Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

Years ago I invited my “tennis team” over for dinner, after practice. I wanted it to be a surprise so I told them mysteriously, “Just bring the biggest bowl you have.”

What I did was have a Pho party and it was a hit. The deal with Pho is when you eat it, you can make it to be anything you want. Each person eating Pho determines what they want to put in the basic soup consisting of broth, beef, and noodles. If they like spicy, they can make it spicy or mild, you can do that too. But, why would you want to let it sit there in a “mild” state? Play with it, have some fun. The other thing is it is low calorie and really delicious. You don’t feel bloated after you eat it and it is so satisfying.

Pho (pronounced “Fah”), a rice noodle soup, eaten throughout the day in Vietnam. Pho Bo means Pho with beef.

There is a fair amount of prep involved but all prep can be done well ahead of time before the folks arrive. The most important thing is the broth, which must be served HOT, HOT, HOT so it cooks the thinly sliced raw beef. But not boiling, just on the verge of a simmer, the beef is added before the broth is served. The best way is to get the beef thinly sliced is ask the butcher to slice the beef for you using a meat slicer. Otherwise, partially freeze the beef before slicing. It will make the job much easier.

The list of additional condiments is just a suggestion other items may be added as well. The fun is playing around with the additions to get everything to taste right for you. We all tasted each others bowls and pronounced them all fantastic! So perfect night; played tennis, had a satisfying dinner, great wine, a lot of dancing. Many teammates spent the night!


Author: Laura S Kirkley

A lot of work but a lot of fun for guests. Timing is critical.

Since the size of the bowls required to eat this soup from are huge I usually ask my guests to bring their own. It makes for a fun table to have all different shapes and colors. Each bowl always seems to have a story. Make sure you have large soup spoons and chop sticks.

Serves: 6

Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)


3 large, onions – sliced 1/4″ thick
1 tablespoon, peanut or avocado oil
1 50 oz. can, beef broth (alternative is 4, 14oz. cans, combination of beef, chicken and/or vegetable broth)
4 slices, fresh ginger – peeled and julienned
2 medium, carrots – peeled and julienned
1 small, cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 cloves
4 pods, cardamom
8 cloves, garlic – smashed
1 teaspoon, peppercorns
1/2 pound, bean sprouts
1 bunch, fresh basil leaves – preferably thai basil
1/2 pound, beef sirloin (if beef is sliced while it is still mostly frozen slicing is easier) – sliced water thin, across grain, bite-size
2 scallions – finely sliced
1/4 cup, cilantro – coarsely chopped
4 jalapeno chile peppers – sliced into rings
2 limes – cut into wedges
8 ounces, rice sticks (also called rice vermicelli)- soaked in hot water for 30 minutes and drained
fish sauce
chili sauce
sriracha sauce
soy sauce
ground peanuts


  1. Heat oil in a frying pan.
  2. Add two of the three sliced onions and cook stirring until brown.
  3. Remove and drain
  4. Arrange third rare onion on small plate and set aside
  5. Place drained cooked onions in large soup pot
  6. Add broth, ginger, carrots, cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, clove, garlic and peppercorns
  7. Bring to a boil, simmer the stock partially covered for 1 or 2 hours
  8. At serving time, arrange the sliced beef on platter. Garnish with rare onion and scallions
  9. On another platter arrange the bean sprouts, cilantro, chiles, basil, and limes
  10. Meanwhile, plunge the rice sticks in boiling water to heat.
  11. Drain
  12. Place equal portions in each soup bowl
  13. Cover individual portions to keep warm
  14. Heat beef stock to boiling
  15. Strain into a warmed soup tureen or chafing dish, it is extremely important and critical the stock is kept and served boiling hot.
  16. At the table offer each diner a bowl of warm rice noodles.
  17. Each diner adds some beef and onion to their bowl.
  18. Ladle the hot stock over the meat and noodles, stirring to cook the meat
  19. Each diner can tailor the taste of their soup by selecting differing condiments presented on the table: fish sauce, chili sauce, sriracha sauce, soy sauce, ground peanuts, basil, lime, bean sprouts, cilantro, and fresh chilies


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