Oxtail & Beef Pho

IMG_8584The secret to a good pho broth is a solid base of beef bones and plethora of spices and herbs. Growing up in Long Beach, MS, we didn’t have Pho Noodle shops around every corner like it is here in Houston. It was always a treat when Mom would start a pot late Saturday night after she came home from work to be ready for breakfast or brunch on Sunday morning. The big, beautiful aroma would fill the entire house by morning. There are a few really good noodle houses here but one rule of thumb is to never order the Pho at a place without the word PHO in its name! I am pretty good at picking out the canned or boxed soup mixes from the overnight homemade brew—it is imperative that you let the broth cook for a loooooong time; it’s the only way to suck the marrow and sweetness out of the bones.

I just recently started making the pot of pho as usual ( in a gigantic stock pot on the stove), then I transfer it to 2, sometimes 3, crock pots to cook on low throughout the day or night (depending on when i start it).

Here is the recipe:

Oxtail & Beef Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
12 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
12 hr
  1. Garlic, lots of it! I’ve recently started to roast my garlic (whole head or bulb) before using it. 2 whole bulbs will do, roast one and mince the other.
  2. 2 big yellow onions (one for the broth and one to slice for garnish later)
  3. 2 stalks of lemongrass (whole)
  4. Ginger root (a pretty big piece you can cut up)
  5. Beef bones, neck bones, oxtail, and Nam Gau (like a brisket, with a layer of fat in the meat) . . these are just my favorites to have in the soup; you can have all sorts of craziness like tripe, tendon . . . fatty fat, chicken bones, turkey legs 😉 not really!
  6. Cinnamon sticks (4-5)
  7. Spices: star anise, cloves, coriander seeds, dried Thai peppers (you can buy an already prepared bag of spices at the Asian market)
  8. Cheesecloth or a contraption like this to hold all of your little spices, I call it the spice-keeper ball thingy
  9. Olive oil, Fish sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, white pepper, sugar
  10. Eye of round (2lbs, sliced “tai” thin), bo vien (beef meatballs)—you won’t need these until ready to serve
  11. Fresh Pho Rice noodles (vacuumed sealed bags)
  12. Bean sprouts, basil, cilantro, jalapenos, green onions, lime – all for garnish
  13. Fried onion chips
  14. A really, realllly big gi-normous stockpot!
  1. Clear your schedule for at least 6 HRS!!! play scrabble, watch a movie, knit a sweater . . .
  2. Roast the bulb of garlic and whole onion (leave the peel on), set aside - just so it starts to blister, not char.
  3. Wash the bones and all the meats under warm water (not the eye of round or meatballs) Cut the lemongrass stalks into 3-4 inch pieces
  4. Peel the ginger and cut into 2 inch pieces, big enough to fish out later on
  5. Place all of the SPICES (in the cheesecloth and tie or in the spice-keeper ball, use a lot of the star anise!
  1. In the stockpot, add a tbsp of olive oil and the minced garlic, sauté until browned, not burnt!
  2. Add the beef bones, oxtail and brisket meat to the stock; a few dashes of garlic powder, onion powder and white pepper and a 2-3 tbsp of fish sauce on the meat for a light braise and then add enough water to fill the pot 1/3 full. Let come to a boil and add enough water to cover all the meats.
  3. Add the ginger, cinnamon sticks, lemongrass, whole onion (blistered with peel), whole roasted garlic (blistered with peel), and then reduce heat to med-low heat.
  4. The key to a good pho broth is to keep it clear, you need to keep skimming the foam off the top of the broth and discarding it (the foam comes from the bones cooking down)
  5. After a good 2-2 1/2 hrs, you can lower the heat to the lowest possible setting and keep watch.
  6. I like to leave the heat on low as long as possible (sometimes 2-3 additional hours); when I used to cook Pho for the bar, I would have to transfer the stock to 3 separate crockpots. I would also remove all of the bones at this point and and shred the meat from the oxtail and the beef bones. I would also slice up the Nam Gau meat. You can let cool and place in the fridge or leave on warm in the crock pot overnight.
  7. ***CROCK POT DIRECTIONS - once you get the pot to a boil, transfer the stock, bones and all to a crock pot or two. Leave the crock pot on low throughout the day or night (I usually like to start my pho late at night and leave it all night on low).***
  1. Warm the pho broth on the stove or turn crock pot on to high
  2. Chop up half of the cilantro bunch and green onions and set aside, slice the onion and jalapenos as well.
  3. Slice the bo vien meatballs
  4. Create a garnish plate with bean sprouts, remaining cilantro, basil, sliced fresh jalapenos and limes
  5. Empty the fresh pho noodles into a big bowl of hot water to soak and soften (the hot water will semi cook the noodle). Place a small serving of noodles in a pho bowl and place in the microwave for 30 secs when you are ready to serve.
  6. Add a few pieces of bo vien and a few slices of the eye of round (some people like a lot of meat on their bowls!)
  7. Scoop broth over the noodles and meat; make sure you get some of the oxtail and brisket too! The heat from the broth will finish cooking the rice noodles in the bowl. Garnish with the cilantro/green onions mixture and sprinkle with fried onions.
  8. Your guests can add the remaining garnish to their liking. Serve with Hoisin sauce, sriracha and black pepper.
  1. Enjoy!
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