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Vietnamese Beef & Rice-Noodle Soup (Pho) Recipe



  • 4 lbs oxtails, cut into 1 1/2 to 2 inch pieces and trimmed of fat
  • 1 piece ginger, unpeeled (3 inch)
  • 1 large onion, halved and unpeeled
  • 1/3 cup nuoc nam (fish sauce)
  • 8 whole star anise
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 3 inches cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 bay leaves

For the garnish:

  • 1 lb rice noodles (1/4 inch)
  • 2 bunches scallions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup basil, whole fresh plants
  • 1 1/2 cups mung bean sprouts
  • 3 large limes, cut into wedges and red chile paste or sliced fresh hot chili peppers (optional)
  • 3/4 lb filet mignon, trimmed of fat and sliced very thin


Put the oxtails into a large stockpot and add enough water to cover the bones by 4 inches (about 1 1/2 gallons). This will reduce to about 3 quarts when you are done.

Bring to a full boil and then lower the heat to a rapid simmer. Skim the foam that rises to the surface.
Meanwhile put the ginger and onion halves on a baking sheet and char them under the broiler until lightly blackened, 10 to 15 minutes.

Turn them over halfway through cooking. When cool enough to handle, rinse the onion and ginger under running water, using a knife to scrape away some of the charred surface.

Cut the ginger into 3 pieces and toss it and the onion halves into the simmering broth, along with 1 tablespoon salt and the fish sauce.

Put the star anise, cloves, and cinnamon stick in a small skillet and toast them on top of a stove burner over medium heat.

Turn the spices a couple of times until they’re slightly darkened (3 to 4 minutes) and until you smell their aroma.

Put the toasted spices and fennel seeds in a small square of double thick cheesecloth and tie the bundle with a long piece of kitchen twine.

Add the spice bundle and the bay leaves to the broth, tying the end of the twine to the pot handle for easy retrieval.
Let the broth simmer slowly, uncovered, skimming occasionally.

After 4 hours, remove the spice bundle, onion, bay leaves and ginger from the pot and discard. Remove the oxtails from the pot and set aside. Let the broth continue to simmer. When the meat is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones. Set the meat aside and return the bones to the broth.

Continue simmering, uncovered, until the broth is rich and flavorful, about 1 hour. At this point you should cool the broth in the refrigerator overnight and then defat.

Heat the broth and taste to determine if you need to add more salt or fish sauce as needed. Meanwhile, soak the rice noodles in cold water for at least 20 minutes.

Arrange the sliced scallions, cilantro, parsley, basil, bean sprouts, lime wedges, and chiles on a platter in separate piles.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the drained rice noodles. Give the noodles a quick stir and cook until tender but firm, about 1 minute.

Rice noodles can quickly become gummy, so don’t let them overcook. Drain the noodles.

Warm 4 large bowls by rinsing them with hot water and divide the noodles among the bowls.
Just before serving, return the broth to a full boil.

Arrange the slices of raw filet and pieces of cooked oxtail meat over the noodles in each bowl.
Carefully ladle the boiling broth over all; the raw beef should be submerged in the broth.
Serve immediately, along with the platters of garnish. See glossary for recipe ingredients you’re not familiar with.

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