This easy Vietnamese Pho Soup Recipe can be made with chicken, pork or beef and is packed full of chewy Asian noodles, flavorful herbs and garnished with fresh lime and chili sauce.
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My daughter turned into an intrepid eater sometime in High School. For years I dragged her around new restaurants I wanted to try when we lived in Austin, Texas. Although the city is known as the music capital of the World, I would argue that it is in the top 5 for food destinations in the World.
Everyday, on our way home from school, we passed a Vietnamese Pho restaurant. I had never tried it before and didn’t know what it was. One day, Bianca said, ‘let’s try that place’. That was exciting, she picked the place – I didn’t drag her, honest.
We went in and was presented with an amazing menu filled with dozens of options. It was a bit overwhelming so we asked the friendly proprietor for help. He seemed sympathetic to our plight and obliged us with top recommendations. That was the beginning of our passion for Pho soup.
Now whenever Bianca is home from college, we hit our local Vietnamese Pho restaurant and the Mongolian Ramen restaurant or we make our own Vietnamese sandwiches.
What is Pho?
Pho is a homemade broth-based soup with noodles and meat. You may use beef, pork or chicken broth. Typically it is garnished with fresh herbs when serving such as mint, cilantro, culantro, bean sprouts, scallions and juice from a fresh lime. Most people will add sauces to their Pho such as chili sauce, chili oil, vinegar, hoisin sauce and any other favorite Asian sauce.
Northern Vietnamese Pho will have green onions, or scallions, and garnished with only vinegar. Southern Vietnamese Pho is what is common in the U.S.
Pho soup is a historical blend of three cultures: Vietnamese, Chinese and French.
It is inspired by a soup the Chinese were making in Vietnam around 1910. It was the French however that brought beef to Vietnam.
How to Make Pho
Essentially make the broth, assemble the ingredients and garnish.
3 Tips For a No-Scum Pho
I have made the broth using two different methods:
- Boil the bones rapidly for 10 minutes then drain off the liquid, discard and add more water before continuing with the broth. This method is helpful for decreasing the amount of scum that is formed.
- Bake the bones first for 30 minutes, then put them in a pot, cover with water and continue with your broth. This method is my favorite. No scum has formed for me using this method.
- If scum does happen to form, skim off using a fine mesh ladle.
Both methods decrease the amount of fat in the broth significantly. The bone marrow contains a lot of fat and both of these methods cooks off the fat before the real broth process starts.
The broth takes a long time but is super easy. After three hours, all of the flavor is extracted so the broth basically cooks up in 3 hours. It is mostly hands off, that is the easy part.
If you are making chicken Pho, use chicken bones and if you are making beef Pho, use beef bones. Or, you could go rogue like I did and use beef bones and chicken thighs. I know but try it, it’s my favorite way to make Pho.
With the bones and water in the pot, add 2 onions quartered and your whole spices. You can use ground spices but it’s going to make your broth a muddy color instead of the clear broth you will want.
Drain the broth into another pan, throw away the solids and bring the broth to a simmer. Meanwhile cook your noodles, slice your meat thin and plate up your bowls. First put the noodles in, then the meat and then pour the hot broth on top of the meat. If sliced thin enough, the hot broth perfectly cooks the meat. Alternatively, you could throw the meat in the broth at the end, your broth will get a little less clear but otherwise it will be just fine. Garnish as desired.
Tips For Easy Pho
Pho really is easy to make and you can feed a huge crowd. Great for gatherings and large families.
You can also scale this down for singles and couples. Just freeze some of your broth in freezer bags and you have a quick supply of broth for Pho during the week. Just thaw the broth, cook up your noodles and slice your meat. If you are savvy, you could ask your butcher to slice your meat for you like I do. Garnish and nosh. This method makes for an easy and amazing weeknight Pho.
How to Eat Pho
Traditionally with chopsticks but that would not go over well in my house so I serve with a spoon and a fork.
Is Pho healthy?
Yes! It is relatively low in calories, high in protein and vitamin C, low in fat and has lots of minerals. Pho soup is good for you.
Be sure to reference the How to Make Soup article for essential information on making soup from scratch, without a recipe! Need some inspiration? My personal list of 35 Best Soups will inspire your creativity.
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