Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) A Perfect Mekong Breakfast

For porridge and cornflake fans a bowl of soup may not sound like a great way to start your day, but in South East Asia millions go to work on a bowl pho. Traditionally a Vietnamese dish, as well as a national obsession, the simplicity this aromatic noodle soup has ensured that it is not only a favorite breakfast in Vietnam but Cambodia and Laos as well.

Found everywhere from largest cities to remote hillside hamlets, look out for any shack or canteen billowing steam into the morning air and inside you will discover locals hunched over deep bowls working chopsticks to a chorus of loud slurping.

Pronounced ‘fur’ this rice-noodle soup is served steaming-hot with tender cuts of beef, or some intestine if you’re lucky, as well as bundles of fresh herbs, limes, chili and fish sauce so you can customize your Pho to make the perfect South East Asian Breakfast.

Serves 4

For The Broth

• 2.5 liters of good beef stock (the best is always homemade with beef bones from the leg and knuckle)
• a good finger of ginger cut into in thick slices
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 2 cardamom pods
• 1 large pinch of coriander seeds,
• 4 star anise
• 2 tbls of salt
• 200ml of fish sauce
• 50 grams of brown sugar

For the Pho

• One large packet of rice noodles (if you can get the soft, fresh ones from an Asian Supermarket, all the better)
• 500g of skirt steak or sirloin
• a healthy bunch of the following herbs. fresh mint, cilantro, basil, morning glory (if you can get it)
• 4 spring onions, just the bottom half well chopped
• 2 limes, quartered
• 4 small chili peppers, sliced
• 200g of bean sprouts, rinsed
• Soy sauce
• Fish Sauce
• Fish Paste (a punchy flavor so be careful)
To prepare the broth

1. Add your stock to a large pan and turn on the heat. Add the onion, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander seeds, star anise, salt, sugar and fish sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for an hour or two. Strain the broth of the onion, spices and any scum with a slotted spoon and taste. Adjust with a little more fish sauce or salt as you like and keep it simmering on the lowest heat.

To Prepare the Pho

1 .Slice your beef as thin as you can across the grain and set aside.

2. Bring a separate pan of water to the boil and following the directions on your noodles cook accordingly. Fresh noodles need no more than a five second dip in boiling water, others might need up to a minute of boiling. Either way, once cooked, strain and divide equally amongst four deep soup bowls.

3. After the noodles, equally divide the raw beef amongst each of the bowls along with the spring onions.

4. Bring your broth back to a boil and carefully ladle it into each bowl to completely cover the noodles and beef. The hot broth will cook your raw beef slices.

5. Having placed all the herbs, chopped chili, sauces and bean sprouts on the table. Give each guest their bowl of noodles and beef and they can now customize their Pho. Plenty of fresh herbs, a small handful of bean sprouts, a few squeezes of lime juice, a couple of shakes of fish sauce and soy sauce, some chili and 3 or 4 twists of ground black pepper should all be added, before grabbing your chopsticks, leaning over your bowl and slurping.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 at 06:24 and is filed under Laotian Recipes, mekong journal, Mekong Posts, Mekong Recipes, Recipes, Vietnamese Recipes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed or trackback from your own site. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. Having that for breakfast tomorrow!

  2. breakfast of champions! enjoy…
    getting cold at this end so have a cuppa for me. that book cover looks grand…

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