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.
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:
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.