Pho Bò (Beef Noodle Soup)

Charles Phan

The Slanted Door, San Francisco

"It's one of my favorite soups, so calming and soothing. It's very simple and pure." — James Beard Award winner Charles Phan


Beef Stock:

  • 1 large yellow onion, left whole and unpeeled
  • One 3-inch piece ginger
  • 2 pounds beef neck bones
  • 2 pounds beef shank bones
  • 2 pounds oxtails, cut in 2- to 3-inch pieces
  • 2 pounds beef marrow bones
  • 1 ounce light brown palm sugar (or 2 tablespoons light brown sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • One 3-inch piece Chinese cinnamon 
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 whole clove
  • 1 black cardamom pod (optional)
  • 1 whole star anise pod


  • 1 pound beef brisket
  • 3 quarts beef stock 
  • Fish sauce to taste
  • One 16-ounce package dried thin flat rice noodles, cooked according to package directions
  • 12 ounces beef top round, thinly sliced and left raw
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced 


  • Jalapeños, stemmed and thinly sliced into rings 
  • Limes, cut into wedges
  • Mung bean sprouts
  • Thai basil sprigs
  • Sriracha 
  • Hoisin sauce


Make the beef stock: preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the onion and ginger on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until the onion is soft and beginning to ooze, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let the onion and ginger cool until they can be handled. Peel the onion and cut it in half. Slice the unpeeled ginger into ¼-inch-thick coins.

While the onion and ginger are roasting, blanch the bones: to ensure the pot is large enough to blanch the bones without boiling over, put the bones in the pot and add water to cover by 1 inch. Then remove the bones and bring the water to a boil. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the neck bones, shank bones, and oxtails. Return the water to a boil for 3 minutes. Drain the contents of the pot into a colander and rinse under cold running water. Rinse the pot and return the rinsed neck bones, shank bones, and oxtails to the pot. Add the marrow bones.

Add the onion halves, ginger slices, sugar, salt, and 8 quarts fresh water to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off any scum that forms on the surface. Lower the heat so the liquid is at a gentle simmer and simmer for 4 hours, skimming as needed to remove any scum that forms on the surface. Add the cinnamon, pepper, clove, cardamom, and star anise and continue cooking, skimming occasionally, for 1 hour longer. 

Remove the pot from the heat. Using a spider or a slotted spoon, discard the large solids. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large container. Let sit for a few minutes (or refrigerate overnight), then skim most of the fat from the surface (leave some, as it gives the stock a better flavor and mouthfeel). (Note: the stock can be used immediately. It also stores well—just make sure to cool it completely, then transfer it to airtight containers and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.)

Cook the brisket: place the brisket in a large pot and add the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat then lower the heat until the liquid is at a vigorous simmer. Cook the brisket for 30 to 45 minutes, until cooked through. To check for doneness, remove the brisket from the pot and poke with the tip of a chopstick; if the juices run clear, it’s cooked.

Just before the brisket is ready, prepare a large ice water bath. When the brisket is cooked, remove it from the pot (reserving the cooking liquid) and immediately submerge it in the ice water bath to stop the cooking and give the meat a firmer texture. Let the brisket completely cool. Remove the meat from the water, pat dry, and slice thinly against the grain. Set aside.

Return the stock to a boil over heat. Taste for seasoning and add fish sauce if needed.

Arrange the garnishes: place the jalapeños, lime wedges, bean sprouts, and basil on a platter and place on the table. Place the Sriracha and hoisin sauces in small bowls alongside.

To serve, divide the cooked rice noodles evenly among 6 warmed soup bowls. Top with brisket slices and then with the raw beef slices, dividing them evenly. Ladle the hot stock over the top, dividing it evenly, and top with the scallions. Serve immediately accompanied with the platter of garnishes.


6 servings