A year ago, I made pho for the first time. Since then I have been making it regularly and hacking away at the recipe to make it faster and better tasting. Fewer steps and minimal ingredients. I’ve seen other Quick Pho or Faux Pho recipes online. They are a good start, but I believe mine is even easier.
The key is Chinese 5 Spice, which includes two critical pho flavors: star anise and cinnamon. I discovered this by accident when I started making pho one day and I realized that I was missing some spices. I pulled down my Chinese 5 Spice and checked the Wikipedia and the rest is Pho history.
Faster Pho – Not a great photo, was taken with a phone.
Other hacks include:
- Get thinly sliced beef from Asian markets. My Chinese market sells Carne Asada to its Latin customers and my Korean markets sells bulgogi sliced beef.
- If you make your own bone broth, do it ahead of time.
- Sriracha and fish sauce are the 1-2 punch needed for spice and salt.
- The only herb you need is basil.
- Save the bean sprouts for the vegans. Fill bowl with more meat.
- Lime juice for limes.
- Beef broth (make your own – like me – or get a box)
- Chinese 5 Spice
- Sriracha sauce
- Fish sauce
- Thinly sliced beef
- Fresh Basil (Cheap at Asian markets, expensive at cracker grocery stores)
- Rice noodles (use dry, “fresh” ones can have added wheat and soybean oil)
- lime or lime juice
How much meat or noodles you use is up to you. I vary their ratio all the time. It is all good. Also, you can use other cuts of beef. Keeping it simple with the thinly sliced beef. It also cooks the fastest.
Step by Step
- Heat broth in pot.
- Mix in Chinese 5-Spice, Sriracha and fish sauce to taste. I measure nothing. Dump and stir.
- Prep basil and set aside
- When broth is simmering, add rice boodles and cook for 3-5 minutes.
- Add in meat and turn off heat. The thinly sliced meat will cook quickly.
- Serve and top with basil and lime juice.
Less than 20 minutes and you’re done. What makes pho traditionally take longer to make is the care and attention paid to the broth. The Chinese 5 Spice is the hack that reduces that time. Now I make this recipe using my homemade beef stock. I’ll be interested to hear from others in the comments that try this recipe with store bought boxed broth.
And yes I realize that I did not include roasted ginger. My homemade broth is pretty awesome, so I didn’t find it added much to the flavor, so in an effort to make the recipe faster, I removed that step. I suppose one could always toss some ginger into the broth after Step 2. Your call.
One additional tip is because the basil tends to go bad first, get the basil as close to the time you are making the recipe as possible. Also, I’ll sometimes make pho 3 days in a row. As long as I still have basil and beef, I can always make another bowl of Faster Pho.
J. Scott Shipman
Jul 26, 2013 — 2:05 pm
Thanks for sharing, MAS! I’ve tried a chicken variation–and the Chinese spice was what I was missing.
Jul 26, 2013 — 4:26 pm
@J Scott – Never tried the chicken version. I’ve actually never made chicken stock before, but I did just get 5# of chicken feet.
J. Scott Shipman
Aug 7, 2013 — 11:35 am
Was at one of our Asian markets and found the Chinese Five Spice. Will give your recipe a try, thanks. While I realize you don’t measure, could you offer a SWAG of how much Five Spice?
Aug 7, 2013 — 12:23 pm
@J – I start with a tablespoon. Then add fish sauce and Sriracha . Stir. Taste. If it tastes thin, add more 5 Spice. Needs salt, add more fish sauce. More heat? Sriracha! I’ve made this dish many times and used a variety of measurements. It is all good.