cheat’s vietnamese beef pho

Pronounced “ferr” not “fo”, I think you can tell a lot about a person by the way they order a bowl of this delicious Vietnamese beef noodle soup.

In Sydney for work a couple of years ago I was busting to get to Miss Chu’s – the ‘Queen of rice paper rolls’ for a bowl of this steaming hot soup. This, the same soup I’d fallen in love with whilst backpacking around Vietnam with a friend of mine, Ali (who I met when living and working on Hayman Island). But that’s a story for another day.


So there I was standing in line behind this nice looking guy. Facial hair immaculately sculpted, very nicely dressed in skinny leg jeans and leather loafers, listening to his headphones and scrolling through his phone; he looked very much a part of the inner city Darlinghurst landscape. Me – a country bumpkin living in Wagga Wagga, I’m sure I stood out like a sore thumb; probably giving myself away whilst glancing up at the aeroplanes flying high overhead or jumping out of my skin as one of those stretchy buses (buses that certainly haven’t found a place in NSW’s biggest regional inland city as yet) screeched round a sharp corner.

When it came to his turn – he casually looked up and confidently asked for a bowl of “ferr”. Oh how cultured of him, pronouncing the Vietnamese dish properly, unlike so many who say “fo”. Almost like how some people say “Mo-wey” while others call it “Mo-wett”, which just happens to be the correct pronunciation for the French champagne apparently. (Ask Mum, who is just recently back from a champagne appreciation trip round France).

It’s kind of awkward either way isn’t it? You say “fo” and “Mo-wey” and fit in with the crowd, but may be corrected by those among us who like to know better; or you go for “ferr” and “Mo-wett” and look like a bit of a try hard. It’s a tough one.

But back to Miss Chu’s where I’m currently shaking in my boots as I wait anxiously; still undecided as I reached the front of the queue. Was I going to fit in with the cool cats in Darlinghurst and brag about my cultural experience throughout South East Asia (if you can call it that) and go for “ferr” or was I to stand out like the country dweller that I was and order a bowl of “fo” instead?



I may or may not of chickened out and ordered some rice paper rolls instead.

The recipe below is my cheat’s way of making this comforting, delicious and therapeutic soup. I know the pho enthusiasts would gawk at the fact that I’m using store bought beef stock and not even going to the trouble of using fresh cinnamon and star anise either.

I’ll tell you what though – the flavour is bang on, it takes absolutely next to no time to make and tastes just as good (or nearly as good) as when I had it for the first time in Vietnam all those years ago.

“Fo” or “Ferr”, “Ferr” or “Fo”.

Who cares. It’s delicious either way.

cheats pho (serves 2)

1 x litre of beef stock
1 x tablespoon of fish sauce
1 x tablespoon of white sugar
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1/2 a Spanish onion
2 x garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the back of a knife
1 x piece of fresh ginger (the size of a 20 cent coin), peeled and cut in to 2 pieces
A good sprinkling of Chinese five spice
1/2 a long red chilli
220 grams of very good quality beef eye fillet steak, removed of any fat and very finely sliced*
200 grams of rice stick noodles
Fresh mint, to serve
Fresh shallots, finely chopped, to serve
Fresh coriander, to serve
Bean sprouts, to serve
Sriracha, to serve (chilli sauce)

  • Pour the stock in to a saucepan and add the fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, onion, garlic, ginger, Chinese five spice and chilli. Pop the lid on and bring to the boil. Once the broth has reached boiling point, back the heat off to a low simmer and let it cook for 15 minutes (or longer if you have time**). Strain the broth and discard the aromatics.
  • Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles according to packet instructions, straining them once cooked and placing them in the bottom of large serving bowls.
  • Place the beef on top of the noodles and using a soup ladle, pour the very hot liquid over the top (the heat of the broth will ‘cook’ the meat).
  • Pile up loads of fresh mint, shallots, coriander and bean sprouts and serve with the chilli sauce.

Lo’s tips

  • *It is extremely important that you take your time slicing the beef. You want it to be as thin as possible – paper thin if your knife skills will extend themselves. The beef essentially ‘cooks’ in the hot liquid so you want to use a really fresh and good quality cut of meat for this recipe. Eye fillet is expensive I know, but you’ll only need a very small amount per person.
  • **The longer you leave the broth cooking over a low heat, the better, as the flavours will have a better chance to develop.
  • You can buy Maxwell & Williams Asian soup spoons from Kitchen Antics in Wagga for just $2 each.
  • Every home should have some ‘choppies’ too. Grab some next time you’re at the shops.












If you make this beef pho, please leave your comments below. xx

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