Asian Noodle Soup

I’ve gotten so many requests for this, and people seem to love it, so I thought I’d post it as a blog piece.  Feel free to use it, copy it, exploit it, whatever you want.  It’s my recipe, but it’s simply the end result of lots of experimenting in an effort to get close to pho flavor without spending all day doing it.  Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients, this is actually an easy soup with a bunch of stuff that you’re probably not used to using.  This is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. 

This soup is good year ‘round, and it takes less than an hour to make. I love making homemade pho, but it takes way too long for a weeknight dinner. This is very close, and infinitely easier. There are a few ingredients you likely don’t have in your pantry (I do, which is sort of scary!). All of these should be available in any good supermarket’s Asian section. If we have them in Bend, you have them where you live. Noodles are a personal choice. I’m using Udon tonight, I also like Soba, or you can certainly use real Vietnamese pho noodles. All are good, and work equally well.
The recipe also works with either chicken or beef. This recipe’s for beef, but you can substitute chicken and chicken stock for exactly the same effect. I’ve made it with just chicken or beef broth (and no meat) and it’s still great.  Haven’t tried a total vegetarian version, but the rest of the spices and ingredients are likely to yield an awesome soup as well. 

  • 8 cups of water
  • 32 oz. box of Swanson’s low-sodium fat free beef broth
  • 2 tablespoons of “Better Than Bouillon” beef stock concentrate
    • Note: Both the chicken and beef version of these should always be in your refrigerator. These are indespensible products that you should be using.
  • 1 pound of lean beef, cut into 3 inch, very thin strips (I like eye of round)
  • 1 large white onion, peeled, quartered, slice thin, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes
  • 1 bunch of green onions (scallions), sliced at an angle
  • ½ bunch of fresh basil, chopped
  • ½ bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of Thai Kitchen Roasted Chili Paste
  • 1 teaspoon EACH of Thai Kitchen green and red curry pastes
  • Lemongrass, either:
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 2 star anise pieces
    • Note: Don’t be put off by the per pound price of star anise at the market. 10 pieces and it will likely run you about thirty cents.
  • 4 tablespoons of soy sauce (light, low sodium works fine)
  • 12 oz of your choice of Asian noodles, cooked according to the package. I prefer Udon or Soba (buckwheat)

Garnishes of:

  • Lemon or lime wedges
  • Thin sliced jalapenos (with seeds)
  • Fresh bean sprouts
  • Thai basil if you can find it, regular basil leaves if you can’t – whole leaves on the stem
  • Sriracha red hot sauce (no substitutes, track it down!)


  • In a stockpot on high heat, combine the broth, 8 cups of water
  • Stir in the bouillon concenrate, chili paste and curry pastes
  • Add the lemongrass, star anise, cinnamon, soy sauce
  • Stir in the beef, reduce to medium high heat
  • Stir in the cilantro, basil, green onions, return to a boil
  • Drain the water from the white onions, add to the stockpot, return to a boil
  • Reduce to medium low heat, partially cover, simmer for 45 minutes
  • Remove the star anise and cinnamon, and the lemongrass if you used whole pieces

Prepare the noodles according to the directions (generally, have the water boiling and allow 15 minutes for the noodles.  Some take longer, some shorter, this is a good guideline).

To Serve:

  • With tongs or a pasta server, place some noodles at the the bottom of large soup bowls
  • Ladle the soup over the noodles
  • Serve with the garnishes and chopsticks and Chinese soup spoons

The Vietnamese Way:
A former employee and good friend of mine, Hai Nguyen (just say “when” for the correct pronunciation) introduced me to pho in Sunnyvale about 15 years ago.  He also taught me the correct Vietnamese way of garnishing and eating it.

  • Tear off a few leaves of basil and toss them in the bowl
  • Throw in a handful of bean sprouts
  • Squeeze a wedge of lemon or lime on top
  • Use Sriracha to your own level of heat tolerance (it’s hot, but imperative!)
  • Pick up the noodles with chopsticks, “chew” them off.  This is not a neat process, but this is how you do it!
  • Use the soup spoon for the broth and remainder of the ingredients









3 comments so far

  1. biz319 on

    When I make soups like that, I also slice fresh jalapenos and throw them in the broth – I sometimes eat them, sometimes I don't, but it really spikes up the broth!


  2. Colleen on

    I tried this recipe last night and it was fantastic. While cooking, the cinnamon combined with the other ingredients permeated the house with a wonderful aroma. It added to the anticipation of a great meal. I tried it for just my husband and myself, but now I'm ready to use this recipe for guests.

    Comments for Bay Area shoppers: Safeway does not have a good Asian cooking section. I had to go to Lucky for the Thai pastes and soba noodles. Also, Larry served this with a great, simple salad with miso dressing when I saw him last. The miso dressing is Rikki's. Tough to find, but worth it.


  3. vincent on


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