Lao Pho: Lao-Style Beef Noodle Soup

lao pho recipeLao Pho (Lao-Style Beef Noodle Soup)

Prep Time: 15-30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes – 1 hour

You can spot a Lao pho enthusiast in a pho restaurant if they request sugar. Pho may have originated in the neighboring country Vietnam but the homemade beef broth and condiment staples on any Lao table are what sets Lao pho apart from the mainstream recipe of chain-restaurant pho. With this recipe, you can enjoy homemade pho in as little as 30 minutes. For an authentic Lao cuisine experience, offer crisp romaine lettuce and stalks of celery as accompanying sides to dip into shrimp paste.

Vegetarian idea: Have a great vegetable broth! Omit beef and bones and all animal products (oyster sauce has oysters) and follow recipe accordingly. They even have vegetable bouillon cubes available on the market.

Lao Pho Recipe (10-12 servings)

Ingredients for beef broth:

  • half an onion, peeled and charred
  • 1 head of garlic, charred
  • 2 stalks of celery, halved
  • 2 pounds of beef bones
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • water, filled 3/4 of pot

Directions for Lao beef broth:

  1. Add ingredients in large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce to simmer for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour (recommended) and occasionally remove and discard brown foam from top of broth.
  3. Prepare ingredients for serving.

Ingredients/condiments for serving:

  • 3 packages of dry pho noodles (often seen as “rice stick noodles”)
  • cilantro, chopped
  • green onions, chopped
  • limes, cut into wedges
  • 3 pounds of beef, thinly sliced for fast cooking
  • bean sprouts
  • Thai basil leaves
  • seasoning sauce
  • hot chili sauce
  • oyster flavored sauce
  • beef flavored paste
  • fried garlic
  • sugar
  • black pepper

Directions for ingredients for serving:

  1. Soak 1 package of dry pho noodles in lukewarm water up to 30 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and set aside. I open a new package in anticipation for the next serving because a big batch will dry out on top or get soggy on bottom.
  2. Chop cilantro, green onions, and limes. Set aside on serving platter or reusable containers.
  3. Slice beef and set aside in reusable container and refrigerate until use.
  4. Set out condiments on serving table.

Directions for serving Lao pho:

  1. Place single serving of noodles and sliced beef into a bowl.
  2. Ladle the simmering broth into bowl covering noodles and beef or put noodles and beef into a metal strainer and dip into broth for fast cooking and softer noodles. Be careful when handling hot broth.
  3. Add condiments (about 1-2 teaspoons of each) and vegetables, according to taste.
  4. Refrigerate broth, vegetables, beef, and noodles until ready to use.
  5. Broth is good to use as long as it’s ‘clear’ and not cloudy, which is usually 2 days.

{} Lao Pho Lao-style beef noodle soup{Pin this “pho” later!}

If you need SE Asian inspiration, see other recipes here for Lao Food

What do you love about pho?

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Grandma’s YouTube Birthday Party

How does a 54-year-old Lao woman celebrate her birthday, you may wonder? Two words: pho and YouTube. As a selfless birthday gift to us, my mom made real pho. Therefore, I selflessly enjoyed real pho made by a real Lao mom. Speaking of which, I am contemplating if I need to revise my Terms of Agreement for my challenge. I’m out of town and won’t be back until Sunday evening, which concludes the “week.” Am I going to have to call in a week? Am I already copping out that quick? Will my Lao mom rad-ness slide back a few points?

I’ll struggle with this tomorrow when I’m having pho for breakfast, lunch and an early dinner. Wait. I shouldn’t be driving after pho because I always get pretty nap-happy afterwards. It must be that MSG that I covet oh-so much.

The non-ghetto version is so freakin' better.

It's like if MTV still had music videos and if they played Lao music.

Humnoy eating one of Grandma's Asian pears. How fitting.

Happy birthday, Grandmommy!

What do you always have to have on your birthday meal? Do you not care or always have a request?

(Grand)Mommy Does Best

You know you need to step up your game when your husband says, “Mmm, it’s good but it’s not Mommy’s pho.” As in my Mommy, the woman who makes the best Lao food that I know. Not quite what you want to hear but I accepted the constructive criticism because it wasn’t called ghetto pho for its elaborate preparation.

My mom is known to tease me with picture texts/videos (I regret ever teaching her this) of my favorite foods from home. I literally will salivate if I see some thom mock houng, Lao spicy papaya salad, up on that iPhone screen! As an attempt to show her I am doing just fine on my own with ghetto pho, I send her my own little in-your-face. What do I get? Insult to injury!

Mommy – 1; Humnoy’s Mommy – 0

Have you mastered your mom’s cooking? What dishes are the most difficult/easiest/fun to make? How often do you consult your parents for recipes?

Ghetto Lao Pho

Don’t have time to make real pho? Don’t want to go to a pho restaurant? Have time to run in an Asian market and have $10 to spend? Well then you’re eligible to make ghetto pho for two adult for two days! Enter my first dish for the Weekly Lao Food Challenge.

It was just like any other time I venture into an Asian goods store: Pick up some shrimp baked chips, jelly cups and their cheaply-priced cilantro. I usually walk the perimeter of the store 2-3 times to drench in the “Asian store smell” to see if I can come up with dinner. I left with four packs of instant pho, Thai basil, frozen meatballs, bean sprouts, cilantro and an Asian bakery snack for all of $9.40. How can you beat cheap Asian store goods?
Once home, I set up my ghetto “broth.” To be less ghetto, I use my packaged chicken stock in place of plain water. I slightly thaw the frozen meatballs under running cold water then put them in the boiling stock to reheat as they are precooked. You may wonder what exactly are in meatballs. To this I have no answer but it’s just a conglomerate of meat with tendon. Mystery Meat perhaps?

I set up my bowls. To be fair, I had some pho bowls in my possession because I’m a Lao poser and have them for times such as this. The instant pho comes with seasoning packets, which contain garlic powder, chili powder (if desired) and, of course, monosodium glutamate (MSG). Don’t give me that look! MSG has not been proven to have any long-term harmful effects and is used in plenty of Asian dishes! Why? Because it’s delicious.

I have Lee Kum Lee oyster-flavored sauce, Sriracha, Green Mountain seasoning sauce, Tiparos Thai fish sauce, sugar and Por Kwan instant beef flavor paste. All these can be found in any Asian food store and are critical to delicious Lao pho. I’m missing a few items but these are a must! For those who are used to Vietnamese restaurant servings, I hope you don’t belong to this group. Laotians put sugar in their pho. Why? Because it’s delicious.

Add the remaining fresh herbs, bean sprouts and lime juice — voila! You’ve got yourself ghetto pho! You, too, can feed two lazy and ghetto adults on $10! That’s the price of a small bowl at a restaurant.

One thing I would change for next ghetto pho is buying lower sodium beef broth because this chicken stock really overpowered the seasonings. Hopefully the next time, I just make real pho.

Have you tried instant pho? Would/did you like it?

Be sure to check out other Lao recipes at Weekly Lao Food Challenge.