Pho: How To Make Traditional Vietnamese Pho

Phở, pronounced “fuh,” is a Vietnamese soup normally made with a bone-beef broth, banh pho noodles and thinly sliced beef. It is often served with bean sprouts and other fresh herbs on the side. Pho is made with rice noodles, not to be confused with Japanese ramen, which is usually made with wheat noodles. It is important to remember that pho has many variations. The most famous is the pho from Southern Vietnam and the pho bac from Northern Vietnam, which is considered the original pho.

Pho is generally served as a large bowl of broth and rice noodles with a plate of thinly sliced raw beef and a plate of fresh garnishes such as basil, coriander, radishes, chilies, and lime. There are also several condiments on the table at most pho restaurants for flavoring the broth, such as hoisin sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce, Sriracha, and chili paste. Essentially every pho bowl is special to you. You’re able to adjust the pho to your taste with many different add-ins.

After the French colonization of the nation in the late 1880s, pho is thought to originate in the Nam Dinh and Hanoi regions of North Vietnam. The word “pho” is believed to originate from the French word “feu,” meaning fire. In fact, it may be a Vietnamese take on the French dish pot au feu. Pho bac, the original pho, is made for several days by boiling the beef bones and places great emphasis on the delicate and basic broth. Accompanying the soup is only rice noodles and thinly sliced beef.

Traditional Vietnamese Pho

  • Author: Romae Chanice Marquez
  • Recipe Category: Main Dish
  • Cuisine: Vietnamese

The whole preparation and cooking time is 8 to 9 hours. This recipe is suitable for at least 10 servings. 

Photo credit: @dr.mindbodynature /

Traditional Vietnamese Pho Ingredients

  • 12 lb mixed beef leg bones, shin, knuckle, and marrow bones
  • 14 oz ginger (340g), halved lengthwise
  • 1 large head garlic, halved
  • 5 medium yellow onions, halved lengthwise
  • 10 sticks cinnamon
  • ¼ cup whole black peppercorn
  • 8 pods whole star anise
  • 1 lb beef brisket (455g)
  • kosher salt
  • ¼ cup fish sauce (60ml), plus more to taste
  • 1 lb boneless sirloin steak (455g)
  • 1 lb flat rice noodles (455g), cooked according to package instructions

For serving,

  • 3 cups fresh mung bean sprouts
  • 2 small red onion, very thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 2 jalapeños, sliced into thin rounds
  • 2 large bunch fresh Thai basil
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • hoisin sauce
  • siracha

Traditional Vietnamese Pho Instructions

Step 1: Place the beef bones in a large pot of stock, then add ample cold water to cover them by 2 inches (5cm). Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat and cook to blanch the bones for 10 minutes, eliminating any impurities.

Step 2: Place a rack at the top of the oven and preheat the broiler. Drain the bones in a colander and rinse under cold water. The blanched bones can then be returned to the stockpot. In the meantime, place the cut-side ginger, garlic, and onions on a baking sheet and broil until the aromatics are deeply charred in spots, about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and add to the stockpot.

Step 3: Meanwhile, mix the cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, and star anise over medium to high heat and toast in a medium skillet, shaking the pan periodically. Do this until the spices are darkened in spots and highly fragrant, around 5 minutes. Fill the stockpot with the toasted spices.

Step 4: Liberally season the brisket with salt, and add to the stockpot.

Step 5: Fill the pot with the right amount of water to cover everything by an inch. Set the stove to a high temperature, and slowly lower the temperature to medium to hold a gentle simmer and skim off the fat. Get rid of the fat that floats to the top as needed, until the brisket is fork-tender, about 2 to 3 hours.

Step 6: Transfer the brisket to a plate using tongs, and let it cool completely. Heat the brisket before you are ready to serve.
Keep simmering the broth to get as much flavor as possible out of the bones, about 3 to 4 hours more.

Step 7: The bones and aromatics are removed using tongs. Slowly drain the broth over a large pot with a fine mesh strainer. Skim and throw the fat out of the water. Cut the brisket into thin slices. Slice the raw sirloin steak very thinly against the grain.

Step 8: You can now separate and divide the noodles into servings. Top each bowl with brisket and steak. Use the ladle to serve the hot broth. Serve immediately with the remaining toppings on the side.

Traditional Vietnamese Pho Additional Information

  • After the Second World War, many North Vietnamese citizens moved to South Vietnam to avoid Northern communist rule. This caused pho nam to be established.
  • Pho nam is usually made from a broth, which is seasoned with many spices. In most cases, the recipe has different toppings like fresh herbs such as bean sprouts, basil, and coriander.
  • This recipe will take 8 to 9 hours to prepare completely. 
  • This recipe will serve about 10 people.

Image source:

About Traditional Vietnamese Pho

Pho nam grew influential in southern Vietnam. Because of its convenience, it is still commonly sold by street vendors. After Saigon’s collapse at the end of the Vietnamese war, many people from the South fled to different parts of the world, causing pho to be distributed alongside other Vietnamese dishes. Pho is now found easily in many places around the world and is very popular on social media.


Today, there are several variations of the recipe. For instance, for people who are not fans of beef, a lot of street vendors in Vietnam sell the dish with different meats. For more international recipes, click here.

Featured Image: @nhifood_ /, @pho_iceland /