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  • fromjudyskitchen

Pho Tai

On January 1, 2016, I made one New Year's Resolution to learn how to make pho. It has been well over 2 years since I made (and clearly broke) that resolution. This past weekend, however, I finally found the courage to attempt this complex Vietnamese staple!

Being Vietnamese myself, I always get asked if I know how to make pho. And each time, I have to disappoint someone with a solemn 'no' and spend minutes justifying how it's too difficult and intimidating to make the broth. Even my own parents don't bother and prefer to just go to a nearby Vietnamese restaurant to get their pho fix. As for relatives who have made it, they'd warn me of how hard it is to get the flavors just right.

So, were their warnings accurate? 100% yes. My top 2 challenges:

1) Managing the broth aroma that quickly filled my tiny city apartment. It literally smelled like a fish factory and was humid AF in here.

2) The obvious: Having to improvise and adjust the ingredients until the broth was to my liking.

While I've read many Vietnamese food blogs and seeked advice from relatives prior, the one thing that seemed consistent was that there is no one 'right' recipe. There is a list of standard ingredients you should include, but the ratio varies by personal preference. With all of that said, my version below is what I did in my very first attempt. It was good, but definitely had areas of improvement. As time goes on and I make more versions, I plan to fine-tune and update this recipe for sure!

In the meantime, feel free to try my rendition below and let me know if you have any feedback. I decided to try Pho Tai first, which is made with beef bones (for the broth) and topped with rare beef. Once I nail this recipe, Pho Ga (chicken) will be my next attempt!

Pho Tai

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: ~10 hours (if using slow cooker); ~1 hour (if using pressure cooker)

Servings: 4

Pho Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lbs. of beef bones (knuckles and marrow preferred)

  • 1 large onion (cut in half)

  • 1 piece of ginger (chopped)

  • 3 pieces of star anise

  • 1 tbsp salt

  • 1 tbsp sugar

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1/2 cup fish sauce

  • ~10 cups of water (or more to fully cover all bones)

  • 14 oz. rice sticks ("banh pho")

  • 1/2 lb. top sirloin

Vegetables/Garnish Ingredients:

  • Green onions

  • Thai basil

  • Bean sprouts

  • Lime

  • Green chile

  • Sriracha

  • Hoisin sauce


  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add beef bones and boil for about 8-10 minutes. This should be done to remove excess fat and blood particles.

  • Meanwhile, char your chopped ginger and onion halves. Lay on baking sheet and broil on high for ~5 minutes (or until edges are charred).

  • Once pot of beef bones are done being boiled (and foam has formed over the water), dump out the water and replace with about 10 cups of water. Add charred ginger, charred onion, star anise pieces, salt, sugar, cinnamon stick and fish sauce. Bring to a boil and let sit for about 10 minutes. Turn off stove and transfer to your slow cooker or pressure cooker. (Note: While I own both, I preferred to use the slow cooker as it more closely emulates how pho was traditionally made in Vietnam - simmered over a stovetop through the night).

  • If using a slow cooker, set temperature on low and let cook for at least 8 hours.

  • If using a pressure cooker (e.g. Instant Pot), use manual setting to cook on high for 35 minutes. Once done, turn off pressure cooker and let pressure decrease for about 20 minutes.

  • Taste broth and add more fish sauce, salt, sugar, or water to taste (if needed).

  • For a clean broth, remove the foam (scum) that has formed on top of the broth. For an extra clean broth, refrigerate broth overnight. Then, scoop off the hardened scum/fat from the top of the broth.

  • Once ready to serve, place top sirloin in the freeze. Leave in there for about 15 minutes (so that it'll be easier to thinly slice later).

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add rice sticks and cook until noodles have softened. Drain water and place in serving bowls.

  • Thinly slice top sirloin and evenly distribute over the noodles. Pour over the hot broth in each bowl. (Note: The broth needs to have just been boiled or released from pressure cooker to be able to 'cook' the beef).

  • Add vegetables and garnish, as desired.


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