RECIPE – Traditional Vietnamese Beef Rice Noodles (Pho Bo)

Store bought pho never compares to how mama used to make (or how it tastes in Vietnam).

This a recipe that takes a good couple of hours – the way it’s supposed to be (there will be no MSG/store-bought shortcuts here).

So very divine – flavoursome beef soup with rice noodles, meatballs & other garnishes.

The main thing you need to do which takes the most amount of time is the beef broth. It’s actually a simple recipe, just time-consuming so you can draw out the lovely flavours in your beef bones.

The garnishes are then up to you depending on your personal tastes.

All these ingredients are easily found in Cabramatta – lovely place to shop, you should try it some time.

Beef Broth Ingredients:

  • 3kg beef bones (you can get them cheap from a butcher, try to get bones with plenty of flesh still hanging off & get them to cut it into chunks)
  • Water to cover bones & any items you throw in (e.g. meat chunks)
  • 2x onions
  • 1x approx 10cm chunk of ginger
  • 1x stick cinnamon
  • 6x star anise
  • 6x cloves
  • 2x cardamom pods
  • 1x 2cm3 chunk of yellow rock sugar
  • 5x tbs fish sauce
  • 2x tbs salt
  • 1kg of beef rump/brisket/chuck/chunk of boneless meat etc cut into 5cm thickness
  • 1/2 kg beef meat balls (pre-cooked, you can get them frozen from an Asian butcher)

Bowl & Garnishes:

  • Flat rice noodles (I prefer fresh ones from an Asian grocery store, but it should be easy enough to find dry)
  • Coriander
  • Shallots
  • Onions
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Thai Basil
  • Very thinly sliced raw beef (rump/sirloin/etc) – this will cook when hot broth is poured into your bowl
  • Chillies
  • Lemon/lime wedge
  • Hoisin sauce/chilli sauce/etc – I am not a fan of these in my actual bowl – happy to have them to dip my meats in but I feel the flavour of the broth should be good enough that you don’t need to disguise it with hoisin

Note: My personal minimum is the top 5 on that list. Anything else you want to add is optional. You can even add mint herbs if you want – it’s entirely up to your own preference.


  1. Cover the bones with plenty of cold water and bring to a rapid boil.
  2. Boil for 3 mins to release the impurities. You will see bubbling scum on the top of the water (pic below). This is what you don’t want in your broth.
  3. Tip your bones into a strainer & rinse the bones with water. Wash the scum off your pot, then place the bones back in & cover with water. Bring this to a boil – make sure to come around every now & them to skim off any scum developing at the top with a ladle.
  4. Optional – It’s up to you if you want to char your ginger/onions, I’m normally too lazy to.
    While your pot is boiling, char your ginger & onions over an open flame. You want to blacken the outside – it will release some delicious smells & cook slightly.
  5. Peel your blackened ginger & onions under running water (it’s easier) – make sure to get off any burnt skin so it will not affect the clarity of the broth. Chop the onions in half & break the ginger into a few pieces.
  6. Once your beef bones have come to a boil, turn it to a low simmer & add the rest of the broth ingredients excluding the meatballs.
  7. Simmer broth for approximately 2 hours or until your chunks of rump/brisket/etc is done to your liking – skimming off any scum from the top as you go. Fish out the meat & soak in a bowl of cold water for 10 mins to prevent the meat drying out. Once this is cool, slice thinly to be used as garnishes in your beef broth.
  8. Adjust seasoning with fish sauce/rock sugar if required, then simmer gently for another 2-3 hours, skimming off any scum from the top every now & then.
  9. Throw in the meatballs & let simmer until meatballs are heated through (you can cut meatballs in half if you want them to heat up quicker)
  10. Once the meatballs are done, you are done, so get your bowls with their garnishes ready beforehand.
  11. Noodles should be blanched in hot water, then layer whatever garnish you want on top. Ladle over hot soup & enjoy!

Note: The meat hanging off your soup bones will also be absolutely delicious & phenomenally tender – don’t forget to put some of that into your bowl as well.


The perfect winter comfort food (although I would eat it year round, brekkie, lunch & dinner) 😀


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