Although I am part Vietnamese, there are many Vietnamese foods that I grew up eating only in restaurants. Such dishes were simply were too much trouble to make at home because they required out-of-the ordinary or expensive ingredients (not readily available to my family in rural Arizona) or required many difficult cooking steps. To our family, pho bo, or Vietnamese beef noodle soup was one of those foods. It was only consumed in restaurants, and never made at home. It required bean sprouts and basil (which are very rare in rural Arizona, and if we brought bean sprouts or basil back from our trips to Los Angeles, they would be wilted by the heat and miserable by the time we arrived back at home). It also required the chef to parboil the beef bones, to babysit a boiling pot for more than six hours, and to repeatedly skim off foamy scum and slippery pockets of uncoagulated oil. Pho bo was just simply easier and tastier to eat at the restaurants.
Despite these challenges, after living with my sister-in-law (who made pho bo almost every Sunday), I decided to try my hand at making this laborious beef soup. Although these pictures might look delectable, there is a huge caveat: I am still learning how to make pho bo. There is still something off about the flavor of my soup. I think it may be too much star anise, and too little coriander seed. Perhaps I need more salt, and less fish sauce. But I will update you soon when I find the perfect proportions of spices. I may need to call my sister-in-law a few more times before I can finalize a recipe, but until then, check out Viet World Kitchen, Steamy Kitchen, Wandering Chopsticks, Holy Basil, or Food Network for great takes on pho bo.
I know you are thinking, "Where is the recipe?" Well, there is none yet, but I hope that in the meantime, these pictures inspire you to make pho bo in the near future! Pho-shizzle!