Vietnamese Soup Pho is Fiery Hot Daily Meal

Polina
Polina
Updated: 19 June 2019
Time to read: 17 minutes
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Pho soup is a typical dish of Vietnamese cuisine. Its recipe emerged in the early XX century in Northern Vietnam and eventually this soup gain its popularity all over the world. Each Vietnamese family prepare Pho Bo in their own way. However, there are traditional recipes too, and they are ubiquitously used in restaurants, including those that are abroad.

Pho Bo Soup

Pho Bo is one of the most popular Pho soup version, and actually, it is its synonym. It consists of saturated meat broth, pho-noodles, onion, cilantro, bean sprouts, basil and various spices. Chili peppers, star anise seeds, anise, cinnamon, and cloves are among the common spices, which are used to prepare a flavored soup, but this seasoning set is far from being complete. Being hot and spicy, Pho Bo will not only satisfy your hunger, but gives you strength for the whole day.

There are such types of Pho as:

  • the Northern type (or Pho Bac);
  • the Southern type (or Pho Nam).

The Southern-style Pho has more sweet and spicy taste, and it includes Hoisin sauce. Unlike Pho Nam, the Northern-style Pho is prepared with a small amount of exotic spicy ingredients.

At the beginning of the last century, Vietnam’s street vendors sold soup Pho carrying it with special shoulder poles. There was a bowl with beef and noodles on the one of its side, and a cauldron with charcoal on the other. Very little has changed since then. Pho Bo is still sold mainly on the streets, and you can meet many Vietnamese eating it since 6 a.m.

Vietnamese can boil their breakfast for days, and it is not an exaggeration. They cook it in huge pots, as Vietnamese hardly eat at home: they used to buy their meal at restaurants and street cafes. A bowl of national soup costs just $ 1-3, and it is affordable not only for tourists, but for the locals of this country of dragons and fairies.

Soup variants: Pho Bo, Pho Ga, Pho Ka

phở bò – is a beef noodle soup
phở gà – is a chicken soup

phở gà - chicken soup pho
Chicken Soup

There are many types of the famous Pho. A traditional Pho Bo is always made of beef. In that case, the broth is poured over boiled or half-raw meat, which was cut into thin slices. The soup with boiled beef is more often to order than the soup with carpaccio. The most delicious type of Pho is the soup with beef and carpaccio combination.

Pho Ga is one of the types of Pho, and it is cooked with chicken. It takes just an hour to cook chicken broth that is much faster than to make beef broth. At the same time, chicken fillet is baking in the oven; after that, it would be cut and added to the soup. The rest of the recipe is identical: prepared dish is served with a lot of greens and spicy sauce.

One more type of Pho is Pho Ka. It made with traditional beef broth or fish stock with a single difference: in the end, there must be added seafood, in particular shrimps and octopuses. Pho Ka is perfect with lemongrass stalks and with traditional spices, such as star anise seeds, ginger, cloves, and black pepper. If it is a fish soup, than the stock should be cooked within an hour. Pho Ka has the least calories among all the types of this Vietnamese signature dish. The tourists, who want to try exotic cuisine and have already tasted classic Pho Bo, willingly order Pho Ka.

Cooking features

The main thing about Pho are its ingredients. Meat should be chosen very carefully, as it should stay soft and be easy to slice once it is cooked. You should buy a piece of beef, for example, beef thigh or its muscles, and marrowbones.

The main soup ingredients:

  • beef (350 g);
  • rice noodles (300 g);
  • one onion;
  • ginger root;
  • a bunch of cilantro, a bunch of green onions;
  • bean sprouts (30 g);
  • lime and lemongrass;
  • spices (cinnamon, saffron, cloves, 3 star anise seeds, and others);
  • fish sauce, spicy sauce and other types of dressings.

To make an authentic Pho, you should add black cardamom, star anise seeds, and, curiously enough, some cinnamon. It would bring a special flavor note to your meat broth. It is believed that a Pho soup should have at least five smells. The more unexpected their combinations, the better. Besides cinnamon, Vietnamese easily could add to their broth some fennel, hot chili pepper (without seeds), and other oriental seasonings. To give them aroma and beautiful color, they roast it slightly without oil, as well as they do with onion and ginger.

As a rule, Vietnamese prefer to buy rice noodle, than make it by themselves. It is called Pho-noodles or Bun-noodles. If you manage to buy a fresh noodle instead of a dry one sold in supermarket, the taste of your meal could be much better.

One more ingredient you least expect to see in your soup is sugar. It is used for the south version of Pho and it is added right into the broth in a pretty large amount – up to 50 g. The broth is ready, when its meat could easily be separated from the bones.

Secrets to Serving Pho

There is no difference between the northern and the southern ways of serving Pho. First, you should place cooked rice noodles in a bowl. Add on its top onion rings, sliced meat, and put some chopped green onion and cilantro. Then pour over boiling broth and add sprouted beans, spices, garlic, fish sauce and other dressings.

As mentioned above, there are two types of meat you can serve your Pho with: it is well-boiled beef or half-raw meat. In the second case, you should place it in a stewpot with a hot broth for one minute. After that, put this meat into your ready soup.

An authentic Pho is not very watery, as rice noodle is the base of this dish and it takes most of the bowl. There is a joke among Vietnamese, that Pho is both a first course and a second course. They eat this exotic soup with traditional wooden chopsticks. Noodles absorb the most part of liquid, and you should drink the rest of it from the bowl as if it was a normal cup.

In South Vietnam, they always add to Pho a ripe lime. It should be cut in large slices and it is always served separately. Sometimes few drops of red hot sauce could be added to the broth, so it turned red. In Vietnam, people eat soup very early, starting at 6-8 a.m. Soup is usually served in large or small bowls and you always can ask for more.

Vietnamese Pho Soup Recipe

rice noodle
To make an authentic Pho you need rice noodle

It is very easy to cook a Pho soup, but you will have to find right ingredients and to spend not less than 2-3 hours to cook a beef broth.

Having bought all the products, let’s start cooking:

Step 1. Make a beef broth. Put beef bones into boiling water and cook over medium heat. Merge the first broth. Then change water, wash beef bones and add soft beef, which you will cut then for your soup.

Step 2. Cook the Pho noodles according to package direction. Then, rinse it with a large amount of running water. If you do not do it properly, the noodles will stick together and the whole dish will be spoiled.

Step 3. Cut the onion into rings, put it into a bowl and fill it with water. Chop the green onion and slice the beef (if you want to add scalded meat to your soup). Then add cilantro, mint, basil, red chili (without seeds).

Step 4. Put the noodle into a bowl. Add onion and all the chopped ingredients.

Step 5. Fill it with boiling broth, add sprouted beans, green onion, herbs to taste, fish sauce. In addition, you can sprinkle your soup with a lime.

Everybody has his or her own opinion on how long you should cook a broth, but the more you cook the meat over low heat, the better it would be. There are some secret ingredients for this step: roasted ginger, licorice root, and anise. Also you can add to the broth a couple of teaspoons of fish sauce, which has a rather specific taste.

Useful Tips for Making Pho

Vietnamese have their own secrets for making Pho soup.

  • For example, they cook Pho noodles in boiling water until it is half-ready. Then they rinse it with hot and cold water, so it became elastic and shiny.
  • They do not fry onion with oil for their soup, as it usually do in Russia. The cut onion into two parts, grill it for a minute, and then add it to the broth. The main rule for making Pho is no oil at all.
  • To make a perfect carpaccio, they actually turn it into mince, spreading over the cutting board. Due to this, the meat change its color as it is in boiling broth.

Every county has its own Pho cook features. For example, in France it is made with meatballs and in USA with chicken. In Russia, they use egg noodles instead of rice noodle, and in Thailand, they often add shrimps to ready soup. To decide which variant will suit you better, you should cook Pho by yourself at least once.

Gourmet’s reviews

Pho soup is one of the most bought national dishes in the world. The most delicious soup Pho, according to gourmet’s reviews, is made with two type of meat – well-boiled and half-raw meat (scalded with a broth). A Pho soups with tiger shrimps and with Thai basil are highly appreciated, as this ingredients give to the dish a peculiar taste.

You can try the most delicious soup Pho in Nha Trang at Yen’s Restaurant, Pho Hong Giang, at Pho 10 in Hanoi, as well as in other places. The national dish is served in every cafe, so it is very easy to find. If you want to try an authentic Pho, which Vietnamese would appreciate themselves, so you should find small restaurants, better in the quarters, where Pho is sold right on the street.

Watch the video for more details:

Polina
Author
Polina
Since 2013, we live with a spouse in different countries, including China, the Philippines, the United States, and Vietnam. I dance, teach pole dance and write about our travel.
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