Vietnamese beef pho – Pho Bo

I finally cook my favorite version of phở, also known as Vietnamese beef noodle soup.  Mom used to cook with beef balls, beef tripe, oxtail, beef bones with marrow, tendons, and chicken wings, but not anymore so now I’m cooking my own pho instead. Meat-lover me gotta have my variety of beef and the chicken wings to satisfy everyone’s belly in the house.

Notes: I cook my pot of pho in a 12-quart pot.   Servings depend on what size noodle bowls you are using. I have four different bowl sizes from baby bowl, kids bowl, mama bowl, and daddy’s mega bowl size.  I made 8 mega bowls of pho with this pot. I also used a 2 quart pot and a 6-quart Crockpot.
Total prepping and cooking time if you multitask: 4 to 5 hours


2 strips of beef tendons (1 pound)
3 pound beef bones
3 pound oxtail
8 chicken wings (optional)
2 pound beef tripe
1.5 pound beef eye of round
2 bags of beef tendon balls (GMC brand)
2 bags of “Banh Pho Tuoi” (pho noodle sold at any Vietnamese market in fridge)
4-inch piece of ginger
1 – 2 large yellow onion bulb
1 bag of raw pho spices
2 bags of Pho Hoa’s grinded pho seasoning spices
2+ tBsp kosher salt
4+ Tbsp sugar
3+7+2+1 liter of water (add during different times in cooking process)
Each bowl of pho is served with the following:
ngo gai (culanto / sawtooth herb)
sliced red or white onion
Thai basil leaves
lime wedge
Huy Phong’s Siracha sauce
hoisin sauce
fish sauce to add more saltiness if needed
chili pepper or jalapeno pepper (omitted)
Notes:  I documented the exact order I did while cooking this pot of pho.
If your eye of round beef is thawed or not frozen, put it in the freezer now to harden it for slicing later.
1. Rinse and place beef tendons in Crockpot and fill water to cover it completely (about 2 inches above level) and cook on High for 4.5 hours (5 hours for a super soft texture for my little foodie).  You can do this in advance and store it in the freezer or fridge. Optional: I added 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
2.  Rinse the beef bones and oxtail because that’s what my mom always do.
3.  Put the bones in a 10-quart pot and fill it up with 3 liter of water. Bring the pot to a boil and cook on high for 10 to 15 minutes.
4.  Meanwhile waiting for the pot to boil, peel, cut, and smash the ginger. Peel the outer skin off the onion. Do not cut the hairy end. Grill or sear the onion on your stove or toaster. Mom used to make me grill it on the stove and I hate standing there with my hand holding chopsticks rolling the onion around over the heat.
5.  After the pot of bones been boiling for about 10-15 minutes, empty the murky water and bones into a colander.  (Mom does this to make the broth clear.)
6.  Fill the pot up with SEVEN liter of water. Add in the bag of raw spices and one Pho Hoa’s grinded spice, grilled onion, and ginger.  (I switch out with the Pho Hoa’s spice bag after two hours of cooking.)
Note:  If you have this mesh thing to put the seasoning bags in, that would be great. If you choose to use the grind spices only, each bag is for four quarts of water.  If you want to use the raw (ungrinded) spices, two bags would be enough. Make sure not to puncture the bags. It’ll make the broth kinda black or very dark and we don’t eat the spices. Mom sometimes use just the grinded pho spices or the raw spices. I can not decide so I used both.
7.  Add 4 Tablespoons of sugar and 2 Tbsp of salt into the pot to start off with.
8.  Bring the pot to a boil and cook on medium high for 90 minutes. Discard any scum.
9.  During this time, cook the tripe in a 2-quart pot.  Boil it for 20 minutes. Strain in colander. Optional: Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the pot.  When the tripe is cooled, slice it thinly.  At this time, cut the thawed meatballs in halves. (The meatballs are already cooked.) Store the tripe and meatballs in separate bags and keep in the fridge until ready to use.  Slice the eye of round beef very thin. Mom would say, “thin like paper”.
10.  After the first 90 minutes, I added 2 more liter of water. This is the time I switched out the Pho Hoa’s grinded spice bag since the bag will tear up or leak if it’s in the pot for too long. Cook on medium heat (light constant boil) for another 90 minutes.
11.  During this second 90 minutes, prep the pho noodles.  I used this brand because mom and all the elderly moms I know use this.  They said it’s the “best” pho noodles to use.  Anyway, soak the pho noodles in HOT water (from the sink) for five minutes.   Then strain it in a colander.  (It will be fully cooked when you pour the hot boiling pho broth in. If you blanch this in boiling water and then later with the hot broth, it would be overcooked. Mushy overcooked noodles can ruin a good bowl of noodle soup.)
12.  After prepping the pho noodles, wash the Thai basil, sawtooth herb, and beansprouts.  Slice an onion into super thin pieces. Cut the sawtooth (ngo gai) into fine pieces.  Remember to continue discarding any scum from the pho broth. I also added in 1 liter of water, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of sugar.
13.  Okay after three hours of cooking this pot of pho, I got a 2-quart pot out and transfer some of the broth over.  Then I put the chicken wings in both pots to cook it.  (If I have a bigger pot, I would just put all the chicken wings into the one pot).  Bring the broth to a boil, and turn to medium low heat for an hour. Remember to continue discarding any scum.
14.  Take the Pho Hoa’s grinded seasoning pouches out being careful not to puncture it. Discard the yellow liquidy fat floating at the top. Consuming that makes my husband’s and my belly ache.  It’s just too fatty. The big yellow onion bulb should be soft by now. Discard the onion. It takes up too much space and will fall apart in the pot or you can eat it I guess.

15.  Prep the meat and veggies.
Okay, if you love the beef tendons like me, I had to wait another hour for the beef tendons to be cooked in the Crockpot.  That takes a long time to soften up.
Ready to build your bowl of pho?!
Layer it with noodles, herbs and veggies, and meat.  Add boiling broth with oxtail and chicken wings.  Squeeze in the spiracha, hoisin sauce, and a lime wedge.  Mix everything up well.  Enjoy!

Oh don’t forget a side dish of hoisin sauce mixed with siracha to dip the meatballs and meat in.
Oh yummy in our tummies!
I hope someday my little chef can cook me a pot of pho.  I tried to be detailed as possible so she has no excuse to say, “but I don’t know how”.
Behind the scene:
I like capturing a nice photo of my completed work with white background. But someone discovered mommy’s hidden stash of fabrics and wanted to take control. Food photography will never be the same again for this mommy.

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