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Mar 21, 2007 06:01 PM

Pho Broth - starting with Swanson's - ideas?

The title pretty much says it - can you make an acceptable pho broth starting with canned beef broth?

Purists, I KNOW! GOT IT! It won't be authentic.

But can you do it?

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  1. Depends on your idea of "acceptable"-- IMO, no it would not be acceptable.

    It's not about "authenticity"-- it's about flavor, richness, depth. Store-bought broth is usually low in fat, thin, sterile-tasting. Home-made pho isn't even quite broth-- it's stock-- as in gelatinous when refrigeratred (from all the marrow, etc. from the bones yum), rich, deeply-flavored.

    My mom stopped bothering to spend the 6-8 hours it takes to make a decent bowl of pho years ago... so now whenever we want pho, we just go to a restaurant. Easy as pie.

    1 Reply
    1. re: butter

      I haven't bought canned stocked in years, but I recall one version was supposed to have enough gelatin (possibly added) to form an aspic when chilled. It may have the canned one labeled bouillon.

      The other difference is in spices, such as cinnamon and star anise. Five spice powder might approximate this. You can also buy instant pho powders. I have a package or two in my pantry but haven't used any yet.



      Mai Pham, in this book, has a recipe for a pho broth starting with packaged chicken broth. Its not nearly the same, of course, as a from scratch broth/stock, but it is acceptable in my mind and to my palate. Even if not entirely authentic, a bowl of nicely flavored broth, good rice noodles and whatever else you like in it is still quite satisfying to me.

      1. Ok, I'm sorta a purist on this, but I'm also one to experiment w/ new ideas. On this front, however, I just don't think it's possible. Beef broth on its own tastes strange to me, and there's no way to emulate the depth of seasonings using a quick-cook method.

        My MIL makes a shortcut pho w/ Swanson's chicken broth that, quite frankly, tastes insipid and terribly sad. I don't even know why she bothers, but I smile and eat it. :-)

        1. I was lazy/didn't have a full day and tried to make pho with Swansons beef broth and it was ok (edible) but not really pho. More like beef noodle soup. Or brown noodle soup. It's not that it was gross or anything. But it was still a pain with roasting the onion & ginger, cheeseclothing the aromatics, etc that it was so not worth it.

          But I've made acceptable (tasty) chicken pho with Swansons chicken broth. My mom blends homemade broth with Swansons to no detriment for her chicken pho, which is magically delicious not just from chicken flavor but from the other things she does to give it that pho 'fragrance'. We both use the "natural goodness" Swansons that's lower in salt.

          Actually, now that I think about it, I didn't use only Swansons broth that time, I stretched a small amt of homemade broth with Swansons and it came out tasty. Also charred the ginger & onion etc. So no, it wasn't technically just Swansons.

          1. I agree with other posters that the canned beef broth is just not going to cut it but that you can go the chicken broth route and get a tasty soup. I have occasionaly tried something a little odd- get a hunk of cheap beef (the stuff on supersale that day), dice up, add to the broth, extra water, pho aromatics and simmer pretty vigorously for a half hour or so. It gets cloudy but seems to extract some decent beef flavor and cuts that tinny taste of the canned stuff.