Pho Bo – Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

Oh boy! Oh boy! What better way to wrap up an amazing anniversary weekend than making a big pot of soup and watching the season premieres of some of your favorite TV shows?! I think that big pot of soup being a big pot of Pho Bo is the answer.

My husband has been obsessed with pho for some time now. I was on the fence until we finally bit the bullet and made it at home. Now, I’m obsessed. I don’t know why the restaurant version didn’t do it for me at first, because I like it now. I think it’s just an acquired taste and that first homemade batch was the push I needed to finally appreciate the magic of the pho. It’s delicious, interesting and you actually feel good after you eat it. Obsessed.

Alright, so making pho is definitely a labor of love. It can be expensive to procure all of the ingredients and it takes forever. But note, some of these ingredients you will buy once and they will last you a long time.

My recipe today makes a TON of broth so make sure you take note and half or quarter the recipe to fit your needs. Today I’m using my 20 quart pot that I use for canning. We like to make a ton because it takes so long to make and you can freeze the broth for later. This will make about 6-8 servings, plus about… servings of frozen broth.

Lots of ingredients= Lots of flavor

The recipe that we follow is adapted from Meat Loves Salt and it is a FABULOUS post.   Becca, the author, goes into a LOT more detail on the procedure than I am here. I recommend you check out her recipe too. It’s full of great info.

You start by par boiling the bones to get rid of the “muck”. This is the Beef Bones and the Cow’s Feet. To par boil, you just throw them in a pot, cover with water and bring to a vigorous boil for 5 minutes. You won’t believe the amount of muck. After the 5 minutes, pour through a colander and rinse with cold water and make sure the bones are clean. You may need to actually use your hands to scrub any stubborn muck off. Make sure to keep an eye out for any marrow or meat that might have some from the bones and add those back to the pot as well.

We used mostly a Beef Bone mix from our local Asian Market. If you get a mix like this, it’s important to make sure there are marrow bones included. The marrow gives it a LOT of flavor and nice mouth feel . Buying marrow bones by themselves can be expensive so I definitely recommend a blend like we got (these are the 2 bags of red bones in the top/right of the “ingredients” photo above). The Asian Market also will have the Cow’s Feet (bag to the left of the bone mix in the photo), Beef Tendon (2 packages to the left of the bones and feet in photo) and Oxtail (2 red packages on left side of photo). However, if you have a local butcher in your area, you may be better served to see what they have laying around and they could possibly give you a better cut of the Oxtail. We got the Oxtail pictured above from our local Fresh Market supermarket. Fresh Market has the whole tail and you just tell them how much and which section you want. You want the section closest to the animal’s rump. It’s thicker and with more connective tissue which is what you’re looking for to make the broth so great.

After the par boil, add back to the pot along with Oxtail, Beef Shank (bone-in piece of meat on plate in the picture) and Tendon.

Cow’s Feet and Beef Bones/Marrow AFTER par boil, plus Oxtail, Tendon, Beef Shank


While you are de-mucking, char the aromatics. Half the onions, heads of garlic and ginger (lengthwise). Place them under the broiler until they are nice and charred. But, keep an eye on it because you don’t want to burn them up. My photo below shows a nice char. As you can see, it’s not a perfect science. This is just to add a layer of flavor so don’t fret if all the veggies don’t quite have the char you’re looking for. I actually removed some of the outer skin of the onions that got super charred. Don’t be scared to let it really char up, just keep an eye on it.

Charbroiled Aromatics


The last major component of the broth is the spice blend. Our Asian Market actually carries a spice packet called MIXED SPICE (Gia Vi Nau Pho Dac Biet). We used 2 packets. The ingredients are Green Cardamom pods, Black Cardamom pods, Cinnamon Sticks, Star Anise and Black Pepper Corns. You could also add whole Cloves. Toast them up on a low heat for about 5 minutes to get the flavors going.

Star Anise, Black Cardamom Pods (large brown pods), Green Cardamom Pods (small green pods), Cinnamon Sticks and Black Pepper Corns


Now, throw everything and one bunch of Scallions and 2 ounces of Rock Sugar (yellow lump rock candy) into your pot and cover with water. Bring to almost a boil and then reduce heat to the lowest setting. You don’t want to actually boil it and it should simmer very slowly for 6-8 hours. The original recipe goes on to talk about how restaurants will actually keep a pot on the stove non stop and just keep adding to it. They even recommend if not already on the smallest burner, to then move to the smallest burner on the lowest heat to further cool the process.

This isn’t super important, but hey, why not go that extra mile when you’re putting in all this work? After about 30 minutes, take the Black Cardamom pods out and squish them to open them up a bit. We used our handy dandy crab mallet for the job.


Only a few more hours to go… (9 hours in all)


Once the broth is done simmering, drain into another large pot through a colander- be careful, it’s hot. If available, you should really strain again through a fine mesh strainer. You can strain it back into the original pot, but make sure you clean it first.



After straining, you add the Tripe and the Meatballs. Both we found at our local Asian Market. We prefer the meatballs with the tendon in them. They do have them without. The ones we use are called BO VIEN GAN TAY HO and they are SO good.

Top: Meatballs with Tendon, halved / Bottom: Tripe, thinly sliced


Also, dig through the colander and keep any bits of meat and tendon. You can chop this up and add back to the soup. We use scissors to cut the tendon into very small slivers.

Go ahead and start your noodles according to the package directions. I recommend cooking them a slightly undercooked (Molto al dente) as they will cook a little when you add the hot broth.

Now, the fun part. Putting it all together!

Start with your Herb Plate. Here I have Thai Basil, Cilantro, Bean Sprouts, Scallions, fresh Jalapeno, Red Onion and Lime wedges.


Start your bowl with the cooked noodles.


Top with thinly sliced raw Eye of Round (or your preferred meat).


Then, top with that yummy broth. Be sure to get plenty of meat bits, tendon and meatballs!


Top with the herbs. (Are you drooling yet?!)


Some of my recommended condiments are Sriracha chili sauce, Soy Sauce, Fish Sauce and Hoisin Sauce. 


Pho Bo - Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

  • Servings: 8-10 servings, plus another 8-10 servings of broth for freezing
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print

Get better than restaurant style Pho Bo at home!


Broth Ingredients

  • 8 lbs Beef/Marrow Bones
  • 4 lbs Cow’s Feet
  • 3 lbs Oxtails
  • 2 lbs Beef Tendon
  • 5-6 Large Onions, halved
  • 2 heads of Garlic, halved lengthwise
  • 2 3-inch knobs of Ginger, halved lengthwise
  • 2 packets MIXED SPICE- gia vi nau pho dac biet
  • 1 bunch Scallions
  • 2 oz Rock Sugar (aka Rock Candy- yellow lump)
  • *** Or: 2 Black Cardamom pods, 20 Green Cardamom pods, 8 3-inch Cinnamon Sticks (rolled), 2 Tbs Whole Black Pepper Corns and approx 25 whole Star Anise

Broth Directions

  1. Par Boil: Add boil beef bones and cow’s feet to 20 quart pot and cover with water. Bring to vigorous boil for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse well to remove any muck. You may need to use your hands to get any stubborn muck off.
  2. Clean your pot. Add bones back to pot along with any bits of marrow and meat that may have escaped.
  3. Charbroil the Aromatics: Add onions, garlic and ginger to a cookie sheet or oven proof pan and broil until well charred. Cooking times will vary so keep a close eye on it. Took approx 10 minutes for us.
  4. Add to pot with bones.
  5. Toast the Spices: Heat a pan on low heat on the stove, toast your spices for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Add to pot with the other ingredients.
  6. Add all above components plus Oxtail, Tendon, Beef Shank, Scallions and Rock Sugar to pot and cover with water.
  7. Bring to ALMOST a boil. Just a few bubbles starting to come to the surface. Be sure not to actually bring to a full boil as this is a low/slow broth. Once almost to a boil, reduce heat to lowest setting and allow to slowly simmer for 6-8 hours.

Soup Ingredients

  • Prepared Broth (above)
  • 2 13 oz. packages Beef Meatballs w/ Tendon (Bo Vien Gan Tay Ho)
  • 1/2 lb Honey Comb Tripe, very thinly sliced
  • 1 16 oz. package Banh Pho noodles, prepared according to package directions but slightly undercooked
  • Herb Plate- Thai Basil, Cilantro, thinly sliced Red Onion, thinly sliced fresh Jalapeno (optional- spicy), Bean Sprouts, sliced Scallions and fresh Lime wedges.

Soup Directions

  1. Bring Prepared Broth to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Add Meatballs and Tripe and allow to simmer about 20 minutes while you prepare the noodles and Herb Plate.
  2. Cook the noodles according to package directions but slightly undercook as they will cook more when the hot broth is added.
  3. Prepare the Herb Plate by thinly slicing all ingredients except the lime wedges and bean sprouts.
  4. Thinly slice Eye of Round (or preferred meat).
  5. Add to bowl cooked noodles, then Eye of Round, hot broth, herbs and season with preferred condiments.

Recommended condiments: Sriracha chili sauce, Fish Sauce, Soy Sauce and Hoisin Sauce.

Again, this is a time consuming dish but it makes a ton of broth and it’s so SO good. I froze half of what we made and may freeze more as there is still a ton left. It’s so nice to open up the freezer to see what’s in there and realize Pho Bo is an option.

I hope any of you that really enjoy Pho Bo, take the time to give this a try. Let me know if you have any questions or how it turned out!

Happy Noshing!


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