Updated 12-10-13. There’s nothing like enjoying a bowl of pho at your favorite pho shop with your pho companions. But there are times, for various reasons, you’d like to make pho yourself at home. Most authentic pho recipes like Andrea Nguyen‘s or Didier Corlou‘s call for cooking the bone and meat in broth for up to 2.5 to 3 hours. Adding other preparation time, including the time to bring water to boil, and you’re looking at maybe 4-5 hours total cook time. So for those who want to take a shortcut and shave off a few hours, try the Quoc Viet Foods Beef Flavored “Pho” Soup Base option.
Quoc Viet Foods makes shelf storable soup bases, seasonings, coffee and tea. When it comes to authenticity, it’s always a challenge to find ready-made food products, including Vietnamese pho. Yet Quoc Viet seems to achieve the impossible for pho, that is to “convert the traditional Vietnamese products into a convenient form” while maintaining the flavor expected of such product. This means for those who never made pho or tasted pho, they can now get very close to the real thing, easily.
You can read more about my other post on Quoc Viet Foods. But enough about the company. Let’s get to the goodness of their Beef Flavored “Pho” Soup Base.
The package comes in a compact round plastic container. The wraparound label clearly describes the content and includes an ingredient list, nutrition information and cooking directions in English, Viet and Chinese. While the nutrition info states that there are 32 servings per container, the cooking directions indicate it makes 20 bowls. Confusing, but still very nice! At a price of US$ 6.99 per container, I’m paying US$ 0.35 for the broth in each of my pho bowls, excluding a few other ingredients of course.
Inside the container are the powdered soup base with marrow, and 2 bags of spices. The soup base is the key part of the pho broth and is essentially your “instant” bone/bone marrow solution that you didn’t have to cook for 2-3 hours. It also packs plenty of beef fats which you can skim off at serving time if you wish. The spice bags are your normal star anise, cinnamon, and various other spices. What’s awesome about the soup base/spice bag combination is they give you all you need for the broth, including all seasonings that you need-I added some fish sauce but it’s really not required. The only other 2 things you’ll need are the ginger and onion which should be charred or grilled before use in the broth.
The direction is very easy to follow. You’ll have to buy your preferred meat to cook, but this whole process entirely does away with having to buy the bone/oxtail and cooking them to get to the marrow, and to purchase the spices separately. For my broth I bought 2.8 pounds of beef flank, a piece of ginger and a medium size onion. The required ingredients list and cooking directions can be viewed from the photos below, but here’s a recap:
- 3-4 lbs, beef flank or brisket,
- 1 lb, beef tendon*,
- 1 bulb, onion,
- 2 pieces, ginger.
- Blanch meats for 15 minutes. Discard solution and rinse meats.
- (Step not in package direction): Char or grill the onion and ginger pieces. I cut my onion in half, but it’s your choice to do so or not.
- Put meats, onion, ginger, in a large pot and add enough water to cover meats. Boil at medium flame for 1 hour.
- After 1 hours, add spice bags and content of soup base. Do not tear spice filter bags.
- After 15 minutes, remover filter bags. Boil at medium flame until meats are softened.
- Remove meats, onion and ginger pieces.
- Adjust water to 2 gallons or to taste.
- Bring to boil and serve.
* The meats and tendon are optional, or you can also substitute/add tripe, meatballs, etc. depending on your preference, just as you would order in a restaurant. See my “Tips on Ordering Pho Your Way.”
For me I ended up with so much broth that I had to divide into 3 smaller containers, put 2 in the freezer and enjoy the third portion over a few days. Again the key was the soup base which is all inclusive. There are no seasonings required as the soup base is super concentrated, and you can add water to adjust to taste. My total cooking time was about 3 hours, but that’s just me because making and eating pho is a religion for me so I took my time. For others who just want to get quickly to a nice steaming bowl of pho with chopsticks and spoon in hands, you can probably do it in 1.5 hours or less. An alternative is to use a smaller portion of beef (hence cutting down cooking time further) and/or use pre-cooked meatballs instead. By the way, for those unfamiliar with meatballs, you don’t cook them in the broth for the whole duration. Just heat them in the broth just before serving.
Finally I rate my pho broth creation using Quoc Viet Foods’ Beef Flavored Pho Soup Base as follows:
- Quality and taste: 8/10.
- Convenience: 10/10.
- Affordability: 10/10.
- Total value (quality & affordability): 9/10.
You can find this and other Quoc Viet products in many Viet and Chinese food markets in the 50 U.S. states, Denmark, Canada and Japan. Quoc Viet’s website indicates their products include
- Chicken Flavored “Pho” Soup Base
- Beef Flavored “Pho” Soup Base
- Beef Stew Seasoning
- “Hue” Style Beef Flavored Soup Base
- Chicken Flavored Soup Base
- Pork Flavored “Hu Tieu” Soup Base
- Pork Flavored Soup Base
- Tamarind Soup Base
- Vegetarian Soup Base
- Crab Flavored Soup Base
- Thai Tom Yum Soup Base
Unfortunately Quoc Viet is a wholesaler and does not sell directly to consumers over the Internet. The company is also very active at local demos, festivals, and charity fund drives, so if you’re lucky you can catch them in action serving pho to hungry pho fans at these events.