Saturday, April 4, 2009


This meal has been a long time coming, my friends. I've had a slightly unhealthy obsession with this dish since I first tried it a couple of years ago at a tiny little Vietnamese place in Vancouver. To those who haven't tried it, it's incredibly difficult to describe. I don't know whether to begin with the heady aroma, the complex flavors that are at once confounding and familiar, or the soothing perfume that lingers in your mouth and sinuses long after you relish the last bite, enticing you to breathe deeply in an effort to experience as much of it as possible... You can honestly taste the love, care, and time that goes into a good bowl of pho. I humbly submit that it's one of the most astoundingly good comfort foods out there.

I say this meal has been a long time coming because I have been searching for a truly authentic recipe for what feels like aeons, and I am almost positive that this is as close as it gets. A three hour long simmer ensures that the flavors meld together seamlessly into a delicious sweet-sour-salty broth that's poured over thinly sliced beef and rice noodles, then topped with your choice of herbs and sprouts... I could ramble on forever about how good this is, but I'll spare you if you PROMISE to try this stuff, soon. It's cheap to make and goes a long way. Oh, and please forgive the lack of good photos. I didn't have the willpower to not eat this right away.


2 onions, halved
4″ nub of ginger, halved lengthwise
5-6 lbs of good beef bones (preferably with good amount of marrow)
4-5 quarts of water
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 Tbsp fennel seeds
5 star anise
1 cardamom pod
6 whole cloves
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
Roughly 1/4 cup fish sauce, depending on strength
1 inch chunk of palm sugar OR 1 oz. white sugar

Everything Else:
2 lbs rice noodles
1/2 lb flank, london broil, sirloin or eye of round
mint, cilantro, and basil (for garnish)
2 limes, wedged
2-3 chili peppers, thinly sliced
bean sprouts

1. Place ginger and onions on baking sheet and brush with a bit of oil, broil on high until ginger and onions begin to char. Flip and char other side.

2. While onion and ginger are charring, fill a 12- qt pot with cool water and bring to a boil. Add the bones, and boil vigorously for 10-12 minutes. Drain, rinse the bones and rinse out the pot. Place bones back in pot and add 6 quarts of cold water. Bring to boil over high heat and lower to simmer. Remove any scum that rises to the surface.

3. Add charred ginger and onion, spices (in a mesh bag or tea leaf ball, if you have it), salt, fish sauce, and sugar, and simmer uncovered for 3 hours. Strain broth and return the broth to the pot. Taste broth and adjust seasoning.

4. Prepare rice noodles according to package directions (which can vary widely). Slice beef very thinly.

5. Return broth to boil. Fill each person's bowl with rice noodles and raw meat slices. Once the broth is boiling, ladle on top of noodles and meat (the hot broth will cook the thin slices of meat). Serve immediately. Guests can garnish their own bowls as they wish.


  1. I like your presentation. And I LOVE LOVE LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE..............

    that you said "nub." He he he!

  2. Thank you, thank you! This is one of my favorite comfort foods. You describe it just right, that the flavors are complex, exotic and familiar. Of course, we have "our" place that serves pho, but I would love to make it at home.

  3. Let me know how it turns out for you!