What's the first dish that comes to mind when you think of Vietnamese food? It's likely Pho, the national dish of Vietnam, and which is sold everywhere there from nice restaurants to street corners. The bowl of noodles, protein and toppings is definitely slurp-worthy and the ultimate comfort food, especially on a cold winter day. Pho is spelled phở in Vietamese and is pronounced “fuh” which rhymes with “duh.”
What is Pho?
Pho is slow-simmered broth, typically prepared with beef bones, and served with rice noodles, protein (such as beef, chicken or plant-based protein) and toppings. The beef bones are simmered with spices like star anise, clove and cinnamon, which layer on the savory notes of the beef. It's typically simmered for at least 12 hours, and sometimes entire days.
Ingredients in Pho
Protein: The protein in pho is often beef, such as chuck roast, brisket or flank steak or a combination, but sometimes includes chicken, pork, seafood or tofu.
Noodles: The flat rice noodles are called banh pho and can typically be found in Asian markets.
Broth: The broth is, by far, the hardest part of making a bowl of Pho and it takes quite some time to build the flavor through the bones and spices. The broth should be slightly salty and slightly sweet at the same time, usually achieved by adding fish sauce and sugar (rock sugar is traditional). The broth is based in spices such as star anise, cloves, cinnamon and sometimes others like whole cardamom pods and fennel seed.
Add ins: A bowl of Pho can be topped with a variety of add ins:
- Bean sprouts
- Thai basil
Depending on the region, the amount of add ins can vary greatly. In southern Vietnam, Pho is served with lots of herbs and garnishes that are piled right into the broth while northerners use fewer garnishes to preserve the purity of the broth.
The Instant Pot
Vietnamese cooks pride themselves on how long their broth for Pho simmers, but the Instant Pot can cut that time from hours to just minutes. This recipe cooks in the pressure cooker for just 30 minutes (not counting the time the machine takes to come to pressure and release the pressure), and it was surprisingly as good as I've had in many restaurants. This version is quick to make, yet maintains the bold flavor and authenticity of a soup simmered for much longer.
Give it a try, and give your dog one of the soup bones like I did. He'll love you even more!
Boz enjoying one of the soup bones
If you are craving a piping hot bowl of Pho, I suggest breaking out the Instant Pot. It will become your go-to alternative to Pho take out!
Instant Pot Pho
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
For the broth:3 pounds beef knuckle, marrow or other soup bones
For the bowls:
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
- Thinly sliced jalapeno pepper (can also use Fresno, Thai or serrano chile)
- Large handful of fresh mung bean sprouts
- Mint sprigs or Thai basil
- Lime wedges
1. Cut the apple into chunks. Halve the large onion and cut into chunks. Cut ginger into chunks. Smash each piece of lemongrass with the side of a knife.
2. Put the star anise, cinnamon and cloves in an 8-quart pressure cooker. Using the sauté function, toast for several minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant.
3. Add the onion, apple, lemongrass and ginger. Stir and cook for a minute or two. A little browning is okay.
4. Add the bones, beef, salt and 8 cups water.
5. Lock the lid. Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. After cooking, let the Instant Pot naturally release, which will take about 20 minutes. When that is done, remove the lid.
6. Transfer meat to a bowl, cover with water and soak for 10 minutes. This cools it and keeps it from drying out. Scrape any bits of tendon or meat from the bones and add to the bowl of water.6. Strain the broth through a fine strainer and return to the Instant Pot. Discard the remaining bones and aromatics. (At this point, the broth and beef can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
9. Slice the remaining beef very thinly across the grain and add to the broth with the sliced onion. The broth should be hot enough to cook the beef through as it sits in the broth. If not, turn on the Sauté function for a few minutes until the beef is cooked.
10. Add the noodles to the broth. The broth will be hot enough to soften the noodles.
11. Arrange the add-ins on a plate.
12. Serve bowls of noodles, onion and beef. Top with add-ins such as sliced pepper, cilantro, bean sprouts and scallions.
If you want a true Vietnamese experience, serve these Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi with your Pho. To learn how to make another traditional Vietnamese dish, don't miss our Vegetarian Boot Camp on Saturday, April 29 at 10am at Lincoln Square. You'll learn how to make Vietnamese Shaking Tofu with Rice Noodles, Red Cabbage, Lime and Peanuts.
These other upcoming soup-focused classes will help you be prepared with an arsenal of hearty soups to get you through the cold weather:
- Virtual Minestrone Soup Friday, January 13 6pm CST
- Hands-On Ramen Workshop Wednesday, January 18 6pm
- Virtual Cook Along: Asian Dumplings (featuring Shrimp Wonton Dumplings in Soup) Sunday, January 22 11am CST
- Virtual Chicken Tortilla Soup Friday, February 3 6pm CST
- Virtual Cook Along: Pozole Rojo and Corn Tortilla Workshop Sunday, February 26 11am CST