Mai Chau Confessions and Blissful Beef Noodle Pho

Explore the Mai Chau Valley and leasn all about Vietnamese beef noodle soup or pho bo recipe included, gluten free, dairy freesite2602763.nestifysites.comThe Idyllic Mai Chau Valley.  Standing here is like being in the middle of a postcard of rice fields. A slightly cooler part of the country, it is the perfect location to enjoy beef noodle soup  or pho bo as it is called in Vietnamese), the national dish of Vietnam. Fabulous, Asian-style beef stock, chock full of rice noodles, herbs and pickles, this dish is a meal in itself. Read on about our surprising village visit that ended up being the social highlight of our trip to Vietnam.

Long-time readers would appreciate we are keen hikers. But hiking in the tropics can be a problem in terms of heat and humidity. But here in the Mai Chau Valley, we had elevation, less humidity and less heat. Our excellent hotel the Sol Bungalows organized a guided, morning hike through the hills and rice fields with a late morning visit to a village household. Little did we know this would turn into a riotously funny, all-day affair.

 

Mai Chau Valley Rice Fields

Our guided hike started normally enough walking through some remote villages outside the town of Mai Chau but at the end of our hike we visited a local house for a late morning cup of tea and to observe life in a typical village house.

Our hosts were a retired, Vietnamese army officer and his wife, who was busy on her sewing machine. Also present were one other couple, (guests on the hiking tour) our guide and our driver.

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After our tea, our host offered us some “water” from his water dispensing machine, the type you see in many offices around the world. He carefully poured the water into a plastic water bottle and offered us each a small glass. Well what you can probably guess is that it wasn’t really water, it was rice whiskey!  Being the perfect host our small glasses were replenished but alas the wattle bottle was drained and our tour was surely at an end.

Oh no this continued for some time! The plastic water bottle was replenished and another round ensued. By this time the conversation was really warming up and our hostess stopped sewing and also joined in the fun.

Explore the Mai Chau Valley and leasn all about Vietnamese beef noodle soup or pho bo recipe included, gluten free, dairy freesite2602763.nestifysites.com

We couldn’t speak Vietnamese and they couldn’t speak English but there was a lot of communication going on there and much laughter. Eight water bottles later and at about 3pm we rolled down to our vehicle, whereupon our driver (who had abstained) safely drove us back to the hotel in Mai Chau. Needless to say we had a nap when we arrived back at the hotel!

This may have been our favorite day in Vietnam. Lovely people. Here was a retired (North) Vietnamese military man hosting an American, Australian, French and German guests. Despite the fact our countrymen fought against this man’s people in their own country, this man couldn’t have cared less. Which just goes to show the real people (not the politicians) just want to get on and enjoy life.  We had a great discussion with the help of our guide and translator about children, education, work, food and life in general.

It was just one of those days that grew out of nothing and was such a positive experience we will never forget.

French Influence in Vietnamese Cuisine

In addition to hiking in the area around Mai Chau we also took the opportunity to cycle through the rice fields. It was very interesting to note the fields are all tended manually, no equipment here, everything done by hand. It is back breaking work.

Explore the Mai Chau Valley and leasn all about Vietnamese beef noodle soup or pho bo recipe included, gluten free, dairy freesite2602763.nestifysites.com

Rice is the staple crop throughout all of Asia, eaten in a variety of forms, rice noodles being one of the more popular forms. But as we have learned, the French brought some of their own techniques and applied them to the local ingredients.

There is little doubt that the French have had a wonderfully positive influence on Vietnamese cuisine (as well as neighboring Cambodia, Laos and to a lesser extent Thailand). The French introduced cattle (specifically bred for beef) to Vietnam as well as a range of vegetables and fruits including tomatoes, carrots, cucumber and more. Baguettes and pate are also key ingredients in Banh Mi, another classic Vietnamese dish.

Beef Noodle Soup or Pho Bo

The base of beef noodle soup or pho bo is a rich beef stock, cooked for many hours. It is a classic beef consommé, albeit flavored with Asian herbs and spices. Luke Nguyen, a popular, young Australian chef of Vietnamese descent has just completed a television series tracing the French influence on Vietnamese cooking. It was fascinating. He claims beef noodle soup or pho bo is based on the French dish “Pot au Feu”. You can read an article here about the French influence on pho.

Beef Noodle Soup or Pho Bo, is becoming increasingly popular all over the world. And why not? When we first glimpsed the picturesque valley of Mai Chau with its stunning rice fields, totally surrounded by mountains, we knew this was the place to feature this great dish. True, beef noodle soup or pho bo is eaten all over the country, but up here with its slightly cooler climate, it seemed like this was the place where you would most enjoy this lovely beef noodle soup.

So after hearing about the great hospitality and cycling through those wonderful rice fields please enjoy beef noodle soup or pho bo, the national dish of Vietnam. It is eaten here at any time, breakfast, lunch or dinner.  And yes and it goes very well with rice whiskey!

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Mai Chau Confessions and Blissful Beef Noodle Pho site2602763.nestifysites.com

 

Mai Chau Confessions and Blissful Beef Noodle Pho site2602763.nestifysites.com
ready to eat - Vietnamese beef noodle soup site2602763.nestifysites.com
Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup or Pho Bo
Print Recipe
Print Recipe
The beef broth, pickle and the sliced beef should be prepared the day before. Any broth not used may be frozen for later use. The pickle will last happily in the refrigerator for a week. Be flexible with the quantities and go with the flow. The quantities are determined by the size of your bowl. This should be enough soup for 4 large bowls or 8 small bowls.
Servings Prep Time Cook Time Passive Time
4people 30minutes 6hours 12hours
Servings Prep Time
4people 30minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
6hours 12hours
Ingredients
Servings: people
Units:
Ingredients
Servings: people
Units:
Instructions
Beef Broth
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 f (180 c). Place the water in a stockpot and bring to the boil. Roast the beef bones for about 15 minutes, turning once half way through. Add to the stockpot. Skim off the surface to remove any impurities.
  2. In the same pan used for the bones, add the ginger, cinnamon, lemongrass, star anise, onion and cardamom. Roast for 5 minutes, stirring once. Add to the stock. Add the salt and sugar. Bring to the boil. Simmer for a minimum of five and a half hours.stock ingredients - Vietnamese beef noodle soup site2602763.nestifysites.com
Pickle
  1. Place the white vinegar in a bowl. Cut ingredients into similar size pieces (e.g. a garlic clove should be cut into 4, base everything else off that). Add the vegetables and salt and sugar into the vinegar. Stir for 30 seconds and allow to sit.pickles - Vietnamese beef noodle soup site2602763.nestifysites.com
Fresh garnish to serve
  1. Use any combination of the ingredients listed ready to serve with the soup. The quantity shown here is enough for 2 people. fresh herbs - Vietnamese beef noodle soup site2602763.nestifysites.com
For the soup
  1. Make sure the beef fillet is sliced and ready to go, having followed the instructions below. Do this the day before required. Heat the beef broth and leave at a simmer. Once the broth is simmering, cook the rice noodles as per the packet instructions.
Assembling the soup
  1. Place some cooked noodle and beef fillet slices in a bowl. Ladle in the simmering stock and allow to sit for 2 minutes. This cooks the beef. Bring filled bowls, pickles and garnish to the table. ready for the fixings - Vietnamese beef noodle soup site2602763.nestifysites.com
  2. Each person tops the soup with pickles and the fresh garnish. Serve immediately.with fixings - Vietnamese beef noodle soup site2602763.nestifysites.com
Recipe Notes

# Our free, Asian cooking guide includes a detailed catalog of typical Asian herbs, vegetables and ingredients, including close-up pictures to help you identify them.

You can buy palm sugar from Asian grocers and better supermarkets.

Shallots are not to be confused with green (spring) onions.  See our guide for details.

You can shorten the time taken for the beef broth by using store-bought beef stock, adding the remaining ingredients (except water) and then cooking for 1 hour.

Buy fresh rice noodles from the refrigerated section of your favorite Asian grocer or supermarket.

In this dish, the boiling beef broth cooks the the sliced beef in the bowl.  It is therefore important to make sure you slice the beef thinly.  To ensure this, place the beef in the freezer for 45 minutes to an hour, until the beef is hardened but still yielding.  The beef is now much  easier to slice thinly, as shown below.  It is best to do this the day you prepare the beef broth and pickles.  Refrigerate the sliced beef and remove about 30 minutes before serving the soup so that it is at room temperature, when cooked by the beef broth.

thin sliced beef fillet - Vietnamese beef noodle soup site2602763.nestifysites.com

41 Responses

  1. Noel
    | Reply

    What a neat lesson … I always associate rice with Vietnam, but these photos and your words make it come to life for me.

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Noel, It is beautiful scenery, but back breaking work. In the North, in Sapa the rice fields are terraced up the side of the mountain. That will be in a post later this week.

  2. Mmmn, this looks super authentic! I love pho (my fiance is part Viet part French and it’s a popular date lunch)

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Natalie, It was quite authentic tasting! I love Pho. Make it home you’ll get brownie points! 🙂

  3. Dalia
    | Reply

    I am absolutely in love with Pho, actually with every Vietnamese soup. One of my good friend is from Vietnam and she has been feeding me some really delicious food. And I am looking forward to one day have an Asian tour. Love your photos 🙂

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Thanks for your kind comment Dalia. It’s not just the taste of pho, it’s also the smell, the touch. It’s all good, a real meal in itself. And those lovely spices! I could go on and on about it.

  4. Cristie @ Little Big H
    | Reply

    Pho is one of my absolute favourites. I’ve never attempted to make it myself but you have convinced me to give it a go. It looks so good.

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Cristie you will popular at home if you make this! Thanks for your comment.

  5. Claudia ! Gourmet Project
    | Reply

    I love love love Pho, and love this post! how I’d love to be there wuth you!

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Claudia- thanks- you can come along and travel with us anytime!

  6. Afrolems
    | Reply

    I had no clue that there was some french influence in Vietnamese cuisine. I love pho!

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Not just pho but banh mi (made with French baguettes) as well. We will be featuring banh mi later this week.

  7. Amanda
    | Reply

    Thanks for visiting my Huancaina Sauce post…my husband loves pho, I am going to have to try this for him. I am loving your blog!

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Thank you Amanda. My pleasure to visit your blog. You’ll be even more popular if you make him this pho. Cheers….Mark

  8. Anne Murphy
    | Reply

    I just discovered pho in local restaurants a few years ago – and the rice noodles mean I can continue to eat it! I’m delighted to have a recipe.

    And the description of your day is fascinating.

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Thanks Anne! With all that rice, it makes sense to make the noodles out of them, and gluten-free is a bonus. Cheers….Mark

  9. Rachel @ Simple Seasonal
    | Reply

    I’m so happy you posted this recipe. There is an excellent Vietnamese restaurant near my house with all kinds of culinary delights, but with a young family at home it’s so much more economical to make dinner at home. Thanks for sharing!

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Hi Rachel. Thanks for your kind comment. It’s a fun dish to make and I like the “crunch” of the ingredients. Maybe it is time to introduce chopsticks to your little ones? They’ll love that! Cheers….Mark

  10. pam
    | Reply

    I love Pho!!! This is more complicated than my usual recipe and probably much, much better.

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Thanks Pam. It’s not the shortest recipe we have featured but it is easy! But the taste makes it so worthwhile.

  11. Archana Kapoor
    | Reply

    I have very often associated rice with Vietnam! So not a bad association after all 🙂 Also, I wasn’t aware of the French influence! Some great photos here! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Archana, Glad you enjoyed the post. The landscape of the rice fields is beautiful. Especially in the North where they grow rice in terraces on the sides of the mountains.

  12. Stéphanie
    | Reply

    I don’t really know if it was a variation of pho bo, but when I had a turn around Northern Vietnam each morning I had a soup in the market. I actually could choose the main ingredients (beef, pork or something else). It was delicious, especially because of the heat. It was indeed refreshing ! I could walk the whole day without a lunch. I was in a strange form there. Each day I was walking 10, 20 or even 30 kilometers through the mountain areas without being tired…

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Well it must have been the pho! It is a deliciously, refreshing meal even in a hot climate. At the time of the year we visited, it was a little cooler in northern Vietnam. I’m glad you made the most of your “strange form”.

  13. Ami
    | Reply

    Will try it without the meat. 🙂 Nicely captured

    • Editor
      | Reply

      It’s a fabulous dish. Full of flavor. Thanks for your comment.

  14. Cynthia
    | Reply

    Mmmm, that recipe sounds so tasty! Have to try it out!!

    • Editor
      | Reply

      It’s a hearty meal, full of great tastes.

  15. Voyager
    | Reply

    Loved the pics of the rice fields, can’t comment on the beef noodles though, being a vegetarian, but yes the noodles do look great!

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Yes the rice fields were great. You can substitute tofu for the beef and use veggie stock. Just as good.

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Vietnam is a pretty easy place for vegetarians. This dish aside they eat a lot of vegetables and just love fresh food. The landscape of the rice fields was stunning. It is a beautiful country.

  16. Authentic Travels
    | Reply

    I will try to cook myself something similar in Romania, though I don’t know if it’s the same thing. The best is to experience it at the country of origin.

    • Editor
      | Reply

      It is great to try it when you travel, but I like making it when I am back at home as well. It reminds me of my travels and I can them with family and friends. So many good foods in the world.

  17. Jennifer
    | Reply

    I have never had pho before but have always wanted to try it in an authentic setting. This is great!

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Jennifer, It is a beautiful dish. They eat it for breakfast!

  18. Taylor
    | Reply

    I never really thought about French cuisine having an influence on Vietnamese cuisine, but it makes sense! I’ll be heading there this summer and am quite excited to try some of their food. And biking through the rice fields sounds lovely!

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Taylor, the French influence is everywhere in Vietnam, including the architecture. The baguettes are a highlight. Thanks for your comment.

  19. Ajay Sood
    | Reply

    This reminds me of Zurek – a Polish soup – that is a meal unto itself. Thick stock with diced potatoes, diced boiled eggs, meat… and served hot! Loved your brush with Pho Bo!

    • Editor
      | Reply

      I love soups that are meals unto themselves. So many different cultures do this. Real comfort food for the masses. Thanks for your comment.

  20. I really love the armchair travel I get from your site. This soup looks delicious too. Thank you so much for linking up with YWF too.

    • Editor
      | Reply

      Vicki I am very pleased you enjoy the site. YWF is always a great place to find some other great recipes.

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