Beef Pho (Pho Bo)

beef pho with toppings

Whenever I watch No Reservations, I get a craving for Pho. Which is funny, because until I made this, I’ve never really considered myself to be a pho fan. When we used to live in DC, there were a number of great Vietnamese restaurants that we would go to pretty often. Shawn would get pho and I would get some sort of noodle dish. The other night I thought if Anthony Bourdain loves pho so much, maybe I’m missing something. It had been a few years since I tried it, and I knew Shawn would be happy if I made it, so I did. And it was awesome.

It might seem silly to made soup in the summer, but then again it migth seem silly to make souffle in 90-degree heat, so chalk thus one up to me “doing something crazy” theme this week if you want. Anyway, I’ve heard that eating hot foods when its hot out actually cools you off. I don’t know how much I believe that, but it did make a good summer meal and it was light enoug that it didn’t make me really full. I hate feeling full when its hot out, so that was good.

pho toppings

I made the stock in the crockpot so that it could cook all day and get nice and flavorful without having to stand over a hot stove. Since the only other thing in the pho that is cooked are the noodles, this makes the final dish very fast and easy to prepare. It’s also fun, because everyone at the table can prepare their own bowl with whatever toppings they want. Don’t be nervous about the raw beef – the broth is hot enough and the beef is thin enough that the meat will cook quickly in the bowl. Just let is sit for a minute or two before you eat it.

bowl of pho

Pho Bo

  • 3 lbs beef bones (I used about 4 neck bones and 2 marrow bones)
  • 2 onions, cut in half (leave skins on)
  • 3-inch piece of ginger, cut in half lengthwise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 Tbs coriander seeds
  • 1 Tbs fennel seeds
  • 4 star anise pods
  • 1 Tbs cardamom
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 Tbs fish sauce

For serving:

  • rice noodles, prepared according to package directions
  • 1 lb chuck steak, sliced into paper thin slices*
  • cilantro
  • basil
  • lime wedges
  • bean sprouts
  • sliced jalapenos
  • sriracha

To make the stock:

Put the bones in a large pot and fill with water. Bring to a rolling boil. Boil bones for 15 minutes. Drain and rinse bones.

Meanwhile, broil onions and ginger for 5 minutes or until it begins to char. Toast spices in a frying pan on the stove.

Add bones, onion, ginger, and spices to your crockpot. Fill with water, and cook on low for 8 hours. Strain, discarding the solids and reserving the broth. Return the broth to a boil.

To serve:

Place noodles into the bottom of each bowl. Ladle hot broth on top, then throw in the sliced beef. Let each diner add their choice of the remaining toppings directly to their bowl.

Serves: a lot.

*I shaved the steak by carefully slicing thin pieces off the top, holding the knife parallel to the cutting board. This resulted in small, very thin pieces of meat that cooked quickly when added to a bowl full of hot broth.

**If you make the broth a day ahead and refrigerate it, you can skim off the excess fat. I ate it as is the first night and skimmed the excess, there was a decent amount of fat but not a ton.


3 days left to enter my lunchtime giveaway!

i am submitting this recipe to Souper Sundays


  1. I’m reading A Cook’s Tour right now and I have the same reaction to Bourdain’s description of Pho – he makes it sound like the best meal ever! I’ve never had it, but maybe now I’ll give it a try with this recipe.

  2. I haven’t had a good Pho in ages, and have never made it at home! We always eat soup in the summer and we live in the Southwest!

  3. This looks great.

    Anthony Bourdain is hilarious!

  4. Lauren, that looks IDENTICAL to what I order by my job. I will pay all shipping costs for homemade Pho sent to me.
    please and thank you in advance.
    will mail tostones and arroz mojo in return…:-*

  5. It’s bee forever since I’ve had Pho. There’s this Vietnamese place that just opened up my my house and every time I pass by I crave some pho. I’ve never tried making it at home, but I think I should.

  6. Mmmm. This is great, thanks kindly for sharing. I have been on a pho binge for some time now and have yet to actually create some myself. I think this article of yours is inspiration enough!

    Nice work, I’ll let you know when I get around to crafting up some of my own. And, excellent choice with the beef, my favorite as of late (although I did start off liking the chicken version before but the beef combo is so much better!! ;) ).

  7. I’ve always wanted to make this! It looks great! If I go without soup for too long I crave – hot or not.

  8. Anthony Bourdain is awesome! I love his show.

  9. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

  10. wow you can cook looks yummy

  11. Love this idea – is this kind of like shabu shabu?

  12. Natasha - 5 Star Foodie says:

    Vietnamese cuisine is one I’m not familiar at all with, having never eaten in a Vietnamese restaurant, and I’ve never had Pho. Your beef pho sounds delicious and I am now really looking forward to trying it.

  13. It’s all in the stock. If you get that right it’s hard to beat pho. Your recipe for stock looks terrific. I freeze extra broth in 2 cup portions so I can have pho on whim. Your photos are terrific.

  14. Anthony does love pho and we love No Reservations. We posted a similar Crock Pot recipe for pho on our blog this week – it’s a very convenient way to make the broth.

  15. Albany Jane says:

    Oh man, all of Bourdain’s books are so great to read – I went through them like water!

    I like pho, but I just keep buying the instant soup bases and doctoring them up – I love all of those side bits and pieces to add to it too – it kind of makes it so that no one really has the same soup!

  16. This looks great!

  17. looks mighty tasty! A must make! my first visit here and m loving every bit of it! keep up the great work!
    cheers and have great weekend!!

  18. I love a good bowl of pho any time and this looks delicious! Thanks for sending it anlong to Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays!

  19. To all the commenters who have never had pho, let me just say that it has healing powers on hungover Sunday morning. Definitely a competitive alternative to the hair-of-the-dog bloody mary at brunch.

    One note – basil is listed as a topping ingredient; to clarify, it should be Thai basil.

  20. i’m lazy and ‘from scratch’ is too much work for me… so i just buy the noodles and use BaoLong Vien gia vi pho bullion – in just a few minutes i’m enjoying my soup! btw, i don’t like to use cilantro – much prefer basil or mint – and i build my sriracha and hoisin in a ‘Tao’ pattern on a saucer for dredging my simmered beef slices – heaven in less than 10 minutes!

Leave a Comment