This story is over 5 years old.

Pho Bo (Beef Noodle Soup) Recipe

Charles Phan of San Francisco's The Slanted Door makes no bones about the Vietnamese noodle soup classic.
Pho Bo: Beef Noodle Soup Recipe
Photo courtesy of The Slanted Door.

"If you've got a pot that can take another three pounds of bones, do it."

Servings: 6
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 6 hours


For the beef stock (makes about 6 quarts):
1 large yellow onion, unpeeled
3-inch piece fresh ginger
2 pounds|907 grams beef neck bones
2 pounds|907 grams beef shank bones
2 pounds|907 grams oxtails, cut in 2- to 3-inch pieces
2 pounds|907 grams beef marrowbones
1 ounce|30 grams light brown palm sugar or 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
3-inch piece Chinese cinnamon
1 whole star anise pod
1 whole clove
1 black cardamom pod (optional)


For the soup:
1 pound|454 grams beef brisket
3 quarts|2 liters 840 ml beef stock (from above)
fish sauce, for seasoning
1 (16-ounce|454 gram) package dried wide rice noodles, cooked according to package directions
12 ounces|340 grams beef top round , thinly sliced
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
garnishes (Thai basil sprigs, mung bean sprouts, lime wedges, jalapeños, Sriracha sauce, hoisin sauce)


  1. For the beef stock: Preheat the oven to 350°F (175º C). Place the onion and ginger on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until the onion is soft and beginning to ooze, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let the onion and ginger cool until they can be handled. Peel the onion and cut in half. Slice the unpeeled ginger into ¼-inch-thick coins.
  2. While the onion and ginger are roasting, blanch the bones: To ensure the pot is large enough to blanch the bones without boiling over, put the bones in the pot and add water to cover by 1 inch. Then remove the bones and bring the water to a boil. When it is at a rolling boil, add the oxtails, neck bones and shanks, return the water to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Drain the contents of the pot into a colander and rinse under cold running water. Rinse the pot and return the rinsed oxtails, neck bones, and shanks to the pot. Add the marrowbones.
  3. Add the onion halves, ginger slices, salt, sugar, and 8 quarts fresh water to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any scum that forms on the surface. Lower the heat so the liquid is at a gentle simmer and and simmer for 4 hours, skimming as needed to remove any scum that forms on the surface.
  4. Add the pepper, cinnamon, star anise, clove, and cardamom and continue cooking, skimming occasionally, for 1 hour longer.
  5. Remove from the heat and and, using a spider or a slotted spoon, discard the large solids. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large container, let sit for a few minutes (or refrigerate overnight), then skim most of the fat from the surface (leave some, as it gives the stock a better flavor and mouthfeel). Use immediately, or let cool completely, then transfer to practical-size airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
  6. For the soup: Place the brisket in a large pot and add the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat until the liquid is at a vigorous simmer. Cook the brisket for 30 to 45 minutes, until cooked through. To check for doneness, remove the brisket from the pot to a plate and poke with the tip of a chopstick; the juices should run clear.
  7. Just before the brisket is ready, prepare an ice-water bath. When the brisket is done, remove it from the pot, reserving the cooking liquid, and immediately submerge it in the ice-water bath, which will stop the cooking and give the meat a firmer texture. When the brisket is completely cool, remove from the water, pat dry, and thinly slice against the grain. Set aside.
  8. Return the stock to a boil over high heat. Taste for seasoning and add fish sauce if needed.
  9. To ready the garnishes, arrange the basil, bean sprouts, lime wedges, and chiles on a platter and place on the table and put the Sriracha and hoisin sauces alongside.
  10. Divide the cooked rice noodles evenly among warmed soup bowls. Top with the brisket slices and then with the raw beef slices, dividing them evenly. Ladle the hot stock over the top, dividing it evenly, and top with the scallions. Serve immediately, accompanied with the platter of garnishes.

From It Takes Great Bones to Make Good Pho

Get recipes like this and more in the Munchies Recipes newsletter. Sign up here.