I’m so sad that I didn’t know pho existed until university (there weren’t a lot of culinary options in my small, largely Mennonite hometown). There are so many pho-less years in my life that could have been so much more pho-filling!
But now pho and I are great friends. I’ve had lots of great restaurant pho experiences, but in my opinion none of them have been better than this homemade version. It’s all about the broth. Often it can be a bit on the salty side in a restaurant, but this version offers a great balance of flavours, and you can easily tweak the amounts to suit your tastebuds. I used chicken broth this time around, but you can easily use vegetable broth instead if you want a savoury vegetarian meal.
Ingredients for Pho Broth
Notice that the onion and garlic have been chopped into big chunks. They are just used to flavour the broth, and get strained out before eating. The big chunks ensure nothing gets through the strainer later on.
Now char up a little fresh ginger and add that to the broth too…it adds a really deep, rich flavour.
Charring some fresh ginger
While the broth simmers away and makes your house smell so good your neighbours may “casually” show up at your door to see what’s going on, prepare whatever garnishes you’d like to add to your soup later on.
This is really where you can customize the pho to your liking. Bean sprouts are usually a must for me, but my little local grocery store was out this particular day :(. Nevertheless, I perservered and came up with some other tasty additions. Specifically, snow peas, thinly sliced carrots, green onion, fresh basil and mint, lime, roasted peanuts and red pepper flakes.
Other garnish options could include cabbage, bok choy (their crunchiness adds great texture), mushrooms, chilis, cilantro, etc. etc. etc. Use your imagination!
We’re getting close…..the rice noodles are cooked, the soup garnishes are prepped, hoisin is all set to add some sweetness…
Pho parts almost ready to eat
After the broth has simmered for about 30 minutes, strain it through a fine mesh sieve.
Strained broth chunks
Put the rice noodles in your pho bowl, and then add the broth.
Pho building - Rice Noodles and Broth
Now dress it up with your garnishes of choice and enjoy!
Mandatory close up…
Update: I made this again for my family and took a few pictures of their different Pho interpretations.
The Noodle Lover: (Despite the ample noodles, this one isn’t actually mine)
Pho Variation #1
The Veggie Lover:
Pho Variation #2
The Kid Version:
Pho Variation #3
Pho Variation #4
The I Just Can’t Wait to Dig In:
Pho Variation #5
The Little Bit of Everything:
Pho Variation #6
Vietnamese Pho Bo Recipe
Vegetarian Vietnamese-Style Broth
8 Cups Clear Vegetable Stock
3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
8 Medium Garlic cloves, peeled & chopped coarsely*
1 Small onion, chopped, not diced*
1 Inch piece of ginger
2 3 Inch cinnamon sticks
1 Pod of Star Anise
2 Large Bay leaves
1. Put stock, soy sauce, garlic and onion in a large stockpot and bring to a boil over medium heat. *Make sure the pieces of onion and garlic are not smaller than the strainer you will be using.
2. Meanwhile, char ginger on all sides over an open gas flame or in a small skillet. Add to stock.
3. Add the cinnamon sticks, star anise and bay leaves to the broth. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes.
4. Remove solids with a slotted spoon or strain broth through a fine mesh sieve. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Return to pot and keep hot until ready to use in soup.
8 Cups Vietnamese Style Broth
1 Pound Rice Noodles
1/4 Cup Bean Sprouts
1/2 Cup Shredded Cabbage
1/2 Tender Greens, torn into bite sized pieces
1/2 Cup Basil Leaves
1/2 Cup Cilantro, coarsely chopped
3 Scallions, thinly sliced (both green and white parts)
3 Tbsp chopped, roasted, unsalted peanuts
1 Lime, cut into wedges
3 Fresh red or green chili peppers, seeded and cut into five rounds
Salt & Freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Make the broth as directed. When broth has been simmering for about 10 minutes, soak the noodles as follows. Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Remove from heat, add noodles, and let soak around 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until noodles are pliable and easily separated.
2. Drain the noodles and divide them among 6 Bowls.
3. Assemble the soup by placing the bean sprouts, cabbage, greens basil, cilantro and peanuts on top of the noodles. Ladle the hot broth onto the noodle mixture.