25 February 2018

De la vraie pho soupe

I've lost track of how many days I've been suffering with this lousy cold and cough. Too many. I'm taking everybody's advice and continuing to eat as much hot soup as I can.

The title of this post is a play on words using a cute French expression I hear often. Somebody describing the material covering the seats in your car or the armchairs in your study might say it's « du vrai faux cuir » — "genuine imitation leather" we might say in America. "Real fake leather."

Pho is a Vietnamese soup that's usually made with beef broth. The broth is flavored with onions and spices, and the soup is served with thinly sliced beef, rice noodles, bean sprouts, and fresh herbs including coriander, basil, mint, etc. Here's a list of ingredients from a recipe I found on the web:

2 large onions
1 "hand" of ginger
4 liters of beef bouillon
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of fish sauce (nuoc mâm)
3 star anise "seed pods"
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of coriander seeds
3 cardamom pods
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
2 cloves

The idea is to boil or simmer the broth, whether freshly made, frozen, or store-bought, with all those spices and aromatics for an hour or two (or longer) until it's highly flavored. Optionally, you could put a couple of dried cayenne or other peppers in the pot to "hot up" the broth a little bit. Also, you can cut the onions in half and grill or broil them until they are slightly charred to add that smoky, caramel flavor to the pho.

To serve the pho, first have the hot broth boiling and ready to go. Scoop out all the spices using a slotted spoon or a strainer. Then, separately, cook some Asian rice or other noodles (wheat, soybean, buckwheat) in water according to the directions on the package. Slice some tender, fresh, lean raw beef into very thin strips. Put a serving of hot noodles in a pre-heated bowl and lay some strips of beef over them. Immediately ladle enough steaming hot pho broth over the noodles and beef to cover.

The beef will cook slightly, as you can see in the photos above, and stay nice and tender. Top the soup with some bean sprouts and fresh herbs. Stir and eat, adding fresh-squeezed lime juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, more fish sauce, and, optionally, some thinly sliced fresh red chili peppers.

As with most "classic" dishes, there are probably as many recipes for pho as there are cooks who make it. Here's one that looks good. There's a recipe for a quick chicken pho on Simply Recipes.


  1. It works ! I make my "spaghetti" soup with chicken broth and tons of freshly grated ginger and whatever else I feel like. But the hot broth with ginger works wonders ! I hope you feel better today .

  2. Just what I need to try for our colds here. I think there is a Vietnamese restaurant near us now. It may be just what the doctor ordered. Did you ever eat at the Vietnamese restaurant near Boul Mich in Paris? I loved that place.

    1. I remember Vietnamese restaurants on the rue Monsieur le Prince, not far off the Boul'Miche, back in the 1970s. I love eating there.

  3. Also eat spicy Mexican food - spicy is also good for colds.

  4. Replies
    1. It was good and we have half the broth left for another meal of pho soup in a day or two.

  5. Looks good Ken. Surprisingly I've never had pho, even though we have a place down the street that serves it. Sounds kind of like hot and sour soup. Hope you're feeling better.

    1. I remember good pho restaurants in the Bay Area. Try it... you'll like it.


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