Pho Bac

  • Serves

    serves 8


This heady Northern Vietnamese-style beef and rice-noodle version of pho derives much of its richness from beef bones; author Andrea Nguyen prefers the flavorful leg bones from grass-fed cattle. This recipe is based on Nguyen's, and appeared in our March 2011 issue along with Nguyen's story about the original pho, Heaven in a Bowl.


  • 4 large shallots, unpeeled
  • 1 (4″) piece ginger, unpeeled
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 5 star anise
  • 1 (3″) stick cinnamon
  • 1 pod black cardamom, crushed
  • 5 lb. beef leg bones, cut into 2″–3″ pieces
  • 1 12 lb. boneless beef chuck, trimmed and cut into 4″ x 2″ x 1 1/2″-thick pieces
  • 12 oz. dried scallops
  • 2 tbsp. kosher salt, plus more
  • 14 cup fish sauce
  • 8 scallions, green parts thinly sliced, white parts left whole
  • 1 12 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 serrano chiles, stemmed and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 lb. small, flat rice noodles
  • 8 oz. beef sirloin, cut across grain into 1/6″-thick slices
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes
  • 13 cup cilantro leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Step 1

Arrange a rack 4″ from broiler and heat. Put shallots and ginger on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and broil, turning often, until blackened, 15–20 minutes; let cool. Scrape peels off shallots and ginger; halve ginger lengthwise, press each piece with the side of a knife to flatten, and set aside with shallots. Heat fennel seeds, star anise, cinnamon, and cardamom in a small skillet over medium heat and toast, swirling pan, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer spices to a small bowl and set aside.

Step 2

Place bones in a 12-qt. pot and cover with cold water by 1″. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes; drain and rinse bones. Clean pot and return bones to pot along with reserved shallots and ginger, beef, and 6 qts. cold water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; add reserved toasted spices, scallops, and 2 tbsp. salt. Cook, skimming surface, until beef is tender, 1 1⁄2 hours.

Step 3

Using tongs, transfer beef to a bowl of ice water and cool for 10 minutes. Drain beef and thinly slice crosswise; transfer to a plate, cover, and refrigerate. Continue cooking broth for 1 1⁄2 hours more. Remove from heat and pour through a cheesecloth-lined fine strainer set over a clean 6-qt. pot; discard solids and skim fat from surface. Stir in fish sauce and scallion whites and keep hot. Combine vinegar and chiles in a small bowl and set aside.

Step 4

Pour boiling water over noodles in a medium bowl and let soak until al dente, about 10 minutes. Rinse noodles in cold water, drain, and divide between 8 serving bowls. Top each with chilled, cooked beef and raw sirloin; top beef with onions, then scallion greens and cilantro. Season with pepper, and then ladle broth over each serving, placing one white scallion piece in each bowl. Serve with chiles on the side.

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