Quick Beef Pho

Every culture has one – a dish that makes you feel so good inside, it can’t possibly be wrong. A dish that tastes like it should be good for you, that it should be able to beat anything that ails you into submission. Folk food, family food, street food.

Pho, (pronounced “fur” or “fuh” for the uninitiated) is one such dish. It started life as a labourer’s breakfast and is now a lunchtime favourite.

It sounds simple enough – flat rice noodles, thinly sliced raw beef, a few herbs and spring onions, and then an aromatic boiling broth is poured over the lot to cook the meat.

In action at Pho 10 in Hanoi

Good pho has hidden depths of flavour, enhanced by the chilli, lemon, basil and whatever you add to it. It’s the noodle soup of the Gods, and just by eating it, you’re treating your body as a temple.

Pho at Pho 10 in Hanoi

Whenever I feel as though I need a little self-care, as if the sniffle could possibly be threatening to turn into a head cold, as if I’ve been spending too much time doing tasks that I don’t find in the least rewarding and my brain is tired and my soul empty – that’s when I go for this soup.

The problem is, the really good pho – the pho that you get at really good pho places – involves making stock from beef bones and simmering it for 4 hours or more. Of course, you get the benefit of the bone broth, but it’s not exactly a quick fix for a craving. The other thing is, a real pho, as fabulous as it is, does have a reasonable amount of fat in it – which isn’t a great thing when you’re trying to be a little less heavy than you currently are.

To this end, I’ve come up with my cheatie pho – the one that you go to after a long day when you don’t have time to think but you want to be healthy and feel warm and cosy on the inside. And there’s nothing to be guilty about here.


Yes, it’s quite a list but the aromatics tend to be ones we usually have on hand and the whole thing goes together quite quickly. As with all my recipes, this is a combo of a few ideas and the quantities are, shall we say, inexact. Taste the stock as you go and adjust to your own taste. This quantity feeds the 3 of us with leftover stock for lunch the next day. We find 225-250g steak is ample for the three of us for dinner.

If you want you can do this with chicken as well – just substitute good chicken stock for the beef and a couple of thinly sliced chicken breasts that you poach in the soup before serving.

For the stock

  • 2 litres beef stock
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • a good size knob of ginger – I use a piece about the length of my thumb – sliced but don’t worry about peeling it
  • 4 cloves garlic – smash with the back of a knife but don’t worry about peeling it
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 3 pieces star anise
  • 5 cardamon pods, bruised
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp five-spice powder
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (you can add more later if it needs the salt)
  • a few whole cloves
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves (or some peeled lime rind)
  • If you have one, a stalk of lemongrass (bruised)
  • Optional: 1 tbsp grated palm sugar (or caster sugar)

For the soup

  • Noodles – you can use 200g rice vermicelli or fresh rice noodles – it’s up to you.
  • 250g beef fillet, sliced as finely as it’s possible to slice
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 long red chilli, de-seeded and sliced

To serve

  • 2 small chillies, sliced
  • fresh basil
  • lime cheeks
  • Hoisin sauce

Making the stock:

  • Fry the onion, garlic and ginger in a couple of tablespoons of oil (I usually use rice bran) in a large saucepan. You want them to soften and colour just a little.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil. Once the stock is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 mins. Check for seasoning and add more fish sauce or some grated palm sugar to taste if you need it. We tend not to use the sugar. Squeeze in some lime or lemon juice if required.

Putting the soup together:

  • Place your noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Vermicelli normally needs about 10mins soaking.
  • Slice your beef as finely as possible. It will cook in your broth so needs to be as thin as it’s possible for beef to be. A good trick is to put it in the freezer for an hour or two – it’s much easier to slice when you take it out.
  • Strain your stock and return it to the pan, bringing it back to the boil.
  • Divide the noodles between the bowls, top with the onions, then the beef and pour over the hot soup. If the beef is thin enough, the stock should be enough to cook it to medium-rare.
  • Garnish with the spring onions and chillis.
  • Serve with the basil, sliced hot chillis and lime on the side. Traditionally you’d also serve with bean sprouts but I’m not a fan. We also like to stir in some hoisin sauce and even sriracha.

I’m participating in a soupy blog hop hosted by Happy Ever After. Thank you to anyone visiting from Penny’s Passion. To continue your hop, duck on over to Lisa’s blog.

Author: Jo

Author, baker, sunrise chaser

21 thoughts

  1. Hi Jo I’ve heard you mention this soup before but haven’t tried it myself. I have to say it looks delicious. I don’t make Asian dishes often because of the various ingredients that is required. I might make an exception for this though.

  2. “Cinnamon quill” – loving that.

    I’ve been making some Korean dishes lately so have been “collecting” new ingredients (I have the 5-spice powder). It’s been fun trying, not just new recipes, but recipes from other cultures. I’ll definitely give this pho a try!


    1. I love trying other cuisines. We experiment a lot with south east Asian cuisines and are fortunate in Australia that all the ingredients are readily available.

  3. Several of my friends have talked about wonderful bowls of pho but I’ve never eaten it before. Your bowl does look delicious and even though there are a lot of ingredients in the broth, it doesn’t appear to take to long to cook.

    1. There is a huge ingredients list, but it’s still a good midweek fave in our house. Nothing beats what you get in Vietnam, but hey, we can’t go there everytime we crave it. Thanks for dropping by.

  4. I love pho and it’s always been a dream of mine to try to recreate it at home. Thanks for this recipe!


    1. It’s such an easy one Deb & you do get the layers of flavour even if you don’t get the body of the real thing.

  5. Oh, my goodness. I’d say this is far better than our traditional chicken noodle soup for the sniffles. I love it just from reading your post and the delicious variety of ingredients. Especially the spices. The spices are what had me so hopeful for the Cincinnati chili I made and then poured down the drain…hearing my mother’s voice in my ears about the starving children in the world while doing it.
    Thank you for sharing something unique and spiritually filling as well as satisfying physical hunger!!

  6. OMG, this looks so good! I love Asian food, but some of the ingredients are a little daunting to me. I would love to try this. I also would love to see a video of it being prepared first!

  7. Oooh! Now to find the lemongrass. Our grocery chains don’t stock it regularly… Sigh.

  8. As with many Asian soup noodles, the stock is the key for The Master Noodle Makers; I am imagining a stock pot which never stops boiling!

    But you are absolutely right – not very practical for home-cooks who need a quick fix on a sniffly, cold day – or even in Singapore, where I crave a hot soup noodle just because (I do like my hot drinks, hot soup & hot noodles!)

    1. I’m the person who keeps master stock in the freezer ( a white stock and a dark), but midweek meals need something quick – and as you say, when you’re craving it, who wants to wait?

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