Pho Bo Vien ~ Vietnamese Noodle and Beef Meatball Soup

Slow cooked bone broth forms the base for this traditional  Vietnamese pho noodle soup with meatballs,  sliced beef,  and herbs.
Pho Bo Vien

Pho Bo Vien

By Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime

This month for Soup Swappers I was very happy to host and suggested the theme of pho and other Vietnamese  soups with Tet upcoming in the next month.

This particular pho is pretty  much a standard beef meatball version. I used pre-made meatballs in this because it doesn’t use that much and I much prefer the ones made with tendon. And while that may not be widely available unless you have an Asian market nearby, then conversely,  if you do the premade ones are easy to buy.

There are recipes but as I said it is only two of us here so didn’t want that much. Of course if you can’t find either and don’t want to make them on your own, you can opt to use Italian frozen meatballs, preferably with little seasoning. The kind of meatballs I used do have a more firm texture to them sort of the way gyro meat has, which is fine grained and dense.

I made the bone broth myself, and there are a few different cuts you can make that with- I went with marrow bones and short ribs since that’s what the market had. Instead of the short ribs, you could also opt for some meaty bony beef cuts like oxtails or shank.

The bone broth simmers a very long time, to get all the goodness out of the bones that you can. Don’t be shy about letting it go around the clock. I do love using the slow cooker for that since I don’t have to eyeball the thing all day long.

Pho Bo Vien

Vietnamese Herbs ~ Rao Thom (fragrant leaves):

I did have access to a number of authentic herbs that can be used in soups. If you can find these, use whichever ones you like.

Locally in restaurants they usually offer a little bit of Thai basil and a handful  of cilantro, although occasionally mint is seen. Obviously, most of these herbs won’t be found in a basic market. Check an Asian store.

Vietnamese MintThai Holy Basil

Left: Hung Cay (Vietnamese Mint) | Right: Hung Que (Spicy Thai Basil)

Hung Cay offers a spicy mint flavor similar to peppermint.

Hung Que has a fresh basil flavor that is a bit more spicy than sweet basil.

Rau RamCilantro

Left: Rau Ram (Vietnamese Coriander) | Right: Ngổ (Cilantro)

Rau Ram is similar to Ngổ (cilantro) but has a spicier flavor.

Ngổ is common in the United States as cilantro and called fresh coriander leaf in other areas.

Sawtooth HerbNgo Om Herb

Left: Ngổ Gai (Culantro) | Right: Ngổ Ôm

Ngổ Gai, sometimes called sawtooth herb, has a stronger, earthier flavor than Ngổ (regular cilantro)

Ngổ Ôm, or rice paddy herb, grows in wet areas and has a lemony flavor with hints of cumin.
Pho Bo VienDon’t forget to check out the other soup recipes in the linkup below,  clicking the blue frog to see the collection.

Have a great weekend!


Pho Bo Vien

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Pho Bo Vien
Asian Bone Broth Ingredients (makes 10-12 cups):

  • 3 pounds beef marrow bones
  • 2 pounds beef short ribs
  • 1 large onion,  sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 3 ounces fresh ginger, peeled
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
  • 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom seeds or 1 whole green cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander seed

Method for Broth:

  1. Blanch bones and ribs by placing in cold water, and bringing to a boil. Cook for twenty minutes, simmering, and skimming off scum.
  2. Remove bones and ribs and pat dry.
  3. Place ribs, bones and sliced onion on a baking sheet and roast at 450°F. for one hour, turning once.
  4. Place bones, onions and ribs in the crock pot with remaining broth ingredients and cook, covered,  on low for 24-36 hours.  adding more water if needed.
  5. Strain broth and refrigerate or freeze until needed.

Pho Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces dried Banh Pho Thuong Hang wide rice noodles
  • 11 ounces precooked Bo Vien Pho Huong Vietnamese beef meatballs or Bo Vien Gan Vietnamese Beef meatballs with Tendon,  sliced
  • 24 ounces very thinly sliced beef steak
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced, with one teaspoon peanut oil
  • 3 cups fresh bean sprouts
  • a small bunch scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup assorted fresh herbs: Thai basil, cilantro, mint or other Vietnamese herbs
  • 1 lime, cut into edges
  • fresh Thai chili peppers (optional)
  • Condiments: hoisin sauce or sriracha/sambal  chili sauces


  1. Heat a pot of water to steaming, but not quite boiling.
  2. Add rice noodles to water and let sit off the heat until they soften to your liking, then drain.
  3. Heat bone broth to boiling.
  4. Heat oil in a small skillet and cook onion over med-high heat until edges char but onion is not caramelized.
  5. Place noodles in soup bowl  and top with sliced steak, meatballs and charred onion.
  6. Cover with broth. Meat will cook as it sits. If your beef is not sliced deli-thin, drop it in with the boiling broth for a minute before adding to bowls so it cooks, but very thin beef will cook fine just with the broth. meatballs should already be pre-cooked.
  7. Top soup with fresh bean  sprouts, scallion, and herbs. Add a fresh Thai chili pepper if desired.
  8. Serve with a slice of lime to squeeze over, and hoisin and chili sauce for those who prefer.

From the kitchen of


Pho-Nomenal Soups!

Be sure to check out the other Soup Saturday Swappers Bloggers this month!

Click on the hop link button to be transported to the other recipes:

Pho Bo Vien

6 responses

  1. Quick, easy and tasty soup. Am lucky to have these herbs, since I, grow mint, basil, lemongrass , leek and many other in my kitchen / grill garden.

  2. LOVE me some Pho! I agree with Colleen above GLAD you shared it–inspired to find the ingredients this month! it does require a trip to the city but worth it! Thanks for sharing to the Friday Frenzy! PINNED

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