Vietnamese Beef Pho

 Have you ever seen star anise?  It’s the prettiest and most intriguing spice, and I wanted to use it in something.  This was another exciting culinary challenge in the kitchen courtesy of Cooks Illustrated and calls for star anise.  The first time I made this I thought you pronounced it “Foe”, but have since learned the correct pronunciation is “Fu”.  I brought some over to my good friend Annie’s family and she shot me a text back saying I was the “Pho King Master” which when pronounced appropriately sounds a little off color, but I think she meant it to be a compliment.



  • 1 lb 85% lean ground beef
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 12 C low-sodium beef broth
  • 1/4 C fish sauce
  • 6 star anise pods
  • 6 whole cloves
  • Salt
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 lb boneless strip steak, trimmed and halved (once I found a prepackaged very thinly sliced beef at the grocery store and that worked wonderfully and saved me a step)
  • 14-16 oz (1/8 inch wide) rice noodles
  • 1/3 C chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 scallions, sliced thin
  • Bean sprouts
  • Sprigs fresh basil
  • Lime wedges
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sriracha sauce


  1. Break ground beed into rough 1-inch chances and drop in Dutch oven.  Add water to cover by 1 inch.  Bring mixture to boil over high heat.  Boil for 2 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Drain ground beef in colander and rinse well under running water.  Wash out pot and return ground beef to pot.
  2. Place 6 onion quarters in pot with ground beef.  Slice remaining 2 onion quarters as thin as possible and set aside for garnish.  Add broth, 2 c water, fish sauce, ginger, cinnamon, sugar, star anise, cloves, 2 tsp salt, and peppercorns to pot and bring to boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes.
  3. While broth simmers, place steak on large plate and freeze until very firm, 35 to 45 minutes.  Once firm, cut against grain into 1/8 inch thing slices (or as thin as possible).  Return steak to plate and refrigerate until needed.
  4. Pour broth through colander set in large bowl.  Discard solids.  Strain broth through fine-mesh strainer lined with triple thickness cheesecloth (I suppose you could omit this step, but then you may have some little floaties in your broth); add water as needed to equal 11 cups.  Return broth to pot and season with extra sugar and salt (broth should taste over seasoned).  Cover and keep warm over low heat.
  5. Place noodles in large container and cover with hot tap water.  Soak until noodles are pliable, 10-15 minutes; drain noodles.  Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to boil in a large pot.  Add drained noodles and cook until almost tender, 30-60 seconds.  Drain immediately and divide noodles among individual bowls.
  6. Bring broth to rolling boil over high heat.  Divide steak among individual bowls, shingling slices on top of noodles.  Pile reserved onion slices on top of steak slices and sprinkle with cilantro and scallions.  Ladle hot broth into each bowl.  Serve immediately, passing bean sprouts, basil springs, lime wedges, hoisin, Sriracha, and extra fish sauce separately.

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