An important factor in any recipe is the freshness of the ingredients. Although most of the ingredients used in pho are available in any Asian market, nowadays, your local big chain grocery may also carry some of the items.

The ingredients listed below are not all required as there are several different ways of making pho and can be made to each own's liking. While some of the spices are strongly recommended such as star anise and cinnamon, others such as cardamom pods, nutmeg and shallots are optional and in my opinion, provides an additional depth of flavor. Chicken pho or "ga pho" is offered in some restaurants and can be considered a healthier version although most will say not it is as tasty.


Basil LeavesRight Align

This herb is used as a garnish for pho. However, please keep in mind to use Thai basil leaves and not spearmint leaves which are easier to find in supermarkets. Thai basil leaves are usually found in Asian markets.

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Bean Sprouts

Chinese bean sprouts develop from mung beans. These crispy vegetables are great in stir fry and are a tasty accompaniment to pho. One may be surprised to learn that these sprouts are nutritious as well.


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With a strong and smoky fragrance, this spice can be found in some pho recipes. It is recommended that black cardamom pods be used instead of the more common green cardamom. However, green cardamom is more easy to find so it is OK to use green if that is all you can find.

Chili Peppers

Right AlignWith a strong and aromatic fragrance, this spice can be found in some pho recipes. It is recommended that cardamom pods be used but can be substituted with ground cardamom.


Right Align This distinct spice is usually found in American desserts but is commonly used in many Middle Eastern, North African, and Asian dishes. Cinnamon is the inner bark of a tropical evergreen tree. With a woody and earthy flavor, cinnamon is one of the main ingredients that gives pho its great aroma. Pho recipes usually call for 1-2 cinnamon sticks.


Also known as Chinese parsley, this lively flavored herb has a waxy and pungent flavor. It is commonly used in Chinese, Thai, Indonesian and Latin American cuisines. Cilantro can be found in most supermarkets and is used as a garnish for pho which is added right before the broth is poured over the noodles.Left Align

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This strong spice can be described as bitter, pungent and sweet. Dried cloves are the buds from a clove tree. Whole cloves can be used in pho broth to give it a strong, aromatic flavor and smell.

Right AlignFennel Seeds

Some pho recipes call for fennel seeds which is known for its anise-like flavor with a hint of licorice. Less intense than star anise, this spice can be found in Chinese five spice and herbes de Provence.

Fish SauceLeft Align

A pungent seasoning made from small fish and salt fermented for a long time. This flavorful ingredient is critical to a pho recipe. Its added while the broth is simmering but can also be added to a bowl of pho to adjust the taste to one's liking. Although its terrible smell and strong flavor may shun away most people, it can be used to make a delicious "nuoc mam" which is a toned down version that includes other ingredients such as lime juice and water or coconut milk. There are several brands to choose from and not all fish sauce are created equal. The most expensive brand does not mean it's the best tasting. Premium brands usuallly have a more muted fishy flavor and color.

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Fresh ginger adds zing to a dish and adds to the unique pho aroma. This tuberous root can also be used to treat certain ailments such as motion sickenss. Ginger can now be found in most supermarkets in the produce section. Use only fresh ginger and not dried ginger or galangal for cooking pho.

Hoisin SauceRight Align

Also known as plum sauce, this optional sweet condiment can be added to your bowl of pho to counter the strong salty flavors from the fish sauce and complements the spices used in the broth. Hoisin sauce can be found in some supermarkets although the better brand bottles are found in Asian markets.

Align CenterLemongrass

This tall tropical grass has a lemon-like taste and smell. To use, cut 1/3 off of the top and use the bottom bulbous end. Cut into sections or crush to release additional flavour. Lemongrass is also used in Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian and Indian dishes and goes well with dishes that also use coconut milk. It can last 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator when wrapped in a paper bag or can be frozen for several months. Most pho recipes do not call for lemongrass but can be added for additional flavor.


Lime is used as a garnish for pho and is optional. It helps tone down the strong flavors of pho from the fish sauce with its refreshing tartness.Right Align


Right AlignBeef bones and/or oxtails and/or briskets are the typical meats to make the broth. To serve with the noodles, rare sliced round beef is placed in a bowl of noodles and hot broth is poured over beef to cook it. For the more adventurous, beef balls, tendon, tripe, or brisket can be used.


Right AlignNutmeg has a warm piney aroma combined with sweet and bitter tastes. This spice's subtle nutty flavor is used to enhance savory foods and can be found grounded or whole, similar to a nut. Nutmeg is not a nut; whole nutmegs are preferred over grounded as they will keep indefinitely and can be grated using a nutmeg grater or micrograter.

Rice NoodlesRight Align

There are several different types of rice noodles available but the ones you want to use are marked with the words "banh pho". However, wide rice noodles used to make Pad Thai can also be used. For the best bowl of pho, fresh rice noodles should be used if you can find any, which is usually found only in Asian markets.


Part of the parsley family, this herb used in Vietnamese dishes possess a cilantro smell and serrated edges. .This flavorful herb is an optional garnishing for pho and can be difficult to find at times. It is also known as saw-leaf herb or long coriander (ngo gai).


Green onions are used as a garnish and are added to a bowl of noodles right before the broth is added. Right Align


Right AlignThe flavors of shallots fall somewhere between an onion and garlic. This milder version of the onion (although not part of the onion family) can be used in pho by sauteeing chopped shallots and adding it to the broth. Most pho recipes do not call for this method but I have added it for those who are interested in enhancing the onion flavor in their broth.


Right Align Sriracha is made from sun ripen chilis and garlic and can enhance a bowl of pho with its sweet and spiciness. Usually found in Asian markets, this brand known by its rooster and green cap can be found at some Whole Foods. Or you may order it from us online. As it is noted on the bottle, Sriracha is also "excellent in soups, sauces, pastas, pizzas, hot dogs and hamburgers."

Star AniseRight Align

This star-shaped seeded pod spice has a licorice flavor. It is commonly used in long simmering recipes such as pho and is native to Southwest Asia and North Africa. Star anise can be found in any Asian or Latin American groceries or online.