Vietnamese Food: Pho Bo A Traditional Pho Recipe

by Richard on February 1, 2012

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Hi everyone this week I am back to cooking because I really missed it. I will be doing some more sharpening videos in the future but this week I wanted to cook. So this week I decided on Vietnamese food! As anyone who knows me knows I love Vietnamese food. I love the flavors of Southeast Asian cooking whether it is Thai food or Vietnamese food or Laosian food.

This week I decided to make Pho Bo which is the favorite soup of Vietnam. The Pho Bo recipe I am making this week is a traditional pho recipe made of beef and noodles. Pho Bo is the national soup of Vietnam a place that used to be called “Tonkin” when the French occupied the country under something called the “French Protectorate.” When I was a kid during the time of Nixon Tonkin was called Indochina.

Pho soup whether it is Pho Bo(beef pho) or Pho Ga(chicken pho) is the mainstay staple of street side stalls and eateries throughout Vietnam! Vietnamese food is very popular in the United States these days and Pho soup is on top of the list. Most Americans pronounce pho as “foe” and this is not the correct way to say it.  The Vietnamese people pronounce it someplace between “few” and “fuh”. I myself am guilty of mispronunciation of this word for years.

In Vietnamese food culture Pho soup even more Pho Bo is a kind of early fusion cuisine that is influenced most notable by French and Chinese. Pho Bo is a soup that has over a 100yrs history that began in the city of Hanoi. As far as Vietnamese Food is concerned Pho is considered to be the “meal of the people.” The traditional Pho recipe of Pho Bo is highly influenced by the French. The French Protectorate had occupied Vietnam from 1858 to 1954.

The French cooked a dish cooked a dish known as “Pot Au Feu”. This dish was the humble predecessor today’s traditional pho recipe and was made of meat and vegetables that were cooked in a rich broth. Way back in those early days beef was just about unheard of in that part of the world and the national meat was pork. Today in this type of Vietnamese food beef is readily available but pork is still #1.

As I stated the most important part of the Pho Bo is the broth. It can take 3 or more hours to simmer a good broth for Pho Bo and you want that broth to be as pure as possible before serving the soup. In the traditional pho recipe the broth is made from beef bones. Most notably the bones to be used are shank and knuckle marrow bones. You can also add meat to the broth mixture to help enhance the flavor of the Pho Bo. Cuts of meat like sirloin, chuck or even oxtail will help make your broth delicious!

Pho Bo is a very healthy soup and it is not the kind of beef soup that you want to skim all the fat from. A large majority of the fat will come from the marrow in the bones along with other constituents which are very healthful when eaten. In order to rid your Pho Bo of impurities it is necessary to blanch the bones for between 10 and 15 minutes to get the impurities out. Then the broth is made at a simmer. You want the simmer to be as low a flame as possible. The Vietnamese call this simmering process a “smile”.

So the traditional pho recipe was influenced by the French and today there are many variations in Vietnamese food especially pho in both Vietnam and America. Today a traditional pho recipe can and is made with more than just beef or chicken. Other parts of the animal are being used today to create haute pho recipes or what I call the new school traditional pho recipe in Vietnam. Parts such as kidneys, lungs, tripe, brisket, brain, udder, and yes even penis! Other ingredients such as mushrooms, tofu, sprouts, varied greens, and scallions are being used and the list goes on and on!

Today I will be making a simple beef pho(Pho Bo) using beef shank and knuckle bones, chuck roast and eye of round raw meat slices with a simple combination of herbs and spices in my bouquet garni. I know if you make this recipe you will love it. Enjoy the video and thanks for stopping by!

Vietnamese Food: Pho Bo A Traditional Pho Recipe


Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours

Total Time: 5 hours

One Bowl

PHO BO3 Vietnamese Food: Pho Bo A Traditional Pho Recipe


  • 1 or 2 onions cut in half.
  • 4 inch chunk of ginger cut in half the long way.
  • 4 to 5 lbs of beef shank and knuckle marrow bones.
  • 1 lb of meat like rump, chuck.
  • 1 1/2 gallons pure water for simmering.
  • 1 Tbsp. salt.
  • 2 Tbsp. fish sauce.
  • 4 cloves garlic quartered.
  • 1 Lb of some kind of beef cut either flank, sirloin or eye of round sliced as thin as possible and put aside raw to be used as garnish for the soup.(this meat does not get cooked with the broth!)
  • NOTE:You will also need to have an assortment of garnishes for the soup. Things like bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, mint, scallions, limes, chili pepper, and of course your raw meat strips as well.
  • Bouquet Garni For Broth:
  • 1 cinnamon stick.
  • 1 Tbsp. Corriander seed.
  • 1 Tbsp. Fennel seed.
  • 3 Whole Star Anise.
  • 1 Cardamon pod.
  • 4 Whole cloves.
  • 10 Whole black peppercorns.
  • 10 Whole white peppercorns.
  • In a large enough piece of cheese cloth break the cinnamon stick in half and lay all ingredients in center of cloth. Fold over corner to corner then twist the ends and tie a knot and your bouquet garni is ready. (see video)
  • Note: In the states sugar seems to be an ingredient in Pho soup. It is not done this way in Vietnam but it is an option to add 1 to 2 Tbsp. of sugar if you desire.
  • Ingredients For Nuoc Cham Sauce To Add To Bowls Of Soup:
  • 1/4 Cup sugar.
  • 1/2 Cup hot water.
  • 1/4 Cup fish sauce or more to taste.
  • 1/4 Cup rice or white wine/sherry vinegar.
  • 4+ Clove fine minced garlic.
  • 2-4+ Thai bird chilies to taste.
  • Juice of 1/2 to 1 lime optional.
  • 1 Tbsp. Sesame seed oil optional.
  • (I love the sesame seed oil in my Nuoc Cham, it’s delicious!)
  • Put sugar in a bowl large enough to hold all ingredients. Add hot water to dissolve the sugar then add all other ingredients and mix together well. Let stand for an hour or more to allow flavors to marry. This sauce is delicious when added to the Pho Bo!


  1. Put marrow bones in stock pot and fill with water.
  2. Bring water to a boil and blanch the bones for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Drain the stock pot .
  4. Rinse the bones clean.
  5. Rinse and clean the stock pot .
  6. Put bones back in stock pot and fill with fresh water and bring to a boil.
  7. Once boiling lower the heat to the lowest simmer(smile)that you can get.
  8. Now add all of your broth ingredients listed above under “ingredients for broth” and “bouquet garni for broth”
  9. Simmer the broth for 1 1/2 hours uncovered.
  10. Now take out the meat you put in the stockpot
  11. Slice it thin and put aside to be put into soup bowls later.
  12. Continue simmering the broth for another 1 1/2 hours.
  13. The broth will reduce a bit with time and get richer.
  14. Now strain the broth through a fine strainer into another pot.
  15. Then return the broth to the original stock pot .
  16. Keep simmering the broth.
  17. Now go and make up your garnish plate.
  18. Now go ahead and make your rice noodles according to the directions on the package.
  19. Use either fresh or dried.
  20. Now while the broth is simmering bring it up to a boil. While you are waiting for the broth to come to a boil you have two choices. The first one is you can assemble the soup bowls with cooked meat and rice noodles and garnishes and ladle the broth in and serve. Or you can assemble the soup bowls with rice noodles and cooked meat and serve and allow your guests to put in what garnishes and meat they want to put in. Your done! Enjoy the Pho Bo!

Pho Bo is a long process to make at home but it is so worth it when you taste the final product. 4 hours is a good simmer time for Pho Bo but many people will let their Pho Bo simmer even longer. This is a fantastic soup for any time of year! Go ahead and give it a try!

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