Phở: A Guide for Beginners


What is Phở? Pronounced [fəh] not [foh].

It’s a concoction of stewed beef bones or ox tails, flank, shank, simmered in a redolent broth made with roasted herbs and spices, some of which are very familiar to our American palate like cinnamon sticks, cloves, others maybe not too common like star anise, black cardamom, coriander and fennel seeds (unless you’re Italian, I take that back). Other necessary aromatics include fresh ginger and charred onion. All of the listed ingredients forming a broth on a low flame for at least 3.5 hours to days.

It really is a labor of love.

Every ingredient is an essential component. The cloves are earthy, the star anise, fennel, and cinnamon are sweet, the coriander and cardamom almost floral. Together they form a bouquet of complex flavors with the potential of being a mild base for Jägermeister. *cheers*




star anise

fennel seeds


coriander seeds


black cardamom

Saigon cinnamon

Saigon cinnamon

All these herbs are roasted for a few minutes and then tied into a cheesecloth and added the broth about an hour before finishing. If the herbs are steeped in the broth too long, it overpowers the broth and makes it too herbal-y. So brace yourselves people. Mama’s about to get serious.

This recipe will serve 6-8 generous portions.


  • 4 pounds of beef bones or oxtails
  • 3″ nub of ginger cut into rough slices of 3
  • 5 quarts of water
  • 1 large yellow onion with skin on
  • 2 tablespoons of kosher salt
  • 1 package of Phở spices (they come with all ingredients required + mesh bag so you won’t have to measure anything)
  • 2 pounds of fresh rice noodles
  • 1/2 pound of flank or shank
  • 1 pound of beef eye of round, sliced almost paper thin (ask the butcher to do this for you


  • 1 pound of fresh bean sprouts
  • 2 limes sliced in wedges
  • hoisin sauce
  • sriracha
  • cilantro
  • thinly sliced green onions
  • Thai basil
  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. On a small baking sheet, roast onion with skin on for 15 minutes or until aromatic.
  2. In an extra large boiling pot 12-15 quart capacity, add cold water and bring to boil. Add bones, shank or flank to the water and add charred onion and ginger slices. Bring to a high boil and discard any foam that may rise to the top. Keep straining until there is no residue that floats to the top.
  3. Lower heat to a medium with a lid covered halfway for 2 hours
  4. Roast herbs on a baking sheet for 5 minutes at 400˚F until fragrant. Allow to cool completely before adding to mesh bag and secure tightly to make sure bag will not open. Add the spice bag, salt and sugar to the broth and continue cooking for 1.5 hours
  5. When time is up, remove shank and flank from the broth and set aside. Once meats are cool, slice thinly.
  6. In another boiling pot, add fresh rice noodles to boiling water for 15 seconds and drain. Assemble noodles in bowls.
  7. Assemble raw slices of eye of round on each bowl along with some sliced flank or shank. Top with green onion and cilantro then ladle the soup to the top of each bowl.
  8. Serve with the rest of the garnishes on the side.

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