Hanoi beef noodle soup

Hanoi beef noodle soup

Pho bo

South East Asian Food

Hanoi is full of small restaurants specialising in this dish – a common breakfast or snack. People have their favourites and patronise them regularly, becoming attached to particular flavours. The recipe which I present here is a fairly basic one – you should feel free to add other pieces of beef if you wish, such as beef balls or thinly sliced beef tripe.


Quantity Ingredient
1kg beef bones, sawn up for soup
4-5 litres water
2 thumb-sized pieces of ginger, bruised with a cleaver
2 brown onions, unpeeled
2 small chinese turnips or carrots
salt, to taste
4 whole star anise
1 whole cinnamon stick, about 7 cm
2 chinese or thai cardamoms, broken open
8 cloves
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
250g beef tendon
500g piece beef brisket, trimmed of fat
or a thick piece trimmed chuck
500g fillet steak or silverside
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 x 375g packets banh pho dried rice sticks
50g cooked beef tripe, sliced finely, (optional)
1/2 cup chopped spring onions
350g beansprouts, washed
eryngo or coriander and asian sweet basil leaves
chillies, sliced into rounds
lime wedges


  1. Wash the bones to remove loose bits, put them in a large saucepan, cover well with cold water and bring to the boil. Boil until the water is frothy then tip the water out and wash the bones again and also the saucepan to achieve a clear stock. Put the bones back into the saucepan and add 4–5 litres water. Grill the ginger and the onion over a charcoal fire or a hot griller until brown on the outside. Add the ginger, the onions, the Chinese turnips or carrots and salt to taste to the stock and bring to the boil, skimming for a while if necessary. Break the anise and the cinnamon roughly and add them along with the cardamoms, cloves and peppercorns. Drop in the beef tendon and the brisket or chuck, lower the heat and simmer everything gently for 3 hours, skimming again when necessary. Remove the stewing beef and tendon from the stock, slice the meat into thin slices and cut the tendon into chunks. Slice the raw fillet into paper-thin slices and keep this separate. Add fish sauce and sugar to the stock to taste.
  2. Meanwhile prepare the rice sticks by soaking them in cold water for 30 minutes. Boil a lot of water in a saucepan. Drain the rice sticks and dip them in the boiling water for a minute to soften (no more). Drain and rinse under cold water then put sufficient amounts into individual Chinese soup bowls. Put a little cooked beef, beef tripe and tendon on top, then some slices of raw beef. Strain boiling stock (liquid only) on top of this, garnish with spring onion and carry to the table.
  3. Have on the table a plate of washed beansprouts together with the herb leaves, a bowl of fresh chilli rounds, some lime wedges and some fish sauce. Diners allow the raw meat to poach until cooked as desired then stir in beansprouts, herbs and other flavourings to taste before eating.
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