Faux Pho Bo

When it’s late at night, freezing rain, and you’re hungry for Pho, it’s time to raid the pantry and whip together Faux Pho Bo. This version of the now-ubiquitous Vietnamese soup is as easy as boiling water, uses standard Asian pantry supplies and is surprisingly similar to what you’ll find in your favourite Chinatown Pho-joint. Start to finish, you can be slurping soup in your jammies in about 15 minutes.

4 cups Beef Broth (preferably low sodium)
1 tsp oil
1 small onion – chopped
2 garlic clove – minced
2 whole star anise *
2 cloves *
1/2″ cinnamon stick *
1/4 tsp pepper (white or black)
1″ fresh ginger – peeled & sliced

1/2 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
dried rice vermicelli
1/2 lb sirloin or other beef **

1/2 cup bean sprouts
Thai basil and/or mint
2 prik ki nu (Thai chiles) – stemmed, seeded and minced
2 scallions or green onions – chopped
lime wedges
hoisin sauce
hot sauce

Toast whole dried spices until fragrant (about 1 minute).
Sautee onion and garlic.
Add the broth, toasted spices, ginger, nam pla, and sugar.
Bring to a boil and then simmer until fragrant and to your taste. (Like tea, the longer you leave the spices in the broth, the more intensely they will flavour your pho.*** I like to leave them in about 10-15 minutes.)
After broth is to your taste, strain and reheat to boiling.

Meanwhile, cook the rice vermicelli in boiling water for 2-3 minutes until tender.
Drain, rinse and add to serving bowls.

Working against the grain, thinly slice the beef. (I find it easiest to do this if the meat has been partially or completely frozen and then use a mandolin to get razor thin slices which will cook quickly.)

For rare: add beef to bowl.
For medium: add beef to broth immediately before removing from heat.
For well done: add beef to broth as it is being brought to the boil.

Pour broth over the noodles into the bowls and serve.

Garnish to taste with bean sprouts, cilantro, basil, mint, chiles, scallions, lime juice, hoisin and hot sauce.

* if you don’t have whole spices, you can substitute 1/2 tsp of ground anise, a pinch of ground cloves, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon.
** other meats can be used including precooked meatballs, tendon and fatty beef.
*** if you find the broth too intensely flavoured for your taste, adjust with stock or water before bringing the broth back to a boil.


6 Responses to “Faux Pho Bo”

  1. Posted on January 16th, 2007

    Looking at the ingredients, I’ll guess it’s based on the Pho Hoang soup (Main & 20th). Since moving out of the Main St. area, I’ve been hard pressed to find good pho – definitely gonna try this recipe. Thanks for posting it!

  2. Posted on January 16th, 2007

    Trev, unfortunately I haven’t been to Pho Hoang (though it’s now on my list for my next visit) but I am a big fan of the restaurants that create fragrant Pho. If the smell eminating from the restaurant vents makes you hungry, that’s my kind of restaurant. Hope you enjoy it.

  3. Posted on January 17th, 2007

    There are many great Pho places in Vancouver, but one of our faves is Thai Son Restaurant at 373 East Broadway (across from Kingsgate Mall).

  4. Posted on January 17th, 2007

    Oh, and I almost forgot Au Petite Cafe on Main Street just north of E. 33rd.

  5. Posted on January 19th, 2007

    Thanks Ben. You know I’m going to hit you up for more Vancouver cheap eats recommendations when I hit town.

  6. Posted on July 28th, 2012

    Interestingly, I made a similar recipe last week and was surprised at how authentic it tasted. Always wondered what those mystery spices were. It doesn’t hurt that my neighbour is growing Thai basil. Handy! Thanks Alexa. I look forward to seeing more recipes.

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