Beef Pho

I recently found myself on the other side of healthcare as the patient. I was hospitalized for nearly a week and underwent surgery. After, I was discharged home with lifting and work restrictions. Like a lot of people, this is a pretty big hindrance. There are a lot of things to get done during the day and not being able to do much manages to make me feel useless and anxious quickly. Therefore, I've been trying to clean, cook or take care of things when I'm really not physically ready. Because I was pushing too hard, I fell weak again, and needed to bring my diet back to clear liquids. At this point, I had eaten enough jello and broth to last me for months, so I asked Chad if we could try something else. Something with more flavor but still light.

What do you think of when you imagine flavorful broth? Pho, of course.

So I pulled a few different recipes and came up with this one. However, due to my "issues," Chad would not let me make it myself. "Sit down," he said. "I'll make this one and you can talk me through it." I immediately struggled with this idea. He can cook, but I have control issues in the kitchen.  Not to mention, the baby was running amok. I began to protest, but he dragged a chair into the kitchen and insisted, "Sit." 

And then he made the pho. And it was the best pho I've ever eaten from our kitchen and in the top three I've had, ever. Maybe it was because I couldn't stomach anymore canned broth. Maybe it was because when someone else makes you something, it always tastes better than if you'd made it yourself (e.g. peanut butter and jelly, anyone?). Maybe it's because he's a better cook than he lets on. But it was absolutely delicious and full of umami. Best part? We did NOT boil it all day. It only took about an hour and we managed to develop quite a bit of flavor.


  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 star anise pods
  • 1 tbsp mixed whole peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp whole coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves (or 4 whole cloves, but we did not have these so we used ground)
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1/2 white onion, minced
  • 1/3 cup dried shitake mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp rock sugar (we used brown rock crystal sugar as I had this on hand for tea and we did not have yellow rock sugar. You can buy yellow rock sugar at some Asian food stores or substitute 1/2-1 tbsp white granulated sugar as white sugar tends to be sweeter than the yellow or brown rock)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • About 4 quarts of water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Stew meat bone (bone marrow bones)
  • Beef (we had NY strip on hand so we made this work, but most use eye of round)
  • Rice noodles
  • For serving: cilantro, jalapenos, limes, Thai basil, Sriracha, chili paste, hoisin sauce, bean sprouts


  • Roast marrow bones at 450F for about 20 minutes and put in a stock pot. This is the best way, but if you're in a hurry like we were, use a stew bone with marrow and brown in the bottom of a large stock pot. 
  • While this is happening, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Toast cinnamon sticks, anise pods, whole peppercorns and coriander for a few minutes until fragrant. Tie these up in a cheesecloth or put in a teaball. You have the option of just throwing these into the stockpot whole, but using cheesecloth or a teaball will make it so you don't have to strain out the spices later.
  • Cover the bones in water. Add cloves, ginger, onion, dried mushrooms, spice ball, sugar and fish sauce into the pot. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil and then drop to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. You can simmer for longer if you have the time. As you do this, fat will rise to the surface of the broth (it will look almost like a seafoam). Skim this with a spoon occasionally and discard.
  • When you are happy with the flavor development, spoon hot broth into a bowl. Traditionally, different cuts of meat or rare eye of round are dropped in and cooked in the hot broth. We had NY strip on hand so we went a different route
    • We took some mixed peppercorns and folded them in a paper towel. We used the back of the skillet to smash these into a coarse grind. We then coated the steak in peppercorns to create a crust (note, these will come off somewhat in the soup, so be aware of this). We then seared these on high heat for 2 minutes on each side, just to create a crust. Chad sliced the steaks against grain after resting and served in the soup
  • Garnish as you please and serve hot!