Luu Family Beef Pho Recipe

Luu Family Beef Pho Recipe

March 30, 2022

This is the Luu family’s treasured beef pho recipe. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese soup, whose star is a thin, clear beef broth.  Nothing soothes the soul better than a piping hot bowl of pho served with thin slices of onion, cilantro, and bean sprouts.  This recipe is labor intensive, and can take up to five hours, but it is well worth the wait and effort!

Broth/Soup Ingredients

  • 3-5 lbs of beef – your mix!  You can use any kind of beef to make the broth.  The Luu family prefers a mix of chuck, round bottom, and oxtail.  You can also use brisket and leg/knuckle bones with bone marrow.  Pick a mix of beef, knowing that you will slice beef pieces into thin slices eventually to go with the soup.
  • Pho spice bag mixture – equal parts (roughly a teaspoon each) of coriander seeds, whole cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, fennel.  These ingredients need to be put into a mesh bag or tea bag for eventual removal from the broth.
  • One whole white/brown onion or 2-3 shallots
  • One whole ginger root
  • Roughly one tablespoon of sugar
  • Roughly one tablespoon of salt
  • Roughly one tablespoon of fish sauce
  • Rice stick noodles.  These can be purchased at any Vietnamese or Asian market.  The Luu family recommends buying the fresh kind if possible, but the dry variety works as well. 


Ingredients List for Garnishes (no formal measurements; these are to taste) 

  • Cilantro
  • Green onion
  • Vietnamese/Thai basil
  • Sliced lime/lemon
  • Bean sprouts
  • Jalapenos
  • Ground black pepper
  • Sriracha hot sauce
  • Hoisin Sauce
  • Fish Sauce

Broth Instructions 

  1. Use a big pot!  Clean all meat under cold water and put in pot.  The rule is to use enough meat to fill about HALF the pot you will use.  In the event your beef pieces are large, cut these pieces into halves or thirds before adding to the pot. 
  2.  Peel outer part of one white or brown onion and put it in pot.
  3.  Cut each ginger root into 3/4 pieces and put in pot.
  4.  Fill pot with cold water almost to brim (leave one inch) and bring to boil.
  5.  Skim out scum as starts to boil and after boiling.  Don’t worry about wasting water during this process as the broth is not yet sweetened from meat, etc.
  6.  Once boiling continue to skim out scum and add more cold water.  Do this two or three times to get a nice clear broth. 
  7.  Once the broth is clear, add your pho spice bag and turn the burner to low/medium low and simmer for 3-5 hours or more.  You should be about 45 minutes or one hour into the process.  Take out spice bags after 1 hour or until broth is fragrant but not overpowering.  Add salt to taste at this point and balance with sugar.  You want a salty, fragrant slightly sweet broth.
  8.  Take Beef chuck and bottom out of pot after 1.5 to 2 hours or until just tender.  Do not overcook.   Let sit and cool.  Slice into thin slices to add to pho bowl when ready to serve.  Oxtail can be left in the whole time, and just served with the pho to create a soup bowl.  Note that brisket takes longer to cook than other meats. 

Cilantro and Onion Garnish Instructions (to be served on the side with the soup bowl; can be prepared the day before) -

  1. Chop cilantro and put in bowl.
  2. Slice all green onion into slivers and put into a bowl.
  3. Thinly slice white onion into semicircles and put into bowl.
  4. Mix all above ingredients together.

Pho Bowl Preparation 

  1. Boil a pot of water to boil pho noodles.
  2. Boil the noodles right when you want to serve for 15-20 seconds using mesh strainer over a pot of boiling water.  The rule is to add enough dried pho noodles to fill the bowl you will serve in.  Once boiled this will be the right amount of noodle.
  3. Add boiled noodle to serving bowl.
  4. Add cilantro/onion garnish.
  5. Add dash of ground black pepper.
  6. Add meat slices/pieces.
  7. Add dash of fish sauce.

 Along with the bowl of pho, please serve a plate of basil, sliced lime, bean sprouts, sliced jalapenos, along with a bottle or servings of Sriracha hot sauce and hoisin.

Some Luu Family Tips:

  • Charring onion and ginger adds flavor. Put the ginger and onion halves on a greased baking sheet and place the sheet under the broiler, about 3 inches below the flame. Char the ginger and onion until they're lightly blackened, about 10 to 15 minutes. Turn them over halfway through cooking. When they're cool enough to handle, rinse the onion and ginger under cold running water, using a knife to scrape away some of the charred surface. Cut the ginger into 3 pieces and add it and the onion halves to the simmering broth.
  • Use a very fine mesh strainer designed just for scum.
  • When cooking the broth, feel free to add more water if the broth is salty, and/or adjust seasonings to your taste by adding more sugar or salt.
  • You can slice premium cuts of beef and add to bowl right before you add the broth. It helps to put the meat in freezer for 15 minutes before you slice.