Homemade Vietnamese Phó Soup

A very popular dish in Vietnam is their Vietnamese Phó soup. It is served for breakfast, lunch and dinner in most hotels and restaurants and is possibly one of the most common dishes you will come across.

They serve it with either chicken, beef, vegetable and sometimes even seafood- my favourite was the beef phó.

Despite tasting amazing, this soup is just so good for you! It was probably my favourite dish in Vietnam- although you must check if the broth is made fresh because some places just serve a packet version which does not taste as nice and definitely doesn’t have the health benefits. The phó broth uses beef/chicken bones boiled over many hours which allows the collagen and minerals from the bone to release into the liquid broth, so when you consume the broth all these good minerals enter your body- call it the ultimate hangover or illness cure. These certain minerals are not found in other foods and are not absorbed as readily in capsule form so if your over indulging in the phó soup this may not be such a bad thing!

Street phó is often the better way to go.

Seasonings vary, most commonly you can add bean sprouts, shredded greens, mint, coriander, chilli, lime juice and other herbs and I find it to taste a lot more flavoursome if you garnish it with a bit of fish sauce and soy sauce.

My recipe takes reasonably long if you want to reap the health benefits from the bones, but it can also be as quick as you want it to take. It does taste a lot better if left to simmer for longer, but I had it after 2 hours and it was still nice.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • Beef soup bones (approximately 3-4)
  • 2 green onions
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 thumb of ginger, sliced
  • 3 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp pepper corns
  • Fresh mint
  • Fresh coriander
  • Bean sprouts
  • Shredded Asian greens / Bok choy
  • Chilli, diced
  • Fish sauce / soy sauce
  • Lime, juiced
  • Thick rice noodles, cooked

Method

  1. Boil the beef bones for 10 minutes until impurities have surfaced. Rinse the pot and the bones and set aside.
    Lightly char the onion, garlic and ginger in a non-stick pan, remove from the pan and set aside.
    Add the star anise, cinnamon and peppercorns to the pan and char until pepper corns begin to pop or slightly darker in colour.
    Throw all ingredients into a large pot including the beef bones and cover with water by approximately 5cm. The water will evaporate over time so make sure there is plenty in there.
    Simmer for at least 2 hours (longer the better) up to 10 hours for maximum flavour and health benefits simmer longer.
    Drain the ingredients and collect the liquid- this is the broth.
    Compose a bowl with noodles, bean sprouts, greens, chilli, herbs. Pour the broth over top and then add sauces and lime juice to taste.

Many people boil a brisket in the pot for 2 hours which significantly enhances the flavour and then remove and slice it up to serve in the bowl- but I was too lazy and it tastes okay without. Enjoy!

What to pack for Vietnam?

I went backpacking to Vietnam for just under 2 weeks, travelling from Ho Chi Minh City in the south of the country, right up to Hanoi City in the north of the country. I traveled during early January, so clothing tips may not be helpful for you if you are traveling during the other half of the year which is meant to be a lot warmer, but you must read the information about the visa before arrival.

Packing for Vietnam

Packing be difficult due to the change in climate, the country stretches over 1,500 km from north to south which means the weather can be completely different on opposite ends. If you are doing a similar length trip, here are some tips for packing.

Clothing was tough and it is hard to recommend as the south was relatively warm (I wore shorts and a singlet or light shirt most days with a pair of walking shoes), but the north was very cold during January, so I would definitely recommend a warm jumper and pants or even tracksuit pants would have been perfect.

If you have limited space like me and are just taking a backpack, don’t be so quick to pack these items if you intend on doing some shopping over there because the prices are definitely a lot more affordable than in Australia. I would save at least a quarter of room in your bag to buy some items over there- particularly if you are heading to Hoi An (highly recommend) it is a great place for shopping in Vietnam.

Here is what I would recommend to pack while backpacking for 2 weeks or less in Vietnam:

  • Shoes (1 pair of walking shoes and 1 pair of thongs)
  • Tops if you are spending half in North and half in South of the country (2 singlets, 2-3 t-shirts, 1 long sleeved shirt)
  • Bottoms (1 pair of denim shorts, 2 pairs of sport shorts/comfortable shorts, 1 light loose long pant and 1 tracksuit pant). I took 2 pairs of denim shorts, skirt, comfortable shorts, 2 pairs of pants and exercise shorts which I found was unnecessary. Try not to over pack. 
  • 1 light jumper and 1 warm/puffer jumper (depending on shopping)
  • Pajamas or just an extra shirt (optional)
  • 4-5 pairs of socks
  • 8 pairs of underwear (find a laundry mat half way and do a load of washing- there are plenty around and most hotels offer it for a small fee)
  • Deodorant
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, wet wipes, tissues)
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Headphones
  • A small amount of Vietnamese money (dong)
  • Power point adapter for Vietnam as the power points are not the same- you can buy this over there, but it would be handy to already have it organised.
  • Obvious items (passport, phone, charger, insurance, visa etc.)

There are obviously a lot more you can pack, but I found these were my staple items. Try not to over pack, this is possibly worse than not packing enough, because you have to carry everything around all day every day and you have no room for buying anything extra in case you need it along the way. Make sure your bag is secure, pick pocketing is quite common over there.

Visa for Vietnam

I found it extremely hard to find information on what to do about a visa prior to travelling to Vietnam, so here is some useful tips. Before obtaining your visa on arrival you are required to hand over:

  1. Passport
  2. Approved Visa Letter
  3. Filled out NA1 form (you will find out how to download this via email when you receive your visa approval letter)
  4. 2 small (4cm x 6cm) photographs of yourself
  5. 25 US dollars (or dong)

You can apply for a visa through a website online before you go, I used the website Vietnam visas, but you can also apply through the Vietnam Embassy website or other online websites, just make sure it is legit and make sure you do this a couple days in advance because some do take a few working days to process. The prices on websites do vary.

You will pay for the online visa and once you have received it via email, print it and make sure you have a hard copy on arrival. You will also receive the link to download a blank form via email along wit your visa letter, you will need to fill this out and keep a hard copy for arrival. You also need 2 small, recent portrait photos (4cm x 6cm) of yourself printed and ready to hand over (it can be the same photo). This part did confuse me, but I just went to my local post office and requested a portrait photo which gets printed in small squares the same size as your passport photo. Or you can take them yourself and print them out on photo paper 4 x 6cm. Just cut out 2 photos and take them with you. Lastly, you need 25 US dollars or equivalent in dong to pay on arrival and you will receive your visa.

It is also wise to keep some extra photocopies of your passport and extra money/back up travel card or bank card hidden in your bag/wallet in case you loose your belongings.

I would also recommend converting at least ~200 AUD into dong before leaving so you have money on you in case you need food, taxi, hotel booking on the first night AND you need ~25 US dollars or equivalent in dong to pay for your visa on arrival anyway. You can get money out over there using regular bank cards or travel cards in most ATMs on the street, however depending on the ATM it did cost me up to 25 AUD for one withdrawal of 3,000,000 dong.

Anymore questions feel free to comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can

Enjoy your holiday!