Pho (pronounced “fuh” with a slightly inquisitive tone I can’t quite master) is a Vietnamese soup popular in Hanoi and throughout Vietnam that features thin rice noodles and a variety of fresh ingredients. The history of pho is unclear before the late 1800s — even the origin of the name is debated, although a popular theory is that the name came from the French word “feu” (fire) when the French colonized the country in 1880.
Hugely popular in Vietnamese homes, noodle bars and with street vendors, there seem to be as many ways to make this national dish as places to get it. Technically, pho contains beef (pho bo), chicken (pho ga) or is vegetarian (pho chay), but similar noodle dishes may also include shrimp, pork or fish. Most in the U.S. tend to refer to any noodle dish served in this style as pho.
Pho restaurants are becoming more common in the U.S. and on a cold, wintery day there are few better places to grab a quick bite, but the exotic sounding dish is surprisingly simple to make at home using ingredients fresh from the garden.
Once the broth has been prepared, the meat and vegetables are cooked directly in the bowl by pouring the boiling broth directly into the serving bowl. Pho is fast food at its freshest.
This recipe sticks to traditional ingredients, but once you get the hang of making your own pho, feel free to tinker using the fresh herbs and vegetables found in your own backyard.
- 1 pound brisket or flank steak
- 6 cups beef stock
- ½ red onion
- 1 star anise
- 2″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 12 ounces thin rice noodles
- 4 green onion stalks, sliced
- 4 tablespoons fresh basil
- 1 cup bean sprouts,
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 1 chili pepper, sliced
- Lemon or lime wedges for garnish
Slice the beef across the grain as thin as possible. Half an hour in the freezer can make this easier.
In a large saucepan, bring stock, red onion, anise, ginger and fish sauce to a boil.
Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and discard onion, ginger and star anise.
In another pot, drop noodles in boiling water. After 3 minutes, drain and rinse in cold water.
Divide noodles between four deep bowls. Top with raw beef, green onions, basil, sprouts, green onions, onion and chili pepper.
Return broth to a boil and pour into four bowls. Let rest 5 minutes (to give beef time to cook). Garnish with lemon or lime wedge and serve with hoisin sauce and hot chili sauce as available condiments.