth at the end. Taste it and adjust with fish sauce, salt and sugar.

This dish usually uses very thinly sliced raw beef that is added to the hot broth in the serving bowl and it cooks a bit in there. Since I am spending money on steak for this, I like to do it a little differently to give the beef the most flavor possible. I heat a frying pan with a little oil to very hot (smoking oil hot) and throw in the thinly cut beef and let it sit without stirring for maybe 20-30 seconds. Enough to get some browning on the meat. Then stir around a little and remove from the hot pan. You want to still see some raw beef spots but with some good char on the meat. The meat will cook a little more in the broth when served so don’t over cook it.

Cook the rice noodles according to the package. Place into individual bowls and ladle the hot broth over and add the steak. Serve the bowls with all the sauces, fried shallots and herbs on the side.

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