Vietnamese pho

Photographer: Emma
Serves 4

In the middle of last year I was fortunate enough to be able to take three months off work to go and explore the world.  My journey took me to the banks of the Yangtze River, to the fast-living streets of Hong Kong, to a sleepy town in the Arctic Circle where the Aurora Borealis danced above our heads in the midnight sky.  I spent autumnal afternoons foraging for golden chantarelles in the Swedish countryside, I rubbed shoulders with celebrities whilst dining at The River Café in London and I joined the cue that forms nightly outside of Pho 14 (a Vietnamese restaurant in Paris) as customers eagerly anticipate the bowls of steaming pho flavoured with anise, fresh Vietnamese herbs and wedges of lemon.

I made this pho for the first time last week and the aroma of the spice-scented stock as it boiled away on my stove immediately took me back to Paris, to Pho 14, to our table strewn with herbs, to the sound of Parisians conversing in their sing-song French.

Thank you to Morgan who shared this recipe with me after a trip to Vietnam.  There is something special about sharing and passing on recipes.  I imagine this recipe has been passed down from generation to generation and for me to now have it to cook from and share with other people makes the experience all the more meaningful.


1kg beef marrow bones and brisket (Available from the butcher. 1kg cost me $2.50!).
3.5 litres of water
1/2 piece of star anise
2 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
2 cloves
¼ tsp peppercorns
1 tbsp fish sauce
50 gm ginger piece, skin on, grilled
1 onion, peeled and grilled
½ tsp salt, or to taste
2 cups mung beans
500 gm flat thin rice noodles
20 slices of beef fillet, cut thinly
1 tbsp peanuts, pounded firmly
1 bunch coriander
1 bunch spring onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1/2 cup anise basil leaves, or Vietnamese mint
2 limes, quartered


1. Bring 1 litre of water to the boil. Blanch marrow bones and brisket for 5 minutes, remove and discard water.
2. Bring remaining 2.5 litres of water to the boil, add star anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, fish sauce, grilled onion and ginger, bones and brisket and simmer for 2 hours. Remove any scum intermittently. Remove the bones and strain well through a fine muslin cloth and return stock to the heat.
3. In a small basket (or sieve) heat bean sprouts in hot water for 30 seconds.
4. Place mung beans, herbs, spring onion and limes on a large plate along with a wee bowl of fish sauce.
5. Cook rice noodles, strain well (saving the water) and place in 4 bowls.
6. Heat beef fillet slices for 3-5 seconds in the reserved water and place 5 slices in each bowl, ladle over hot broth.
7. Serve the bowls of soup and then allow people to add their own accompaniments.

NB I found that the stock was far tastier the day after I made it so I recommend making and then leaving it in the fridge overnight to use the following day.