Beef Pho

Pho originated in the early 20th century in northern Vietnam, most likely brought by Chinese refugees who settled in the area around Hanoi at that time. It was originally sold on the streets, but by the 1920s there were pho restaurants in Hanoi. The name “pho” (which is pronounced like “fun” without the “n”) may be an amalgamation of the French pot-au-feu (beef stew) and the Cantonese word for noodles.

Pho remained a northern Vietnamese dish until after the French colonial period came to an end; after the Vietnam War, Vietnamese refugees brought the dish to their new homes in France, Canada, Australia and the United States. Pho is made with beef, chicken, shrimp, mushrooms or tofu and a variety of vegetables and garnishes; southern Vietnamese pho tends to be a little sweeter while the northern is more savory. Today pho is available in restaurants but it remains a popular street food; either way it is considered Vietnam’s national dish.


  • 2 1/2 beef knuckle with meat
  • Salt to season
  • 1 lb oxtail (or add 1 lb of beef bones)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 pieces star anise
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorn
  • 1 slice fresh ginger root
  • 1/2 T sugar
  • 1/2 T salt
  • 1/2 T fish sauce
  • 1/4 lb frozen sirloin
  • 1 lb flat rice noodles

NOTE: Beef broth may be substituted for the above. See note in first paragraph of directions.

Garnishes to serve on the side

  • Sriracha (Vietnamese hot chili pepper sauce)
  • Hoisin sauce (Chinese dipping sauce)
  • Thinly sliced onion
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Bean sprouts (mung beans)
  • Sweet Thai basil
  • Thinly sliced green onion
  • Limes, quartered


Place beef knuckle in a large (4 qt) pot. Season with salt and add 1 gallon of water. Bring to a boil; simmer for about 2 hours, skim fat from surface of soup. Add oxtail and onion. Place star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves, peppercorns and ginger in a spice bag (small cloth drawstring bag, or use a tea infuser) and add to soup. Add sugar, 1/2 T salt and fish sauce. Simmer over medium-low heat for 4 hours. Strain broth, and return to pot to keep at a simmer. Remove and discard spices and bones.

NOTE: This method yields a very tasty and authentic result, but it takes approximately 6 hours. If you prefer, you may substitute 3 quarts of high-quality beef broth for ALL of the ingredients above. Simmer for 1 hour, then proceed with the 2nd paragraph of directions below.

Slice frozen sirloin paper-thin; meat must be thin enough to cook instantly. Soak rice noodles in water for about 20 minutes. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook rice noodles in boiling water for about 5 minutes until soft but not mushy. Place some noodles into each bowl, and top with a few raw beef slices. Ladle boiling broth over beef and noodles in bowl. Serve with garnishes.

  • Makes 10 servings.