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Pho Inspired Noodle Soup

Posting Date: 10/22/15

Pho Inspired Noodle Soup

This recipe is inspired by pho recipe. In the past, I used to make pho noodle soup using instant pho spice cubes when I had a craving for it and couldn't go to the restaurant to get it. One day I decided to make pho thinking I had the cubes in the fridge. It turned out I ran out of it. Since I had a craving, I searched the internet to see if I might have the spices in my pantry. It turned out pho used many spices: cinnamon stick, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, cardamom pod, and cloves. I only had 2 of those spices. I was disappointed. However, I then remembered I had Chinese five spice powder in my pantry. You may not familiar with Chinese five spice powder. Chinese five spice powder combines 5 spices: cinnamon, fennel seeds, star anise, clove, and Sichuan pepper. There might be other different combinations for the spices depending on the brand, so please check the ingredients when you buy them. Mine has those 5 spices listed above. So, those match 4 out of the 6 spices that are needed to make pho. Because of that, I used Chinese five spice powder to replace those spices. From there on, I always make pho with Chinese five spice powder. I never go back to instant pho spice cubes.

If anyone has ever made pho from scratch, he would know the amount of time required to make the broth. It takes at least 3 hours. My Vietnamese friend used to tell me that it would be easier to buy the pho soup in the restaurants than make it herself. So, someone may ask me why someone would want to make it himself. The reason is because I have found a short cut to make it. It may not taste exactly the same but it is close to the same and the most important thing is it tastes good. The other reason is cost. Where I live, it cost around $9 to buy it. For a family of 4, that will cost $36. When I make it myself, it makes 4 servings and costs less than $36.

For this recipe, I use beef bouillon or beef base instead of can beef stock or broth since beef base or bouillon tastes stronger. I use beef meatballs which can be found in Asian stores. If you don't like beef meatballs, you can skip it. You can use beef sirloin. Make sure you thinly slice it since it will be put toward the end and thus, it cooks fast between the time the meat hits the broth and just before you eat it. So, the thinner it is, the faster it cooks. If you have any cooked left over meat, such as chicken, you can use it instead but you need to shred the chicken so that it is easy to eat.

If you never have hoisin sauce, you should try it. Hoisin sauce is a good dipping sauce for your meat. I normally dip the meatballs and meat in hoisin sauce. It makes the meat taste delicious. Do you know that you can dip the bean sprouts in hoisin sauce, too? It tastes good. The sweet and savory taste of hoisin sauce and the crunchiness of bean sprouts are the perfect combination. So, what I do is to take 1 bean sprout and dip it in the hoisin sauce.

This recipe serves for 4 people.


  • vegetable oil
  • 1 medium size onion, peeled skin and cut into half
  • 2" fresh ginger, peeled skin and cut into half
  • 6.5 cups water
  • 4 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp beef base or 2 beef bouillon
  • 12 beef meatballs (you can omit this if you don't like beef meatballs)
  • 1/2 lbs beef sirloin, thinly sliced across the grain (you can also use other leftover cooked meat if you don't have beef sirloin)
  • 1 package of fresh rice stick noodle for 4 servings.
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, minced
  • 1/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups bean sprouts, can be less or more depending on whether you like bean sprouts or not
  • sprigs of Thai basil or regular basil if you cannot find Thai basil
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced (only if you like hot and spicy food)
  • 2 limes, sliced (skip it if you don't like lime juice)
  • For condiment: hoisin sauce
  • For condiment: Sriracha sauce, if you like hot and spicy food


  1. Splash ginger and onion with little bit of vegetable oil. Broil the ginger and onion in the oven until they become slightly brown.
  2. Pour in 6.5 cups of water on a pot. Add broiled onion, ginger, fish sauce, Chinese five spice powder, sugar, pepper, salt, beef base or bouillon, and beef meatballs to the pot. Cover the pot and bring it to boil.
  3. In the meantime, cook fresh rice stick noodle according to the package direction. Once cooked, drain and rinse the noodles with cold water. Drain the noodles again to remove excess water and divide them into 4 big soup bowls. Add thinly sliced onion, thinly sliced beef, and cilantro to the top of the noodles.
  4. Divide bean sprouts, basil, jalapeno pepper, and lime into 4 small plates.
  5. Once the broth has boiled, discard the ginger and broiled onion. Taste the broth and add salt, sugar, and pepper if needed. Turn off the heat and spoon the broth and beef meatballs to the soup bowls, making sure you divide the broth and meatballs equally for each bowl.
  6. Put hoisin sauce on a small dipping plate. If you like sriracha, you can add it directly to the bowl or put it on the side.
  7. Serve the soup with the garnish of bean sprouts, basil, jalapeno pepper, and lime on the side.

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