:: pho ::

One of the greatest things about living abroad is the opportunity we have to meet people from other cultures.  Little by little we are meeting loads of wonderful people from the fairly large expat community here in Lesotho.  People come to this beautiful Mountain Kingdom from far and wide and so far we have met people from Mexico, Kenya, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Poland, the UK, Ireland and Vietnam among other places.

While chatting recently to our Vietnamese friend Quyen, we discovered a shared passion for cooking and discovering new dishes.  Quyen offered to come over one day and teach us how to cook Pho, and in return we plan to teach her how to cook something new to her another day.

We had a fabulous evening together learning how to make this lovely dish and then enjoying it.  It was fun discovering new ingredients and ways of cooking things – my favourite was using the burner on the stove to ‘grill’ the onion, star anise, ginger and other things with bamboo chopsticks!

Here are a few photos of our evening, and most importantly, Quyen’s fabulous Pho recipe if we can tempt any of you to give it a try!  Thanks again Quyen!

:: Quyen’s Fabulous Pho Recipe :: 


  • Oxtail – 500g
  • Fillet beef – 200g
  • Onion – 1
  • Spring onion – 150g
  • Ginger – 1 ginger equals to the size of 2 thumbs
  • Star anise – 10
  • Cinnamon – 7-10 cm stick (based on the width of the cinnamon)
  • Amomum tsaoko (black cardamon, we think) – 5
  • Pho noodles – 1 bag
  • Water (5 full bowls that you will use to serve pho – when you simmer the water, it’ll evaporate, you can add more till you can serve 4-5 bowls of pho)
  • Small red chillies
  • White vinegar, minced garlic, fish sauce, chilli sauce, black pepper for final serving


1. Clean the oxtail.  Put the oxtail in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes.  Pour out scummy water, clean pot, clean oxtail and put the oxtail into a pot of cold water and bring to boil.

2. Rinse ginger and onion (remove the dry cover), Amomum tsaoko, cinnamon, star anise and dry them.  Cut ginger (4/5 of the ginger you have, half lengthwise), onion (half lengthwise).  Place ginger, onion, Amomum tsaoko and cinnamon on burner until you can smell them (the spice will have a very thin black cover) and then rub them in your hand or a cloth to drop the coal from the spices.  Add the onion, ginger, “thao qua”, cinnamon and star anise to the pot with a little salt.

3. Simmer the pot on low (keep the water boiling but not too much). During the first 5-10 minutes of boiling, skim of any impurities such as foam off the top.  After boiling for 45 minutes (until you feel the oxtail meat is soft using chopsticks or a toothpick to check).  Remove the oxtail and put it in the cold water (this helps the oxtail meat look fresh).  Once the oxtail becomes cool, remove the meat from the oxtail and put aside. Put the bone back into the pot, add fish sauce until you feel the broth is salty enough (some people add a little bit sugar).Skim off any extra fat if you want and increase the temperature to boil the broth.

4. While simmering the oxtail, slice the fillet beef and slice the ginger as thread-shaped (1/5 of the ginger you have left).  Mix the fillet beef and the thread-shaped ginger together.

5. While simmering the oxtail, rinse the spring onion and separate the white part and green parts. Cut the green part into 3mm pieces and strip the white part. Slice chilies.

6. While simmering the oxtail, prepare the pho noodles (from dry). Soak them in cold water for 15 minutes.  Right after you put the bone back to the pot, start boiling a pot of water and put the wet pho noodles into the boiled water for around 5 minutes (or until you feel the pho noodle soft).  Remove them from the bowl and set aside.

7. Put well-done oxtail meat into the bowl with pho noodles.

8. To serve, use a big slotted spoon to put the sliced fillet beef into the boiled broth where it will be cooked to your taste.  Add it to the bowl with pho noodles and well-done oxtail meat.  Add both types of spring onions (green first, white later) and sliced chillies to the bowl.  Finish by pouring in some of the broth to your liking.

9. Serve with a mixture of white vinegar and minced garlic, chilli sauce and black pepper. Recipe serves 4 people with some leftover.

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