Updated 03-14-18. 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 good 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. Other recipes call for even longer simmering. Adding other preparation time, including the time to bring water to boil, drain and reboil, and you're looking at maybe 4-5 hours total cook time at least. 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.
Looking for a solid beef pho recipe? Check out Lovingpho’s own Beef Pho Recipe infographic.
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. I should point out that the soup base itself is not loose powder as you may expect. Rather, because there is beef fat included (to give you the correct flavor), what you have is actually more like a grainy paste with a greasy consistency.
But don't let my description scares you. This is normal and it is the good stuff. 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. As already mentioned, it packs plenty of beef fats which you can skim off at serving time if you wish, but I wouldn't do that. It's the good stuff (I know, I already said this).
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 things you'll need are the ginger and onion which should be charred or grilled before use in the broth, and the meat.
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 above, but here's a recap which is better to follow:
- 3-4 lbs, beef flank or brisket, cut into 4-5 inch pieces for better cooking,
- 1 lb, beef tendon*,
- 1 bulb, onion,
- 2 pieces, ginger.
- Blanch meats for 15 minutes. Discard dirty water 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. You can char over open flame or broil in your oven. It’s okay to char (let burned or blackened) the outside a little bit.
- Put meat pieces in a large pot and add enough water to cover them. Bring to boil then simmer at medium flame for 1 hour. Add onion, ginger about half way through.
- After about 1 hour, add spice bags and content of soup base. Important: Do not tear spice filter bags.
- After 15 minutes, remove spice bags. Continue simmer at medium flame until meats are softened. Note: you can leave spice bags in longer for more pho flavor, and remove when you think ready.
- Remove meats, onion and ginger pieces.
- Adjust water to 2 gallons or to taste.
- Also add fish sauce per your preference. Remember: start with small amount and add more as needed.
- 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.”
NOTE: The above constitutes recipe for the broth only. To serve a complete pho meal, you’ll need to separately prepare other ingredients such as the banh pho noodle, chopped scallions and cilantro, etc.
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. The determining factor will be how tender you want the cooked meat to be.
Actually, the 3 hours that I spent to create the large volume of broth means that the next time I want to eat pho at home, I can have it as fast as I can prep the ingredients, cook the noodle, and re-thermalize (fancy word for reheat) the broth. Awesome!
To speed up cooking time even more, an alternative is to cut smaller pieces of beef (hence cutting down cooking time further) and/or use pre-cooked meatballs instead. The latter option means that you wouldn't be cooking any meat in the broth at all, as you depend totally on the soup base for the flavors. 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.
anh cuong – we LOVE your amazing PHO wisdom and knowledge!
we will in Australia and they don’t carry Quoc Viet here :((((
but we brought back some from trip to USA
I will use QV’s beef base tomorrow.
1) do you recommend adding fish sauce and rock sugar at the end?
2) I made QV’s chicken pho with coconut sugar. Would coconut sugar be okay substitute for rock sugar in the beef base?
3)what containers do you freeze leftover broth in? do you also freeze the meat, too?
4) 10 Quarts is enough for 4 people or 20? I was confused on that.
For us, 1 tub of base is enough for 10 servings
THANK YOU !!!
You didn’t say whether this is your first time ever making pho. Having some experience making it would definitely help. I don’t know of anyone achieving good pho making it the fist time. It is a process where you have to adjust to your own personal taste and preferences. With that said here are some answers to your questions:
1. By default, Quoc Viet soup base should already contain fish sauce and amounts of sugar they determine to be “typical” for pho. As you should always adjust to taste at the end of any cooking, I’d recommend trying without adding extra fish sauce and sugar, and adjust at the end.
2. I’m not familiar with coconut sugar. Some people say it tastes like brown sugar but I’m not sure if that’s accurate. If coconut sugar is acceptable to you in chicken pho, then I don’t see why you can’t use it in beef pho. For me, I’d make sure it does not add any “strange” aftertaste or flavor.
3. You should be able to use any container that’s freezer-safe. Most freezer-safe plastic containers do say so on the outside. You can also use freezer-safe zip-lock bags. Obviously you don’t want to use glass products. If you use metal products then it will deform as the liquid expands while it freezes. There are many other tricks and suggestions for freezing liquids in home use. I’ll just share one with you here: the flatter and smaller portions you freeze your liquid, the faster you can safely defrost it.
With respect to the meat, I assume you mean the cooked meat and not the uncooked one. But either way, yes you can freeze meat too.
4. For home cooked pho, the portion size depends on the size of the bowl you use. For a 10-quart yield, or 320 fl-oz., if you use 32 fl-oz of broth per bowl (this is huge bowl typically used in restaurants) then you’d get 10 bowls. If your bowls are smaller then you’d get more bowls out of it obviously. It depends on your situation. If you say 1 tub of base is enough for 10 servings for you, then that’s fine. Though it still says nothing about your yield (how much final liquid you actually got after final adjustments when all cooking was done) and your bowl size.
Hope the above help.
By the way, in my personal opinion, Quoc Viet can do a better job on marketing and distributing their products.
sorry, I thought I mentioned in my number 2) that I made QV’s chicken pho before using coconut sugar … but I’ve never made QV’s beef pho 🙂
we LOVE QV’s chicken pho base … it’s so so so easy … ready within 1 hour from prep to table
so I made QV’s beef pho, using rock sugar I found at the Vietnamese store here. it took me 3 hours. it just didn’t taste good to me. we’ve never had issues with the chicken base (no MSG headaches, metallic taste, bloatedness) … but sadly, all 4 of us didn’t feel well afterwards … and the broth was not as tasty.
it was my first time using the beef base, but I think I’m just going to stick to the chicken base from now on
I do have a jar of the bun bo hue base … if you or any readers have advice on using that base, please chime in!!!
also, I emailed QV, and they said they will soon have distributors in Australia … YAY !!!
thanks anh cuong!!!
Yes I’m aware you’ve used coconut sugar to make chicken pho. That’s why I also said in #2: “If coconut sugar is acceptable to you in chicken pho, then I don’t see why you can’t use it in beef pho.”
I’m sorry to hear your first beef pho was not good and you didn’t feel well afterward. In my experience I don’t expect anyone to make good beef pho the first time, or even the second time. I don’t know what kind of beef you used and how you prepared and cooked it. For a lot of people it takes practice to get the broth right and the meat tenderized correctly, as they learn to make adjustments with each successive pot.
I wish you better luck next time.
I was recently at our local Oriental grocery store and came across these products on a shelf. I’ve only had pho a handful of times and have loved it. We have California Pho (a franchise, I believe) here and Honestly I have no idea how authentic it is or if it is actually ‘good’ pho…..but I have really enjoyed it every time! I bought the beef flavor and was excited but nervous to use it and was so happy to come across this blog prior to actually making it! I think I ended up reading the whole comment thread. Even though the recipe is on the container, I found this and many of the comments very helpful in making a successful….pho tai chin? I think? I made my pho with brisket and thinly sliced sirloin….my fiance was super confused when I put slices of raw beef in the bowl prior to adding the hot broth but once it cooked before his eyes he understood! I’m not a fan of sprouts but am trying to incorporate a lot of veggies in my meals, so even though it may not be proper, I added thinly sliced pepper rings and baby bok choy to my bowl. I’d say it turned out comparable to what I’ve had at the pho restaurant nearby.
Hi Brittany: Wow success the first time out! Congrats!
This is the exact reason why I wrote posts like this one. I always maintain that if one pays attention to details, and has a real desire to do it, then he/she can make at least a decent pot of pho to enjoy at home. Then it will only get better from there. And Quoc Viet helps make it easier to start out. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you! I do a lot of cooking and find that it comes naturally for me. This was a first for Vietnamese cuisine, however, so I was especially impressed. I’ll be sticking with Quoc Viet for future pho 🙂
There you go Brittany. You’re a clear proof of what I’ve been preaching: anyone can make pho at home, and for those with cooking experience or who love cooking, the experience is over the top. There’s nothing like eating a delicious bowl of pho AND knowing exactly how it was made AND what went into it AND how you may make it even better next time.
Bonus: If you’ve made a decent size batch and stored/froze it away, then you can have pho any time over the next days and weeks without really paying for it. That, for me, is just icing on the cake (just to stick with the food theme). LOL.
Because I live 100 miles from the nearest Vietnamese restaurant, I’ve learned to make pho myself, and I use the QV soup base exclusively. The big key is to make sure you rise your bones and beef and rinse the pot out before after boiling, and starting with fresh water to get that nice clear broth. I’ve also read that it’s best to use the beef “knuckle” bones, but I can’t find them in my area. Instead I use the traditional beef shank-type bones and dig the marrow out of them. This also helps to keep the broth clear. Thai basil grows beautifully in my area of northern Michigan and it’s a really nice extra treat when I can have that fresh in my pho! Thanks for such a nice blog. I’ve enjoyed reading this!
Hi Julie: The soup base itself does have marrow flavors cooked in so that people don’t have to use bones and save time in the process. If you’re adding bones then I’d assume you want a lot more beefy taste. But then if you remove the marrow before cooking then you’re not getting the real “pho” flavor. Also, you didn’t say how long you simmer the bones, but if you’re not cooking them long enough then using bones at all is kind of a moot point regardless of whether you dig out the marrow. Even at an hour of cooking you’re probably not getting much flavors out of any beef bones. So I’m curious why you use QV pho soup base AND adding bones too, and how long you keep the bones simmering.
In the end I’m glad you find ways that work for you. By the way, growing your own Thai basil is great but northern MI is not too forgiving in the cold months. There are things that can only exist in the warmer climate. I ran a pho restaurant in Missoula MT and it was pretty rough to even acquire it from out of state.
I use the base because, well, I’m still intimidated about toasting the appropriate spices! I use the bones because I think it adds a beefier flavor than just the base alone. I also char my ginger and onion. Here’s the website I’d read about removing the marrow from to make a clearer broth, thus, my rationale. https://steamykitchen.com/271-vietnamese-pho-recipe.html I simmer the bones about three hours.
I can only grow Thai basil in the summer months. Incredibly, in my sandy Lake Michigan soil, it grows really well. Better than Italian basil! I end up just settling for other herbs in the winter.
Thanks for clarifying Julie. I understand what you’re doing now.
Personally I think you’re overdoing it, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Allow me to explain with a few additional clarifications and tips.
Firstly, it’s apparent that you are mixing 2 different recipes together. One is the QV Pho Soup Base as described on its label and expanded further in this post, the other is Jaden Hair’s recipe from steamykitchen.com, which is the recipe you referenced in your previous reply. Normally people use one recipe or the other, and only mix up elements from different recipes when they’re not happy with what they got and know how to make adjustments to create something new.
Jaden’s recipe is a standalone pho recipe that does not need any other enhancement. It is making pho from scratch and it is a solid recipe listed as one of my recommended pho recipes (/pho-chefs-recipes/top-pho-recipes/ ).
On the other hand QV’s recipe is printed on its label. The key reason for QV Pho Soup Base to exist is to allow people to skip the long simmering time of the bone and marrow (as called for in recipes like Jaden’s), and still get the right bone and marrow taste in pho. This is helpful especially for those who’ve never made pho before or don’t want to spend the time simmering bones. A secondary utility of QV Soup Base is to be used to help enhance another recipe.
So most people use either a standalone recipe (Jaden’s or any other) or the QV Pho Soup Base. There are some (like you Julie) who choose to add QV Pho Soup Base to their made-from-scratch-with-bones broth to further enhance flavors. The important thing to understand is you are now creating a third recipe that combines ingredients from 2 original recipes. And once you start doing this, there are a number of things that will also need to be adjusted, including amount of water, rock sugar, fish sauce, spices, etc. In essence the formula/recipe is changed. If you haven’t already done so, I think you should write down “Julie’s pho recipe” so that you can consistently reproduce it in the future, or further improve on it.
I think you may have misread Jaden’s (and many of her readers’) comments about bone marrow. Everything she says on her blog about bone marrow is totally correct, but there’s no mentioning of removing the marrow to make a clear broth. Below are some sample comments about bone marrow she wrote throughout her article:
“If I have a lot of marrow bones, I’ll scoop out the marrow with a small spoon or knife and discard after the par-boiling (see below). Having too much marrow will give you a greasy film on your pho broth.”
“If you have a lot of marrow bones, and don’t scoop out the marrow, it’s ok.”
“But some marrow is beneficial…. don’t get rid of it all!”
“Fat & marrow bits = good eats. Try to keep that in the broth!”
It is true that bone marrow produces a lot of fat, but also as Jaden’s noted, if you let it sit to cool then you can crack and remove the fat “shell” on top of the broth. We all know fat and water don’t mix, and fat always floats to the top. If you must have absolutely completely perfectly unconditionally clear broth, then parboiling and simmering stages would take care of that issue for you (if done right).
I should add an important note here: When you store the broth at room temperature, in the fridge or in the freezer, the fat layer on top actually protects the broth from interacting with the air. This layer acts to preserve the broth from going bad too soon and prevent if from becoming darker in color over time. So the fatty/marrowy top layer gives you many benefits aside from the fact that it makes your pho super delicious.
In the end, if you’re already simmering the bones for 3 hours, then I think you can skip the soup base and go all from scratch (as per Jaden’s recipe), and get awesome pho broth with less money out of pocket. Or if you decide to go through all the simmering AND also add QV Pho Soup Base, then you’ll want to add more water to achieve the proper taste. The net effect of the latter is you get a larger yield, thus more pho broth for the same amount of time spent cooking. Awesome right? Actually this is exactly what some pho restaurants do every day.
It’s a long reply so it’s time for me to stop. Happy pho cooking and eating!
Damn! Who could eat such a god awful thing? Did you look at the ingredients? disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate are the two that always go with MSG hidden under the misnomer Yeast extract. There’s no quick short cut for bone broth. Those chemicals are every where in all of the “packaged spices” nowadays no wonder every thing tastes the same.
@TUAN TRAN: Thanks for sharing your views. People have a choice to 1) cook everything fresh from scratch or 2) “cheat” a little bit using some or all pre-made (processed) food ingredients for the sake of convenience and time saving. Also they can 3) stay home to cook and eat, or 4) go out to enjoy restaurant food; all the time or once in a while. Regardless of what combination of 1), 2), 3), 4) one wants to do, it’s been recommended by many including myself to regulate what you use and what you eat.
Not sure if your statement about “no wonder every thing tastes the same” refers to other food or just this particular QV product. It seems an exaggeration and blanket statement to me. Care to elaborate?
@CUONG Everything tastes the same meaning because they all use the same chemicals to add “favors” to all different dishes thus the underlying “favor” profile of whatever the dish is is those chemicals. MSG, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate give the same taste no matter whether you use beef, chicken, pork, etc… That’s the problem with those favor “enhancers.” They don’t enhance anything. They take over, overpower and overwhelm what is supposed to be the main favor of the dish. An analogy is that food is like music and MSG, disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate are like “Ice Ice Baby” bass beat. You don’t listen to Rachmaninoff piano concerto no 3 with Ice Ice Baby bass beat in the back ground, do you?
@TUAN TRAN: I think you’re missing the point of using any flavor enhancer, such as MSG and various others. With respect to things like MSG, it doesn’t add new flavors. It merely enhances the flavors that are already there. This means if one uses MSG in a chicken dish, for example, it will not begin to taste like “everything else” as you seem to believe for some reason. It would taste like great chicken to a lot of people if done right and done properly (the reason why they continue going to restaurants). On the other hand, to others or when not done right, it would taste bad or take over, or overpower or overwhelm or whatever you think is the problem.
I’m not here to advocate QV products as the best or must-have food. As indicated in the beginning of the post, I said “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”. One can take advantage of my suggestion to make quicker pho, or one can use a traditional recipe method and spend longer time to make pho too. It’s an individual’s choice.
Regardless, I don’t think your music analogy is applicable here. A lot of people like “Ice Ice Baby”, and a lot of other people love Rachmaninoff piano concerto no 3 too. Each is a complete creative work in itself, and as such most people enjoy these complete works as each would stand on its own. I suspect no reasonable person would listen to both at the same time, in the background or otherwise. Now if my neighbor cranks up “Ice Ice Baby” while I’m listening to Rachmaninoff piano concerto no 3 then that’s an entirely different issue.
So MSG is just a lowly food ingredient. Use it or not, it’s your choice. As I have always said: know your food and practice moderation.
By the way I’m really a Mozart kind of guy, but same the points apply.
Oh one more thing, I created lovingpho.com to share and exchange knowledge about pho with others. I do appreciate your taking time to share your views. With that said, I will exercise my editorial authority to cut off or remove any conversation that don’t really contribute anything to a healthy pho discussion and knowledge sharing.
I agree!!! MSG is deceptively hidden in ingredients such as “natural flavorings” “yeast extract” … just google it. Just had a baby, so we’re so much more conscious and aware of what we eat now … if only they made the spices without all those toxic nasties.
@AMBER: Wow what a difference a year makes. Last year you loved QV’s soup base, but now its ingredients are “deceptive” and “nasties”. What happens?
Hi Cuong! I had a baby (7 months and eating solids) … and now I’m so cognizant of ingredients that go into her body.
Hi Amber: Well that’s a perfectly a good reason to pay more attention to ingredients in your food. The best and healthiest meal option has always been home-made with ingredients you pick and cooking method you choose. Best wishes to you and new member of your family.
has anyone pressure-cooked their meat and then add it to the soup base?
I have done it many times. Has benefits but it really depends on what your purpose is, plus if you want to deal with the hissing noise for 45 minutes or whatever time you use it.
to save time, but as Cuong stated, it won’t give a clear broth 🙁
@Amber: Using pressure cooker is a solid idea for tenderizing meat, assuming this is the purpose you’re going for. Essentially, you’re trying to do these 2 things faster: 1) tenderizing the meat (some beef cuts), and 2) extracting beef flavors for the broth which you plan to do after pressure cooking.
For 1), you will want to do some tests in order to know how long you will need, because once started, you can’t just open and check doneness or tenderness of the protein. At the end of the pressurized cooking cycle, if you get undercooked meat then you can simmer some more in the broth with other ingredients (spices, charred ginger onions, etc.). If you get overcooked meat then it’s not necessary a loss. You’d probably have shredded or pulled meat in your pho instead of sliced beef, but finishing off with the rest of the broth is pretty much the same.
For 2), you’ll want to understand the pros and cons. In my experience (and also by design), fast pressure cooking does not serve the same important purpose as slow simmering which is to achieve a clear broth. Think of it as a brute force way to get the meat cooked, tenderized and give off its juice in a very short time. While you gain the time benefit, cooking it this way will result in all kind of stuff in your actual liquid stock which you’ll use in the final pho broth making step. It’s definitely delicious but it will not be clear. Some people prefer to strain the floating particulates, others don’t.
You didn’t indicate the reasons you ask the question but I hope the above provides some answers you’re looking for.
@Cuong: thank you for the detailed explanation. arghh … so hard to choose, but I think I will stick with the slow simmer to get clear broth 🙂
Here’s an alternative: You don’t have to use the stock coming off of the pressure cooker for pho (e.g., use it for other dishes) and just use the cooked meat for pho then it’s not so bad an option. You’re already using QV soup base which would give a lot of flavors for the broth. In this way, you get to tenderized meat faster for your pho, plus extra beef stock for other soups and things. I would try that.
Don’t know what pressure cooker you use. I use this stove top model:
Electric pressure cookers have more features, but cost more with lower performance.
It’s awesome because I can use it on my induction cooktop!!! What I do is load up the pressure cooker with meat and bones, more than enough for one batch of broth. When done I use whatever is needed (meat, bone, stock) for the current broth batch, and freeze the rest for future use. Save a ton of time. I don’t strain the stock and the broth is still pretty clear for serving to friends and family. Delish! You can always let things settle a bit or I think running thru a strainer can help if you really really really must have clear broth.
Good move with cooking in bulk and freeze the extra. For restaurant operation where large production is a must (but only where appropriate and quality is not compromised), I always recommend owners to do exactly this, but obviously with even larger batch and pressure cooker size.