Vietnamese Beef Pho Noodle Soup

5 from 2 reviews

A classic and authentic recipe for Vietnamese Beef Pho Noodle Soup. This beef pho recipe uses oxtail and beef brisket for a delicious and full-flavoured pho broth. Tips on how to make pho at home!


For the broth

For the spice pouch

To serve


To make the broth

  1. My mother’s method, which is common in many Vietnamese households, is to cook the oxtail in a large pot of cold water, bring it to the boil and let it bubble away for about 5 minutes. Use large tongs or chopsticks to remove the oxtail to a large colander, discard the water from the pot and rinse the oxtail. Return the oxtail to a clean stockpot, cover with cold water and proceed with the recipe below. This method is a way to remove the the impurities in the oxtail and contributes to a cleaner and clearer broth.
  2. Place the oxtail and brisket into a large stockpot and cover with about 6 litres (24 cups) of cold water, or enough to completely cover the meat in the pot. Bring the pot to the boil and let it simmer rapidly for about 10-15 minutes, before turning down the heat to a gentle simmer. Constantly skim any impurities from the surface of the broth.
  3. Meanwhile, dry roast the spices separately in an oil-less frying pan over medium heat until they are fragrant. You will need to dry roast the spices separately because they will roast at different rates. However, it should only take a few minutes per spice.
  4. Wrap the dry-roasted spices in some muslin or cheesecloth to create a spice pouch. Alternatively, place the spices into a large spice mesh ball or strainer. You can also just pop the spices straight into the stock as you will be straining the broth later anyway.
  5. Heat a cast-iron grill over medium-high heat and chargrill the onions and ginger until they are lightly scorched on all sides. This will take about 10-15 minutes. You can also char the onions and ginger over an open flame if you have a gas stove.
  6. Add the spice pouch to the stock, together with the chargrilled onions and ginger.
  7. Simmer the broth over low-medium heat for about 3 hours. During this time, keep skimming the surface of the broth to remove any impurities to ensure a clean and clear broth, otherwise the broth will turn cloudy.
  8. After about 2 hours, add the fish sauce, sugar and salt.
  9. After about 3 hours, or when the meat falls off the bones easily and the beef brisket is very tender, remove the meat to a large bowl.
  10. Allow the brisket to cool a little before slicing it thickly.
  11. Remove the spice pouch and discard.
  12. Strain the broth through a fine sieve or a muslin cloth.
  13. Pour the strained broth into a clean stockpot and return to the stove over medium heat.
  14. Taste for seasoning – you might want to add some more water if the broth is too concentrated, or perhaps some more salt or fish sauce if the flavour needs adjusting. The broth should then be ready to serve.

To serve

  1. Cook the rice noodles according to the packet instructions. If you are using dried rice noodles, this usually requires soaking in boiling water until they have softened. If you are using fresh rice noodles, you should blanch them in some boiling water for just a few seconds. A Chinese noodle strainer is helpful for this task. For both types of noodles, keep in mind that they will continue to soften when you add hot broth to them.
  2. Place the softened noodles into large bowls and top with some slices of brisket. I also like to add a few pieces of oxtail to each bowl. Ladle hot broth into each bowl.
  3. Depending on how steaming hot you like your bowl of noodles to be, you can repeat this step by using a large slotted spoon to hold back the contents of the bowl, and return the broth to the stockpot. Wait for the broth to come back to the boil and pour some hot broth back into each bowl.
  4. Garnish with coriander (cilantro) and spring onions (scallions).
  5. Allow each person to season their bowl to taste with some Thai basil, red chillies and a squeeze of lime.
  6. For a dipping sauce for the meat, the Vietnamese typically mix together Hoisin sauce and Sriracha hot sauce into a little sauce bowl.

Kitchen Notes

Pho is traditionally served with flat rice noodles. They come in various widths, and the size used depends on personal preference. Thin flat rice noodles are perhaps more common in restaurants, but I personally prefer the wider noodles (about 1 cm width) because they have a softer, silkier texture when cooked.

How much or how little to serve is up to you. What is important is that you have a bowl which is large enough so that you can mix everything together and rummage around in your bowl without having it splash everywhere.

For a generous serving, I like to give each person approximately 600 ml (about 2½ cups or 3 large ladles) of broth. This should give the cook an idea of how many noodles per serving, keeping in mind that the noodles will absorb some of the broth once added, and you want enough broth in the bowl for some slurping action.

How much meat you add is also a personal choice. I often find that the oxtail and beef brisket used to create the broth is more than we would eat over 6 to 8 servings. In fact, a lot of recipes for pho often don’t tell you what to do with the oxtail; it is a lovely and flavourful piece of meat which should be enjoyed after you have tended to it for so many hours. For this reason, I generally don’t serve my pho with thinly sliced raw beef (as you would for Pho Tai – see next paragraph).

To make Pho Tai, simply buy some fresh beef filet or entrecôte (about 400 g or 14 oz for 6 to 8 servings), slice it thinly and place 4-5 slices in each bowl before ladling hot soup over it to cook it. The slices of beef will continue to cook in the hot broth in the bowl.

The broth keeps well in the fridge for several days and will turn jelly-like once cold.

All of the components of this dish should be kept separately in the fridge.