How to make incredible pho at home

How to make incredible pho at home

by Thuy Pham, The Little Viet Kitchen 22 June 2017

Thuy Pham shares her essential tips for making restaurant-quality pho at home, and lists the must-have ingredients for anyone looking to recreate the flavours of Vietnam.

Born in Vietnam, Thuy and her family moved to London when she was eight, and now runs The Little Viet Kitchen in Islington, London.

Born in Vietnam, Thuy and her family moved to London when she was eight, where she retained an intense passion for the food of Vietnam. After a stint running a hugely successful supper club with her husband serving Vietnamese tasting menus from their home on weekends, the couple took the plunge and opened The Little Viet Kitchen in Islington, London, to rave reviews.

When it comes to Vietnamese food, pho is the dish that truly represents the heart and soul of Vietnam. Our national dish, traditionally eaten as breakfast, is now eaten worldwide at anytime of the day or night. It is a humble dish, but the delicate balance of spices and flavours help to make a noodle soup that home cooks and professional chefs alike can be proud of.

As my mum would always tell me, it’s all about the broth. From the first step of choosing the bones, even the smallest detail can make the biggest difference to the final result of this beautiful dish. Read on to discover the secrets to a perfect beef pho, and take a look at my other recipes.

Essential tips for making pho

  • Beef bones – Look for those containing the most marrow like knuckles and leg; avoid neck.

  • Organic produce – Optional, but always try to use if you can. The tastes and textures are more intense and deep and the fat is richer in flavour.

  • Clear broth – Parboiling and cleaning the bones removes dirt and impurities. This helps the broth to remain clear throughout the cooking process. Don’t worry, you aren’t pouring away flavour; it’s the simmering at low heat over a long time that will extract the real flavours from inside the bones.

  • Low heat – Long hours on low heat is absolutely key to a clear and flavoursome broth. Don’t move the ingredients around or ever stir the broth. Let the heat dissolve your seasonings.

  • Char the onion and ginger – This adds an incredible smoky flavour to the broth. No shortcuts for this step!

  • Roast the spices – This will extract the flavours and help create that aromatic, fragrant taste.

  • Add sugar – Yellow rock sugar smoothens the rough edges of the broth by lightly sweetening it. Granulated sugar won’t have the same effect, as its sweetness is a little harsh and sharp.

  • Simmering – This will create the intense flavour, extracting all the goodness from the bones and balancing it with the perfect amount of aroma and spices. Don’t ruin the broth and waste your efforts by rushing things. Plan your time well and leave plenty to make sure your pho is perfect!

  • Fixing the broth – This is the only time where adding extra water to dilute the broth should happen. If you’ve added too much salt, you will need to balance it out with more water.

  • Serve the broth boiling – It should be hot enough to cook the raw meat placed on just before serving and heat up the cooked meat. Then you must always eat quickly before the noodles are soggy!

  • Don’t forget the herbs – Adding freshness with plenty of fresh herbs complements the broth perfectly.

Thuy’s essential Vietnamese ingredients

Fish sauce

Soy sauce

Sesame oil

Oyster sauce

Shrimp paste

Rock sugar

Coriander seeds



Star anise

Chilli oil


Hoisin sauce


Crispy shallots

Crispy garlic

Corn flour

Rice flour

Tapioca flour

Rice vermicelli noodles

Rice flat pho noodles

Glass noodles

Fungus mushroom