I’ve been making pho from scratch for over 20 years, and this is the best bowl I’ve ever had.
You know pho needs no introduction. The intensely flavorful broth is the stuff that dreams are made of. All I need in life (aside from Steph) are the chewy rice noodles, fresh beef that is tender and flavorful, vibrant poppy herbs, and that soft hint of lime.
Pho is a hearty, beefy, heavily spiced soup that is also simultaneously light, fresh, and bright. Fresh rare steak, melty brisket, tender rice noodles, and that special soup combine to make a dish that can compete with anything from a Michelin-starred restaurant and is typically under $15 (sad to say, the days of a $5 bowl are sadly over).
You can read this 3,000 word ode to pho if you want to learn everything there is to know about it, but I think it’s better to just get started making it.
I’ve been making pho for 20 years, and this recipe incorporates all the little tips and tricks I’ve learned. It includes key points such as:
When you want to go all out, it’s best to divide your pho preparation over two days, which is optional. The pho is prepared the first day, strained into a container, and then the brisket and soup are each chilled separately. The fat on top of the soup will have hardened by morning the following day. Remove the fat, melt it down in a small pot over low heat, then strain it into a small container and put it in the refrigerator. The toppings should also be washed/sliced, wrapped, and placed in the refrigerator.
Finally, reheat the pho soup and season it to taste 30 to 60 minutes before you want to eat. After making the noodles, let them sit in a colander to slightly dry out. Slice your cold brisket thinly, then add the slices to the soup to heat it up. Thinly slice your steak if you didn’t buy it presliced. Then just assemble your bowls, re-adding the fat if desired, and get creative.
Bún – Rice Vermicelli
Even though these noodles aren’t typically used in pho, they still taste fantastic.
When I’ve run out of flat rice noodles for my homemade pho, I’ve enjoyed using rice vermicelli instead. You’ll typically find it in noodle bowls, salad rolls, or cold noodle salads.
Instead of being flat and long like flat rice noodles, these noodles are round and thin.
They might not absorb as much flavorful broth, but they can still compete. And some people favor the thinner noodles’ texture, so it really depends on your personal preference.
I adore them because they only require 1-2 minutes of cooking time and a little bit goes a long way.
They lack flavor on their own, much like flat rice noodles, which makes them ideal for use in pho. They are white when dried and cooked.
Bánh Phở – Flat Rice Noodles
The traditional noodle that is most frequently used in pho dishes around the world, particularly in Vietnam, takes the top spot on our list.
These flat rice noodles have a great texture, are long and chewy, and can withstand being in broth for a long time.
Although the width of these noodles can vary somewhat, you should aim for one that is roughly small to medium-sized so it can absorb all the delicious broth from your pho.
Think roughly the width of fettuccine or linguine. Rice flour and water are combined to create these noodles.
When you buy them, they appear somewhat white, and as they cook, they become translucent. They don’t have a lot of flavor of their own, making them the ideal noodle to use in a steaming bowl of flavorful pho.
Oxtail makes the best pho soup
I’ve tried everything that can be used to make a good soup over the years, and when I want to go all out, I spend money on oxtail. It has the ideal ratio of fat for flavor, collagen for body, and, of course, beefiness for beefiness. Although it is somewhat pricey, it is absolutely, positively worth it. I miss the times when oxtail was affordable and unheard of.
Marrow/soup bones are great when we live in the desert and it’s challenging to find oxtail. But for the best pho soup, oxtail is unquestionably the best option.
After cooking the oxtail, the meat is a little bland but very tender and falls right off the bone. You can either serve it or remove it and enjoy it as a chef’s treat with some soy sauce or fish sauce.
What kind of noodles are in pho?
Thin rice noodles: These thin rice noodles are what are traditionally used to make pho. It is customary to cook pho noodles separately and on their own to prevent the noodles from overcooking in the broth.
What can I substitute for pho noodles?
If rice noodles are hard to come by in your area, feel free to use any other type of noodle that you prefer in this recipe, such as ramen, udon, angel hair pasta, etc.