Lamb Pho (Phở)

Oh, how i love phở.

Vietnamese pronunciation: [fə̃ː] (listen)
(thanks Wiki)

Sorry to any picky spellers out there... I really don't feel like typing out the special character every time i want to say phở in this post, so i'm just gonna use an o. Fair enough?

Anyway, I've been obsessed with pho ever since the first time I visited the bay area and had my first bowl at Le Cheval.

However, the true obsession came when I began learning to make it on my own.

I've made beef pho several times (and in a manner very very similar to this recipe, just with beef bones and meat). I also commonly use my freezer compost bag to make veggie pho. However, the other day at Farmer Joe's, I came across an awesome pile of lamb bones and it was like a koala bear crapped a rainbow in my brain.

Eureka! Lamb Pho!!

Alright, I'm gonna dive right into the actual recipe this time, so here we go.

ingredients  (serves 4-6, I made a double batch)

5-6 lbs. lamb bones, leg and knuckle bones preferred.
2 onions, halved
2″ nub of ginger, halved lengthwise
4 cloves garlic
1 lb. of lamb stew meat
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
1 Tbsp. fennel seeds
5 star anise
2 cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
1 1/2 Tbsp. salt
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 Tbsp. sugar
dried chilis
1 spice bag, or other unbleached food-safe fine mesh bag

2 lbs. rice noodles (dried or fresh)
limes, cut into wedges
scallion, chopped
chili peppers, sliced
bean sprouts
Oyster sauce
Fish sauce
Chili Paste

I realize that i just made a list of not-so-incredibly-common ingredients for the average fridge or pantry...
I don't keep an average pantry though. Pho ingredients are almost always on-hand in my house... usually all i need to buy when i want to make a batch is bones, meat, and the fresh stuff for the bowls.


Very first step: fill a LARGE pot with cool water and bring to a rapid boil.

While waiting for that to boil, you can char the onion, ginger, and garlic. Crank up the oven, slice the onions and ginger in half, brush the sliced sides lightly with olive oil, and put on the top rack of the oven and roast for 10-20 minutes, until visibly charred. Once this is done, set aside.

Once the water in the pot is boiling, put all of the bones in and continue to boil rapidly for 10 minutes. This is a really gross step. Unless you like stinky brown foam.

Dump out the water, rinse the pot thoroughly, and rinse the bones thoroughly.

Fill the pot again with cool water and put the bones back in. Add a few dried chilis as well. (I used a few chile de arbol chilis because I have a hojillion of them) Bring this back to a boil.

While waiting for the water to boil(again) take the cinnamon stick, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, cardamom pods, and cloves and put them in the little spice bag.

Once the water is boiling again, lower to a simmer. Add the ginger, onion, garlic, spices, sugar, salt, stew meat, and fish sauce and simmer uncovered for an hour and a half.

Remove the stew meat and set aside for later. Continue simmering for another hour and a half.

Towards the end of this hour and a half, you can prepare the bevy of condiments and herbs and noodles that are required for this soup.

Depending on how hands-on you want this meal to be for your guests, you can do as much prep for these things as you want.  At the very least, slice up some limes, fresh chilis, and scallions. I also like to at least remove all the big stems from the herbs, if not chop them up a bit.

You'll also want to cut or shred up the stew meat at this point, and prepare some rice noodles.  (Use the directions on the rice noodles, or use some that you are familiar with, because they seem to vary quite a bit, especially if you're lucky enough to get fresh rice noodles).

At the end of the second hour and a half of simmering the broth, remove and discard all the bones, strain the broth as well as possible through a fine mesh strainer, and adjust seasoning to taste (I usually end up adding more fish sauce and a bit of salt at this point).

Bring the broth back to a boil and serve!

This was hands down the best pho I have ever made.

Lamb on FoodistaLamb
Star Anise on FoodistaStar Anise


  1. lovely pho-tos! I love lamb, and have never seen lamb pho on the menu, why is that? Sounds delicious.

  2. high five on "pho-tos"... it is way too hard to resist wordplay when writing about pho.

    and yes... lamb pho doesn't seem to exist. It was my biggest "Eureka!" moment in recent history.