Pho may be the most beneficial thing that came from the unanimously unpopular French occupation of Indochina. Pho, Banh Mi, Coffee, Banh Xeo—all of these and many more make Vietnamese Cuisine the only asian culinary culture directly shaped by European influence. In fact—the use of beef in Vietnam was scarce before the French demanded this meat in lue of the more common Vietnamese staples, pork and chicken.
After spending numerous all nighters preparing pho on the stovetop for my family—I finally realized that I could accomplish the same end result in a quarter of the time thanks to the Instant Pot. Yes—it took some true magic to make time work in my favor AND accomplish the same delicious flavor profile— but Im happy to say I did it! No more driving hours on these crazy So Cal Freeways to find the perfect bowl of the good stuff. I can now make this at home within hours. The first major decision was to pressure cook the bones longer for a more nutritious and flavorful broth. Fair warning, this isn’t a quick dump and go Instant Pot recipe, it has quite a long list of ingredients and takes a fair amount of effort to make, but cooking in the Instant Pot shaves about 8-10 hours of cooking time off the traditional method.
While the exact origin of pho remains debatable—its widely recognized as a dish created in the early 20th century and possibly related to the French “pot-au-feu” (pot on the fire). We can debate the origin but we cannot debate the familiar flavor profile of great pho. That rich bone broth that hits you with a burst of five spice and salty fish sauce. Or if you choose to add a squirt of lime—the acidic tinge that cuts through the richness. Its a dish shaped by its consumer and preparer. It can be spicy with the addition of jalapeño slices—or touched with a pour of vinegar depending on which region you find yourself in while enjoying this delectable dish.
As a canvas—pho is typically a painting of garnishes. Green onions, Thai Basil, Thai chilis, lime, bean sprouts…the list is eternal. Even in America the regional attributes have altered pho. If you’re in California prepare to be served jalapeños—thanks large in part to the large numbers of Hispanics in the vicinity.
If you have an Asian Market near you, you can look for this Pho Spice Packet (or order on Amazon here) instead of buying all the spices separately. If you prefer organic spices, there’s a premade packet made by Ellie Grace’s Pantry (order here).
Are you looking for the chicken version? Check out my Chicken Pho Recipe
If you like extra thin rare steak (tái), you can usually find these packages at Asian Markets – they are used for shabu shabu, but it’s perfect for pho too. You can also freeze a block of steak for about 40 minutes, then cut them extra thin yourself, but it’s hard to get the perfectly thin slices without a deli meat slicer
You can usually find either of these at an Asian Market, the one on the left is fresh pho noodles and you can find it in the refrigerated section and the dried pho noodles can also be ordered online.
Don’t forget to save some nước béo (fatty broth) to serve on the side