Pho The Win!


One of the main themes of this blog is food, and making absolutely fantastic food on a minimal budget.  

I love making the kind of food most people would never consider making at home, and doing it for far less.  What I’ve found over the years, is that no compromises are needed to save money AND eat ridiculously well!

In the past, I’ve posted about various food topics like Sushi, Slow-Cooker Tacos, Salsa, Crab, and even Popcorn.  

Today we’re going to make one of my favorite “restaurant foods” that’s extremely popular here in the Pacific Northwest:  A Vietnamese noodle soup called Pho (pronounced ‘fuh’).

 

Pho-get About It!

Unless you’re Vietnamese, you’ve probably never tried making Pho at home.  If you’ve never tried Pho before…well, then you’re in for a treat!

But most people just head to the nearest noodle shop instead of making it themselves.  Why?

Laziness?  Maybe.

When most people think about Pho, then think of that gigantic stock pot simmering for hours in the kitchen of a favorite Vietnamese restaurant.

It never seems to cross people’s mind that you can make Pho at home for half the cost of what restaurants charge.  

Most people take one look at that gigantic stock pot and think “There’s no way I can make that.  Pho-get about it!”  Then they regularly pony-up the $8 – $10 for a steaming hot bowl of Vietnamese Pho.

But I’ve got good news:  You can make it at home for half the cost (about $4 per serving), and it only takes one hour.  

Does it end up tasting as good as “authentic” Pho?  I think it tastes better than anything at a restaurant — Primarily because I can alter the mix of spices, saltiness, and sweetness to fit my personal taste.  How could this possibly be true?  Well, read on skeptical internet reader!

Today we’re going to make some fantastic Pho, and save ourselves some money!  I will reveal my secrets, and inundate you with delectable photos…

 

Mr. Tako’s Chicken and Shrimp Pho

So this recipe originally started out as a personal challenge for myself.  

Mrs. Tako loves Pho, but we hardly ever eat-out.  I didn’t want her to feel deprived, so I challenged myself to make Pho at home that rivaled our local Vietnamese noodle shops.

I think I succeeded.  We make this recipe once or twice a month now!  Pho-real!

In most cases, the flavor of Pho starts with the soup.  Pho is based on beef or chicken broth, and then spices are added to give the soup its wonderful flavor.  The soup is subsequently paired with matching beef or chicken as a topping.

If you recall from my previous posts, we avoid eating beef at home.  This recipe uses chicken broth as a base, but you can easily substitute beef broth and beef toppings if you like.

 

The Soup

The soup starts with the chicken broth.  If you make your own broth, fantastic!  Then use that! We’ll need 8 cups:

  • 8 cups of chicken broth (low sodium)

Easy Pho Secret #1:  For those of us that don’t want to spend hours in the kitchen making broth, premade broth is more than adequate.  You don’t have to spend hours making broth to get a great flavor!

Bring the 8 cups of broth to a gentle boil.

Chicken broth

While the broth is heating up, I get out the spice grinder for the following spices:

  • 1 Tablespoon of coriander seed
  • 1/4 Teaspoon of black peppercorns (pre-ground is fine if you don’t have peppercorns)
  • 2 whole cloves

Pre-ground spices

To grind the dry spices, I use a cheapo coffee grinder like this one.  It’s dedicated for spices at our house.  You could always use a mortar and pestle, if you like doing things the hard way.

Ground spices

Why use fresh ground spices?  They’re far more flavorful and aromatic than pre-ground spices.  There’s only a couples spices for this recipe that I don’t grind myself:  

  • 1 Teaspoon of ground cinnamon (feel free to grind your own if you have it).
  • 1 Tablespoon of sugar.

Once prepared, add all the dry spices to the broth.

Cinnamon

Next, its time for the wet ingredients.  Add the following ‘wet’ ingredients to the soup:

  • 1 Tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1 Tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons of Hoisin Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons of minced ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon of minced garlic

  hoisin bottle  hoisin
fish sauce  fish sauce

Some people like a spicier soup.  If that’s the way you roll, add your favorite chili-garlic sauce to taste:

chili sauce
Add a little, or a lot!  Season however you like!

Most of these ingredients are available at a standard grocery store.  If they don’t stock it, then I suggest hitting up your local asian grocery store.  Amazon is another good option if you don’t have a local asian market.

By now, that soup should be starting to smell pretty fantastic.  Turn down the heat to a simmer.

Time to prep the toppings!

 

The Toppings

The protein toppings for this Pho recipe are chicken and shrimp.  For the chicken, I toss two chicken breasts on the grill and then thinly slice it with my 8″ Shun Chef knife.  (It’s the best knife ever!)

grilling chicken   thin sliced chicken

The shrimp will be cooked later.  For now, peel the shrimp and set aside.

peeled shrimp

Easy Pho Secret #2: One of the secrets to fantastic Pho soup is the super fresh flavors of the herb toppings.  Use fresh herbs!

We finely slice cilantro, onions, green onions, and jalapeno pepper.  Toppings like bean sprouts and Thai basil need no preparation.  Just wash and add them to the Pho.

I like to setup the toppings buffet-style, so everyone can add them to their own preference.

Pho toppings

 

The Noodles

If the broth is the heart of Vietnamese Pho noodle soup, then the noodles are the road that takes it to your mouth!

Now some people might fuss about having exactly the right rice noodles, or having fresh-made rice noodles…

This leads me to Easy Pho Secret #3:  I don’t have access to fresh rice noodles, so I just used dried rice noodles.  They work fine.  I use very thin dried rice noodles found at my local asian grocery store.

Rice noodles
Dried rice noodles like this will cost less than $2 and can serve about 8 people.  We use half the package for a meal.

For this recipe, I use half the package of rice noodles.  This will serve about 4 adults.

I hydrate and cook the noodles all in one go.  Place the noodles into a bath of water and then microwave for about 8-10 minutes.

Noodle Spa

After microwaving, check for correct doneness….aka eat a few.  

If not fully cooked, just microwave a little longer.  They should look a lot like this:

Cooked noodles

When done, rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Rinse noodles

 

Making The Magic Happen

OK at this point, we’ve prepped the toppings, made the soup, and cooked the noodles.  What’s left to be done?

Well, first the shrimp need to be put in their broth ‘spa’ to cook.  

Add the shrimp to the broth and turn off the heat.  The residual heat will cook them in just a couple minutes.

Shrimp spa
Add the shrimp we set aside earlier to the broth ‘spa’. They only need a couple minutes to cook.

Once cooked, remove the shrimp and start plating.  When ready, pour on the broth with a ladle.  Mmmm….

Plating  Plating pho

The end result should be some delicious Pho (that only took about 1 hour to make), and costs half as much as what you might pay at a noodle restaurant.  Oh, and don’t forget to feed the kids….they love it too!

Homemade pho  Kids love Pho

 

Inspired To Try?

I really dislike that Pho is sometimes considered “restaurant-only” food.  It really isn’t that hard to make, and you can make it far cheaper than what a restaurant charges.

As long as you aren’t spending hours making broth, it doesn’t take long to make either!  Most of the herbs and spices are cheap, and fairly common!

I hope this post inspires you to give making Pho at home a try.  You might be surprised by the results!

 

28 thoughts on “Pho The Win!

  • September 16, 2016 at 5:35 PM
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    That looks amazing, we also like to make noodle soup – will have to try your broth! I feel the same way about making delicious food at home. It’s fun and you can have better food without restaurant prices.

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  • September 16, 2016 at 7:32 PM
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    Looks pretty awesome. We’ve made similar Pho before with home-made chicken broth. It’s totally awesome on a cooler day.

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  • September 17, 2016 at 6:06 AM
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    Thanks for this post. I have been wanting to try cooking pho for a while now. Consider this post bookmarked!

    Reply
  • September 17, 2016 at 11:34 AM
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    Definitely going to give this a try! We made your slow-cooker taco recipe this summer and it was awesome! We stay away from restaurant food because of the sodium – but this looks as though we can control it pretty well! Thanks for sharing and reminding everyone it doesn’t take that much work and it is likely healthier and cheaper! Great pics too!

    Reply
    • September 17, 2016 at 3:18 PM
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      Definitely can control the sodium here. The main ‘salty’ ingredients here are going to be the broth, the soy sauce, and the fish sauce. For a low-sodium version you could probably cut the soy sauce and fish sauce amounts in half — it would probably still taste great!

      Reply
  • September 19, 2016 at 6:52 AM
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    Very pretty looking, and must be tasty too! You got me seriously hungry, going get something too eat now 😉

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  • September 19, 2016 at 1:31 PM
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    I always like pho soup and only enjoyed it at a Vietnamese pho restaurant. After gaining confidence (after trying your chicken tacos, which turned out well), I am gonna give this a try.

    Reply
  • September 19, 2016 at 5:45 PM
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    Oh god this post made me very hungry all of a sudden.. I love that you detailed it down for even the novice of all cookers. I’m the novicest of them all when it comes to cooking.

    Reply
  • September 19, 2016 at 6:40 PM
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    FYI, Phở is pronounce similarly to “fuh” than to “for.” I appreciate the pun even if it is a little cringy. However, I like reading your blog. You inspire me!

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    • September 19, 2016 at 8:01 PM
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      Yes, I’m aware of the correct pronunciation (I even referenced it in the post)…but cringe-worthy puns must be made!

      Reply
  • September 20, 2016 at 9:09 AM
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    I’m a Vegan so will try with vegetable broth. The rest of my family is not. I may make two batches. This looks really good.

    cd :O)

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    • September 21, 2016 at 8:02 AM
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      Good luck! I have no idea how a vegi broth might work with this recipe!

      Reply
  • September 22, 2016 at 5:45 AM
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    always reminds me of talking heads

    pho pho pho pho pho pho pho pho pho
    better run run run run run run away
    oh oh oh ai ai ai ai ai ai ai

    is the song really about soup?

    Reply
  • September 22, 2016 at 12:49 PM
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    One thing I love about the PNW is the phonny(pun intended) pho business names.

    We make Pho at home, we are vegetarian so we make it will veggie broth(homemade so essentially free and in the crock pot) and tofu.

    So delicious!

    Reply
  • September 23, 2016 at 12:57 PM
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    Looks delicious. Reminds me of the time I lived in Little Vietnam in Chicago, near Uptown. Terrific food, even better times. Now that I’m a parent in South Florida….soup is hard to find (yes Pho as well). I’m not too much of a cook but I’ll try!

    Reply
  • September 25, 2016 at 8:16 AM
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    Pho the win. PHO. I see what you did there!

    We have a great place here in Houston called Pho – 95. Every dish is… 4.95.

    Reply
    • September 25, 2016 at 5:34 PM
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      Wow, that’s a great deal. Pho runs about $8 for a small bowl here. Probably more competition in Houston.

      Reply
  • October 7, 2016 at 6:21 PM
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    Sending this recipe to my girlfriend. We both love pho and trying it sounds like a great way to enjoy Winter coming.

    Reply
  • November 6, 2016 at 11:08 AM
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    I made this last night for dinner. We enjoyed it, but I don’t think it really tastes like pho. I plan on making it again, as it was very good on a rainy evening.

    Reply
    • November 6, 2016 at 1:31 PM
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      Everybody’s Pho tastes a bit different. You might be used to a beef-based Pho, which is the most common. I prefer a chicken broth. Adjust to your preferences!

      Reply
  • November 13, 2016 at 1:07 AM
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    Was skeptical at first. Pho has a reputation to be so tricky. I tried it today. Your recipe is better than the one at the restaurant. Love it. You are a great culinary influence in my house. Two days ago my SO and I had the chicken cooked in the slow cooker. Awesome recipes.

    Love the financial stuff, but keep the delicious recipes coming. How did you figure out this recipe for Pho.

    Reply
    • November 13, 2016 at 1:43 AM
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      For the Pho recipe, I started by researching internet recipes until I find one that “looked right” and matched the rough flavor profile I remember from a restaurant.

      After that, it’s just experimentation and refinement.

      My family had to suffer through half a dozen different pho batches until I dialed-in the recipe. “Too peppery”, “Too weak”, “Too salty”, “Not enough cinnamon”, “not sweet enough” and “Too much cinnamon” were some of feedback variants received. Eventually I got it right.

      Now, I literally pull up my own website when I make this at home!

      I have a new recipe “in-progress” right now…it should be “production” ready in a few weeks.

      Reply
  • January 31, 2017 at 7:48 AM
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    My wife and I were introduced to Pho in San Diego and ended up loving a particular pho restaurant so much we ate there once a week. We ended up leaving California for the desert Southwest, where there are no pho restaurants. We will try this recipe and see if we can make it as good as the restaurant. Thanks for the recipe and the inspiration!

    Reply
    • October 4, 2017 at 11:59 PM
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      It really is pretty easy to make, and only takes a couple times before you have it mastered. Enjoy!

      Reply

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