Traditional Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Phở Bò cổ truyền)

Traditional Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Phở Bò cổ truyền)

by tonytran2015 (Melbourne, Australia).

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(Blog No.2xx).

#authentic, #traditional, #Beef Noodle Soup, #Noodle Soup, #Phở, #Phở Bò, #MSG,

Traditional Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Phở Bò cổ truyền).

Traditional Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Phở Bò nấu cổ truyền) originated from Northern Vietnamese recipes. It was introduced to and became popular with South Vietnameses after the mass migration of North Vietnameses into South Vietnam resulted from the partition of Vietnam by the Geneva Accords in 1954. It is a delicious, tasty, nutritious, non-odored dish and is well liked in Saigon. It has average price and so has become popular and has competed well against the more established soup dishes of “Hủ Tiếu” and “Mì” of the South of Vietnam. It is now popular in the Western World.

(Phở =Rice Noodle Soup, Bò=Ox, nấu =cooked).

Traditional Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Phở Bò cổ truyền).


Figure: Traditional Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Phở Bò) in a 400 ml bowl. The side dish consists of
green Thai basil also known as Vietnamese mint, mung been shoots, small cut pieces of lemon and sliced chillies.

The dish has a Vietnamse name “Phở”. It has white, flat rice noodle and thin slices of beef in beef broth. It is different from another competing rice noodle soup dish called “Hủ Tiếu” which has white round rice noodle in pork broth. They are both different from still another (egg) noodle soup named “Mì” which has yellow, round or flat egg noodle in the broth of pork added by other meats.

Traditional Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Phở) is usually served with one accompanying dishes of green Thai basil also known as Vietnamese mint (húng quế in Vietnamese), eryngium foetidum (ngò gai in Vietnamese) and mung bean shoots (boiled or unboiled) and a quarter (20g) of a lemon. Mung bean shoots are an addition to the side dish by Southern Vietnameses, this addition may not be liked by Northern Vietnameses.


1.1. A nutritious, healthy dish may become a harmful dish if its traditional recipes are not observed.

1.2. About 2hr after eating this dish, your body may have some odor of anis and cinnamon in the spices used in the dish! This is easily noticeable from the odor of your urine.

1.3. No MSG should be added to Traditional Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Phở Bò): Cooks using recipes for quick profits may put mono-sodium glutamate in the dish. The traditional recipes has no such modern, controversial ingredient.

1.4. If the cook used MSG, as taught by his recipes for quick profits , and you are allergic to MSG contained in the consumed food you may suffer one or many of the following effects:

1.4.1/- Slight adverse effects of MSG: 1.4.1a/- A hot or cold sensation on the back of the neck for about half a minute duration about fifteen minutes after ingesting the “food”. 1.4.1b/- Loss of your voice. 1.4.1c/- Prolong thirst for water at night time.
1.4.2/- Medium adverse effects of MSG: 1.4.2a/- Immediate severe headache after eating the food, 1.4.2b/- Loss of voice, 1.4.2c/- Difficulty of breathing at night time due to throat congestion (swollen air passage), heavy mucus secretion, constant dry caughing and clearing of throat. 1.4.2d/- Swelling of ankles and knees at night time due to accumulation of water.
1.4.3/- Severe adverse effect of MSG: Immediate difficulty in breathing due to congestion of air passage, heavy mucus secretion, constant dry caughing and clearing of throats. Ambulance or medical assistance may be required.

The above descriptions in subsection 1.4 are from my own direct experience of unexpected exposure to MSG (The description and conclusions of causative effects of MSG were deduced from my various own experience of unfortunate unexpected exposures to MSG. Self-appointed “Fact checkers” would not accept my conclusions as I had never tried to trace any unexpected exposure to MSG when I had no suffering and I also had not been silly enough to carry out double blind experinents with exposure to MSG.). My experience is similar to those reported in [3-8].

1.5 It is best to know your body’s reaction against MSG before attempting to eat any food containing it. Despite denials ( various authorities(?) don’t let an adventure into unknown foods turn into an unfortunate expensive event.

2. Authentic Recipes.

1/- Prepare the side dish of Thai basil and mung bean shoots and about 20g of a cut lemon. Prepare a small dish of soy sauce paste and chilly paste with some slices of fresh chilly (see first figure).

2/- Make a broth for the noodle soup by boiling beef bone in water. For each intended serve filling a 300ml bowl allow 100g of beef bone. You may need a 4 litre cook pot/sauce pan to prepare the broth for 4 serves. Boil the bone in simmering water for 2 hr. Let it cool down overnight. In the following day remove the layer of solidified fat and the bone from the pot of broth. The broth should be now clear from debris. For each serve add 5g of , 2g of cinnamon, 3g of fresh ginger to the broth and boil it for 5 minutes to make the broth water for the soup. Turn off the heat.

3/- Dip 50g of white flat rice noodle in another pot of boiling water until it soften and pull it up (or boil it in the pot then drain away the hot water). Put the boiled, softened, white, flat noodle in a serving bowl (of 300 ml to 600 ml capacity).

4/- On top of the noodle in the serving bowl place some freshly cut thin slices of less than 2mm in thickness of raw (alternatively lightly boiled), low fat, red rump-steak beef.

5/- For each serve, add 100g of thinly sliced tomato to the broth. Heat up the broth to boiling.

6/- Pour BOILING broth onto the raw (or lightly boiled) beef in the bowl until the broth just submerge the meat.

7/- Add some (3) thin slices of freshly cut onion, some chop spring onion, The bowl is ready to serve.

8/- The guest has to mix by himself the meat, noodle and others pieces in his own bowl with the boiling broth in the bowl to complete the cooking of the meat. The dish is then ready for consumption.

3. Ingredients.

No added artificial MSG.

No Borax.

For each 300ml serving bowl of Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup you may need:

100g of beef bone from butcher shop.

50g of rump steak beef.

100g of fresh tomato.

5g of

Figure: A Five Spice mixture.

2g of dried cinnamon.

3g of ginger.

Small amount of slice onion, chopped spring onion, slice chilly, cut lemons, soy sauce paste, chilly paste.

3. Varieties of Phở.

The dish may become different varietiess depending on its meat contents:

Phở Bò Tái, when prepared exactly as in section 2. (Bò = beef; Tái = slightly cooked).

Phở Bò Nạm, when slices of rump steak beef in section 2 are replaced by 3mm slices of well stewed beef muscle. (Bò = beef).

Phở Bò Gầu or Phở Bò Gân, when slices of rump steak beef in section 2 are replaced by 3mm thick slices of stewed beef tendon. (Bò = beef; Gân = Tendon).

Phở Bò Sách, when slices of rump steak beef in section 2 are replaced by 6mm thick slices of boiled honeycomb reticulum beef tripe ( (Bò = beef; Sách = Book; Lá Sách = Book leaves).

Phở Tái Nạm Sách Gầu, when slices of rump steak beef in section 2 are replaced by a combination of Phở Tái, Phở Nạm, Phở Sách, and Phở Gầu.

Some restaurants offer an additional side dish of boiled solidified ox blood plasma in a small bowl. The boiled solidified ox blood plasma has dark reddish brown colour and has the consistency of boiled egg white.

The noodle dish described here has low fat content. Some people may go for the opposite and ask the cook for an additional small bowl of hot liquefied fat (obtained by melting the discarded solified fat of step 2.2). Consuming that melted fat looks silly or dangerous to weight watchers but some people do eat like that. Such a side dish certainly has a very high cholesterol content.

4. Spotting the non-authentic broth.

Every serve needs about 100g of beef bone. A restaurant selling 100 bowls needs to purchase at least 10kg of new beef bone and dispose at least 3kg of used up beef bone. If you see neither any handling nor any machinery for such handling (20 litre stock pots and sometimes a small built-in overhead crane in the commercial kitchen) then the broth may not be made from beef bone.

A nearly transparent broth and a big sack of monosodium glutamate (MSG) stored in the kitchen are then the give-away signs that the broth may be just an MSG soluion.

Figure: A 25 kg bag of MSG stored in the walkway of a Vietnamese restaurant.

5. Where to find authentic Vietnamese beef noodle soup.

It is an upmarket dish (costing 150000VND =$8.00 US in 2019) in Vietnam (in Saigon). In Melbourne, Australia, it is now hard to find as most shops go for quick profits. You may have to prepare such a dish yourself. Alternatively, you may have to buy the take-away version and add your own home made, authentically prepared broth to it.

I don’t know if authentic MSG-free traditional Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup (Phở) can still be found in any Vietnamese restaurant in Melbourne. If it still exists it may cost you more than $15.00 US (?).


[1]. Thai basil also known as Vietnamese mint,

[2]. húng quế,

[3]. Chinese restaurant syndrome. (n.d.) Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. (2003). Retrieved March 9 2021 from









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