I recently had the pleasure of dining with a lovely woman of Vietnamese origin. She entertained us with culinary tales from home that were so evocative, I longed to get on the first plane East.

I was delighted a few days later when she sent me a recipe for pho, a staple in Vietnam, enjoyed at breakfast. Me, I’d take it any time of day.

The recipe is time consuming, but worth the care and attention it requires. This is an extraordinary dish, delicate, fragrant and soul-warming. I know I can get it better from the masters who devote their lives perfecting this soup, but there is something so very satisfying about doing it yourself. Give it a try. You may be surprised.


For the stock:

  • 600g raw beef bones
  • 250g beef rump, or slow-cooking meat (in a single piece)
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 thumb of ginger
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 pod black cardamom
  • 1 cup of Vietnamese nuoc mam (fish sauce)


  • beef fillet (about 100-150g) sliced into very thin strips and a thumb of crushed ginger
  • sweet mint (1 handful)
  • coriander (2 handfuls)
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 red chillies, finely chopped
  • 2 limes, cut into quarters
  • salt and pepper
  • Fresh pho rice noodles


  • Stock pot
  • Saucepan
  • Colander
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Cheesecloth


  1. Under a broiler or on your grill, blacken the ginger and shallots.
  2. Use a mortar and pestle to crush the anise and cardamom
  3. Combine the ginger, shallots, anise and cardamom with the cinnamon in a cheesecloth bag and make sure it is securely tied.
  4. Meanwhile, marinade the raw beef fillet slices with some crushed ginger and set aside.
  5. In the stock pot add about 3 litres of water. While cold, add the beef bones and bring to the boil, skimming when necessary for about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the spice bag of spices, the fish sauce and the beef rump, reduce the heat and leave to simmer for around 2 hours.
  7. Remove the meat and allow it to dry at room temperature. Discard the spices.
  8. Remove any scum that has formed on the stock, taste and season.
  9. Slice the rump.
  10. Prepare your noodles (as per the instructions on the packet) and arrange them in individual bowls.
  11. Place pieces of the sliced cooked meat and the raw on the noodles and add a handful of the herbs, chopped.
  12. Pour the piping hot stock into the bowl and serve with the chilli and lime on the side.

What you should know

I like adding some Thai basil and beansprouts to my pho. I don’t know how traditional this is.

I recently looked up a number of recipes for pho and found that each one was quite different. I imagine there is no definitive version. Doutbless you will make one your own. Such is the beauty of cooking!

Re: Pho

This soup looks great. Does anybody have a recipe for making your own noodles? It seems to me if you are going to spend the time you might as well go the distance.

Re: Pho