Beef noodle soup

One of the things I miss most about the Bay Area, is the abundance of south-east Asian restaurants. Yes we have our share of Thai and Vietnamese places here with a small sprinkling of Malaysian, but they are passable at best, often laden with MSG and salt. The worst part is that they miss the
Course Entree, Soups & Stews
Cuisine Southeast Asian
Level Beginner
Main Ingredient Beef, Noodles
Diet Dairy-Free
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 4 hours


for stock

  • 2 pounds oxtail
  • 10 Cups water
  • 1 pod star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 inch ginger sliced
  • 5 cilantro roots
  • 1 medium onion (peeled and quartered)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar (or more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • salt (to taste)

for bowl

  • 8 ounces banh pho (dried rice noodles), rehydrated in warm water
  • 6 beef balls
  • 1/4 sweet onion sliced thin
  • fried garlic chips
  • Meicai (fermented mustard greens) chopped
  • 1 jalapeƱo pepper sliced
  • cilantro leaves
  • 2 wedges lime


  1. First, boil a large pot of water; add the ox tail and boil for about 7 minutes. What you're trying to do here is to get all the foamy floaty stuff out of the oxtail so your soup comes out nice and clear. Dump this out through a strainer discarding the water, rinse the pot then thoroughly clean each piece of oxtail.
  2. Add the cleaned ox tail and 10 cups of fresh water into the pot along with the star anise, peppercorns, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, cilantro stems/roots, and onion. Bring it to a boil then lower the heat to low, cover and simmer for 3-4 hours (the longer you go, the more depth your soup will have).
  3. While you're waiting you can make some garlic chips by mandolining a few garlic cloves then adding them to a few tablespoons of hot oil over medium heat. Stir to ensure even browning then remove to a paper towel lined plate when they reach a nice golden brown.
  4. When it's done, pass the soup through a strainer into another pot skimming off any excess oil. Season with the fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar and salt. I tend to go light on the salt as some of the condiments I add have some salt in them, but if you're not planning on adding anything later, feel free to give it a bit more salt. Pick the meat off the bones and set aside.


To serve, boil a large pot of water, add the rehydrated rice noodles, stirring until the water comes to a boil again (about 1 minute). Meanwhile, reheat the beef balls in the soup. When the noodles are done, strain them through colander and add to the bowls. Top the noodles with some of the ox tail meat, onions, garlic chips, a bit of the garlic oil and Meicai. Laddle the hot soup and beef balls over the noodles then serve with the rest of the condiments. I also like having a little bowl of Sriracha and hoisin sauce to dip the meat in.