Vietnamese beef noodle soup (Pho Bo)

For comfort and warmth, nothing beats a hot bowl of soup!

In my neighbourhood, there are several great spots to enjoy pho, the Vietnamese soup that has entrenched itself as a worldwide favourite. I feel inclined to add my voice to those who insist on proper pronunciation – say FUH (rhymes with DUH), not FOH, please and thank you.  While it takes a little bit of time to prepare the fragrant, beefy broth, this recipe makes a big batch so you can freeze it in smaller portions and then you’re just minutes away from enjoying a warming bowl of soup whenever the mood strikes. While the method to make the broth may seem a little complicated, it really works and gives you that deep, rich taste that makes pho so satisfying. I’m no pho expert, but I think this version is super delicious.

Warming Pho or Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup is a delicious dish to prepare at home.


For the broth:

  • 1 pound (454 grams) lean ground beef
  • 2 onions, cut into sixths
  • 12 cups (3 L) low-sodium beef broth
  • 1/3 cup (90 mL) fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) thinly sliced ginger root
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 8 whole star anise pods
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15 mL) salt
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) black peppercorns

For six large bowls of soup (decrease quantities if just making a bowl or two):

  • 1 pound (454 grams) boneless striploin steak, trimmed
  • 1 pound (454 grams) rice noodles (1/8 inch wide ‘pho’ style)
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped green onions
  • 2 cups (500 mL) fresh bean sprouts, rinsed
  • hoisin and sriracha sauces
  • lime wedges


  • To make the broth, cut the ground beef into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces and place in a large, heavy pot (big enough to hold at least 5 – 6 litres).
  • Add just enough water to cover by about an inch (2.5 cm) and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil for 2 minutes then pour mixture through a colander, discarding liquid. While ground beef is in colander, rinse under hot running water for a full minute. This step gets rid of impurities that will cloud the broth.
  • Rinse out pot well, then return rinsed ground beef to the now-clean pot.
  • Add the onions, broth, 3 cups water, fish sauce, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, sugar, salt and peppercorns. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer the broth, with the pot just partially covered, for one hour.
  • Strain broth first through a colander set over a large bowl or second clean pot. Discard beef, onions and seasoning.
  • Strain the broth a second time through a sieve or strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth.
  • Measure out broth as you return it to a clean pot; add water as needed to make 12 cups of broth. Taste and adjust sugar or salt if needed to suit your preference.
  • At this point, the broth can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to six months.
  • To assemble soup, place steak in freezer for up to an hour so it firms up; this will make it much easier to slice.
  • While steak is chilling, prepare all the other ingredients. Put them on a platter if you want to invite guests to assemble their own bowls of soup.

Basil, cilantro, green onions and beansprouts are common Pho toppings to accompany rice noodles and thinly sliced steak.

  • Heat broth, covered, to the boiling point then reduce to a simmer to keep warm.
  • Also while steak is chilling, put rice noodles in a broad, shallow dish (a ceramic or glass baking pan works well) and cover with very hot tap water. Let soak for 15 minutes, stirring gently once or twice with a fork as they soften to ensure they are not sticking together.
  • Thinly slice frozen steak and lay out slices in six portions, slices overlapping.
  • When ready to serve, drain noodles and divide among six deep bowls that can hold about 3 cups each. Lay portions of steak over the noodles.

Thinly sliced raw beef will cook to medium rare almost instantly when you pour the hot, fragrant broth over top.

  • Ladle hot broth over top. The raw steak will immediately cook to medium rare in the broth.
  • Garnish with cilantro, basil and green onions.
  • Serve soup with lime wedges; offer guests little dishes to which they can add hoisin and/or sriracha for dipping (this is preferable to adding the sauces to the bowl, where they can overpower the other wonderful flavours in the soup).

Serves 6.

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

2 thoughts

    1. If the meat is still flat like the way it comes packaged in styrofoam trays, it is possible to cut it into meatball sized portions. You can break it apart by hand as well but a knife is faster and easier!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.