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Pho Broth: The Soul of Vietnamese Pho  

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saigon pho
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 saigon pho
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Joined: 5 years ago

great info, its gonna help to for new update of my website. thanks and keep updated, i have bookmarked this website.

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chuynh
(@chuynh)
Joined: 11 years ago

Pho Restaurant Consultant
Posts: 441

@Saigon Pho, Glad you find the info helpful.

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Carla Harold
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 Carla Harold
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I got on to see how to make Pho since the local Vietnamese restaurant has turned me onto it. Now I see that with all the time involved I will just be a very frequent customer at the wonderful restaurant. I couldn't even begin to do what they do and still get the quality. Thanks so much for everyone's input. I know now to stick with doing what I am good at and leave the professionals to do what I can't.

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chuynh
Posts: 441
(@chuynh)
Pho Restaurant Consultant
Joined: 11 years ago

@Carla Harold: Your sentiments are exactly why people in Vietnam do not make their own pho at home. It's just too much trouble. People in the U.S. have the luxury and convenience of at least a decent kitchen and availability of ingredients from local supermarkets, plus we have the luxury of time time and nice air conditioned homes too. And you're right, there are plenty of affordable and good pho out there, so go visit and support your local pho joints, people!

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kyle
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 kyle
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Joined: 4 years ago

What happen if my broth dry out during simmer? Should I add more water? what if I did and does it kills the taste?

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chuynh
(@chuynh)
Joined: 11 years ago

Pho Restaurant Consultant
Posts: 441

@Kyle: You should never let water evaporate completely to dry out condition. This is not the way to make any broth, soup, sauce or any food that's meant to be consumed as a liquid (regardless of viscosity). If your pot dries out after a few hours of "simmering" then you're not really simmering. You're probably boiling the water. So turn down the heat to have just a light rolling action in the liquid.

Most recipes should specify a yield amount, such as yield = 3 gallons. This means that in addition to keeping the simmering lightly and skimming the floating scums, you'll also need to add water at the end to bring it up to the yield amount, or to taste. Then bring it back up to near boiling to ensure everything is hot, then you're good to serve.

Thanks for the question. I think it's important enough for me to add a note to the article.

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Chewie
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 Chewie
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Thank you so much for this article, I'm going to put it to good use when I next make pho. I've made my own pho three times now. The first was pretty bad, and I didn't even save it. I roasted the bones first in the oven. The pho came out murky and funky smelling. The next batch was okay. I parboiled the bones this time, and rinsed them after. I also only simmered it for 3 hours. It came out tasting very bland, and too fish-saucy. This last time I made it is so far the best. Parboiled the bones, added even more star anise and less fish sauce, and don't get me wrong, it's good, but it's not deep and intense like pho should be. And there's still too much of a fish sauce taste/smell. I'm wondering if I'm adding too many spices. I sort of just combined the spices from a bunch of different recipes, using star anise, cloves, a cinnamon stick, coriander, fennel, and a cardamom pod. I think after reading your article that I'm going to one, simmer my bones at a lower heat and uncovered, and two add the spice mix in after an hour and a half. If I may ask, do you have a preference when it comes to fish sauce? Can I omit it entirely? Also, do you have any other suggestions you can give a newb like me to help make legit pho? Thank you in advance!

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chuynh
(@chuynh)
Joined: 11 years ago

Pho Restaurant Consultant
Posts: 441

@Chewie: It’s good you’re trying things. The key is to making good pho (or any dish for that matter) is to 1) use a good recipe, 2) to understand what it’s trying to do with all the elements and ingredients within it, and 3) to follow its instructions closely. I’m not sure what recipe you used, but it sounds like you’re just mixing up different recipes into one. If this is so then it’s amazing you still got something edible

If you have a good recipe and follow it, then you shouldn’t have the fish sauce taste or smell in your pho. Fish sauce is meant to be used sparingly to enhance flavor, never to give flavor. Good luck with your next pot.

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Monica Foster
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 Monica Foster
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Joined: 3 years ago

Thank you so much! I did it!!! And it was delish!!! I wish I can post a pic. My broth was insane!!!

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chuynh
(@chuynh)
Joined: 11 years ago

Pho Restaurant Consultant
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@Monica: There you go. Congrats!

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Roy
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 Roy
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Hello,

Great article! Thanks for sharing 🙂
I have a question about the spices. When I simmer the broth for a long time (6-8 hours), when do I put the spices in the pot? Do they need to cook as long as the bones?

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chuynh
(@chuynh)
Joined: 11 years ago

Pho Restaurant Consultant
Posts: 441

@Roy: The answer is not that straightforward. I'll start with this analogy. It's similar to brewing coffee in a French press. There's a reason why you don't want to brew for much more than 4 minutes. For up to about 4 minutes, you would have extracted pretty much all "good" coffee flavor out of the coffee ground. Beyond that, all you'll get is bitter coffee.

Similarly for the spices, the longer you simmer, the more spice flavor you get out of it, but only up to a certain point. You didn't mention what your recipe calls for (how much spices to use), so I'll assume you don't have a recipe. So I'll go generic. In general, there are 4 factors to consider when it comes to how long to simmer the spices:

1. How much broth (how big a pot) you're making,
2. How much spices (quantity) you're using,
3. Whether you keep the spices whole or you grind them to release even more spice flavors, and
4. Personal taste.

For the last factor (No. 4), some people prefer strong spice flavors, while others can't stand them. The best thing to do is to test. Again without knowing how much you're using and making, I'd suggest start putting in the spices about 1/2 hour to an hour before finishing the simmering. Then adjust longer or shorter time in future pots. In any case, remove the spices before final seasoning, whatever called for by your recipe (or whatever instructions you're following).

For your 6-8 hour simmer, this boils down to (pun intended) adding the spices in the last hour or 1-1/2 hour.

Hope this helps, and best of luck.

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Roy
 Roy
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Joined: 3 years ago

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Thank you Cuong. Your reply helps me a lot. I'm going to make Pho again soon. And thanks to your directions it will get better 🙂

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chuynh
(@chuynh)
Joined: 11 years ago

Pho Restaurant Consultant
Posts: 441

Best of luck Roy, and have fun with it! By the way, I also suggest you check out this post: How Long To Cook Pho Spices In Pho Broth.

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Chung
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 Chung
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Joined: 3 years ago

My Mom's pho recipe does not include cloves or sugar and cinnamon is a huge no, no to her. She was originally from N. Vietnam, so maybe that is the difference. She also simmers her pho broth overnight (8-12 hours) with the onion , anise, and ginger. She adds the fish sauce and salt when it's done simmering. It's always delicious. Roasting the onions is key. To keep the broth clear, she brings the bones to a boil and skims the scum off the top before bringing it down to the simmer.

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chuynh
(@chuynh)
Joined: 11 years ago

Pho Restaurant Consultant
Posts: 441

@Chung: Sounds like your mom makes great tasting Northern pho style. I would love it I'm sure. Many people don't realize it's not just ingredients but also technique/process/procedure. I know people who have all "necessary" ingredients but still can't make proper pho, and people who don't have all the right ingredients (or lacking some) and still make awesome pho. I think the majority of newbies don't know how to skim the scum, which is a very important part of making pho broth. Thanks for visiting and sharing.

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chieko
 chieko
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I agree with no sugar, cloves or cinnamon. For me, no star anise.

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chuynh
(@chuynh)
Joined: 11 years ago

Pho Restaurant Consultant
Posts: 441

@Chieko: Sounds like you know exactly what you want in your pho.

Just to clarify, if there is any "sugar" called for in a pho recipe, it should be rock sugar and not just white granulated sugar. Rock sugar is much milder than white granulated sugar and gives pho the "right" taste which is vastly different from if white sugar is used.

In Chung's case and also your case, whatever works for you is what you should follow. From personal experience and through my consulting work, many people don't realize that using or not using certain ingredients in pho has more to do with habits and however those habits were developed. This usually boils down to the time and location of when and where they learned how to enjoy and/or make pho. That's usually how people developed their own habits and preferences. I can say with almost 100% certainty that an average person has not done a thorough test comparing various combinations of ingredients and spices to the point that he/she can pick the one combination he/she likes. More likely, it's based on what's available (or can be afforded) during that learning/developing period.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience.

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