If you’re a pho lover, you know it’s all about the broth. We’ve all probably been to pho restaurants that left us utterly speechless (in a good way) and other restaurants that left us wondering if someone just tossed some ingredients in store-bought broth. Everyone knows the really quality pho isn’t just a noodle soup with toppings in run-of-the-mill broth. When it comes to truly amazing pho, the broth is everything. It is the STAR of pho show, not a supporting side character.
I’m not gonna lie, this broth takes a long time to cook. But I promise, it’s totally worth it. There are a lot of shortcut recipes out there for pho broth, but there’s really no substitute for a homemade bone-based pho broth. Don’t settle for using store-bought broth to make pho. I beg you. Instead, spend a day making this divine broth at home. Maybe even double the recipe so that you can freeze some for the next round of at-home pho. Once you taste it, the payoff will be obvious.
5 lb. beef bones
2 onions, quartered
10-12 cloves of garlic, smashed
4 1-inch knobs of ginger, peeled
5 whole star anise
5 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cardamom pod
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
12 cups of water
⅓ c. fish sauce
2 Tbsp. sugar
Salt to taste
8 oz. thin rice noodles
½ lb. very thinly sliced sirloin
White onions, thinly sliced
Toppings to share:
Important: you will need to prepare the pho broth the day (or two) before you plan on serving it.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
To begin, you will need to boil the beef bones so that they are clean and will result in a clear, clean-tasting broth. In a large stockpot, cover the bones with water and bring to a boil. Allow them to simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and rinse bones thoroughly. Clean the stockpot.
Line a large baking pan with foil and place the bones, quartered onions, garlic, and ginger on top of the foil, allowing for space between the items. No oil is necessary for this step. Bake for 45 minutes.
Heat the stockpot over medium heat high and add the spices. Stir for 2 minutes, or until they are fragrant. Remove from the heat and set aside. When they are cool enough to touch, wrap them in a piece of cheesecloth, securing it with twine to make a spice sachet.
In the same stockpot, add the roasted bones and aromatics from the baking sheet. Make sure to include any leftover liquid and brown bits. Add 12 cups of water to the stockpot, along with the spice sachet, fish sauce, and sugar.
Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for up to 8 hours. Skim the surface of the broth as fat and/or foam rises to the top. Before serving, pour the broth through a mesh strainer into a clean glass bowl or pot. Taste and add salt to taste.
To assemble the pho, place the noodles, sliced onions, and sliced beef in large bowls. Pour the broth over the top (this cooks the beef). Garnish with your desired topping, e.g. Thai basil, beans sprouts, lime, etc. Enjoy hot!