Bà ngoại’s Pho Bo

Bà ngoại’s Pho Bo

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This delicious recipe was given to me by my cousin’s Vietnamese mother-in-law, Lahn. Bà ngoại is the Vietnamese for Granny, and Bà ngoại Lahn’s Pho Bo is legendary, much like the lady herself! One thing is for sure, Vietnamese Grannies and Irish Grannies are one in the same: they love nothing more than to nourish the soul with good food! I spent a couple of days in the kitchen with Lahn watching her do what she loves, cooking with all her soul for her family and I was lucky to learn how to make a couple of Lahn’s classic dishes including her Pho Bo. We couldn’t talk much together as my Vietnamese doesn’t extend beyond -“hai loai bia vui long!” (two beers please!) and though Lahn is quietly learning English but was shy when it came to trying some out with me. We traded a few words on google translate, but while our words were few, our shared love for food and family kept us in happy company for two great days!

Pho Bo is a rich beefy broth made with beef bones and is served up with a healthy helping of fresh rice noodles, bean sprouts, spring onions, thin slices of beef, and dressed with fresh basil (or coriander), lime and chilli. It takes time to get all of the goodness and flavour out of the beef bones, but it’s absolutely worth the effort. The smell wafting through your home as you let the flavours of the broth develop over 6-8 hours is like nothing else! Pho bo is a great pick-me-up if you’re under the weather, if you need a healthy dose of beefy vitamins and if your butcher is good to you, you’ll get the most wonderful marrow from good beef bones melting out into your broth.

We’ve made this with Irish Moilie beef bones and thinly sliced Irish Moilie beef fillet and it made a delicious, buttery, rich beefy broth. Lahn’s trick to slicing the beef nice and thinly, so that it cooks lightly in the warm broth, is to freeze the fillet the night before you use it and to start to thaw the fillet when you still have around 3-4 hrs left with the broth. When it’s still firm, you can take a sharp knife to the fillet and slice very thin layers of beef to add to the broth.

Bà ngoại’s Beef Pho

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3kg Fresh Irish Moiled Beef Knuckle/Shin Bones

1 Brown Onion (Skin on)

3-4 inch piece of fresh ginger

Pho spices (1 spoon each of Cloves, Star Anise, Cumin seeds, Fennel seets, Coriander seeds, and 1 cinnamon stick)

1 Lemongrass stalk

100g Sugar

Rapeseed oil

To serve, per person:

80g cooked wheat/egg noodle

¼ thinly sliced white onion

1 handful of fresh bean sprouts

1 thinly sliced mushroom

1 sliced scallion

1 birdseye chilli

3-5 basil leaves or fresh corriander

¼ lime

80g thinly sliced Irish Moiled Beef Fillet


Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 8 hours 

Calories per serving: 377


To prepare the fillet for thin slicing, freeze prior to use and start to thaw during broth prep.

For the broth, place whole onion (skin on) and ginger into a pre-heated oven @200oC for 15-20 mins until it starts to brown – alternatively if you have a gas cooker, spear the onion and ginger and over the gas flame, browning the outer layers.

Brown the beef bones in a deep pot on a medium heat with 1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil, salt & pepper. Cover the bones with 4-5L of water (depending on your pot size). Bring the pot to the boil and scrape off froth.

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Add spices, ginger, onion, lemongrass and sugar to the pot and leave to simmer for 6-8 hours. Top up the water to keep the bones covered until the final hour. Taste the broth and add salt/pepper as required and strainbefore serving to remove the bones, spices and lemongrass.

To serve, place the cooked noodles in a bowl, layer the bean sprouts, sliced onions, scallion and thinly sliced beef over the noodles and cover with the warm broth (this will lightly cook the beef with a slight pinkness). Add torn basil leaves or coriander, lime & chilli before serving.

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Slow Roasted Irish Moiled Beef Brisket in Pokertree Dark Nirvana Sauce

Slow Roasted Irish Moiled Beef Brisket in Pokertree Dark Nirvana Sauce

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Brisket is King, Queen and Commander of the Court! This overlooked cut of beef is one of the hardest working groups of muscles on the animal, having to work to support 60% of the body weight of an upright beast. That amount of work, over the lifetime of an animal means that this muscle collective develops huge amounts of connective tissue to get the job done. That is a good thing! It’s a great thing when the cut is handled correctly!

When cooked at low temperatures for a long period of time, the connective tissue around the meat reduces down to a sweet, juicy, buttery sauce and the strands of meat tease easily apart to melt in your mouth. Incredible, life affirming stuff. Trust me!

Our brisket rub is a dry mix of ground coffee, smoked paprika and chilli and it pairs up well with flavourful stouts like Dark Nirvana from Pokertree which has a rich coffee flavour. Boiling the beer in the sauce changes the flavour of the aromatic hops to a much more bitter flavour, so it’s essential to add sugar and salt towards the end to balance out the bitter taste.

Give this recipe a try and remember that low (temperature!) and slow (cooked!) is the only way to go with Brisket … give it the time and patience it deserves after working so hard and you’ll not be disappointed!

Slow Roasted Irish Moiled Beef Brisket in Pokertree Dark Nirvana Sauce11253986_471293779692133_3095316449333614870_nIMG_0630


1.5Kg Irish Moiled Beef Brisket (Untrimmed)

45g Cornflour

40g Dark Muscovado Sugar

2 tsp Sea Salt Flakes

1 tsp of Balsamic Vinegar

1 bottle of Pokertree Dark Nirvana

Dry Rub:

2 tbsp Smoked Paprika

2 tbsp Dark Muscovado Sugar

1 tbsp Sea Salt Flakes

1 tbsp Ground Coffee

1 tbsp Cayenne Pepper


Preparation time: 10 mins dry rub & overnight marinade.

Cooking time: 6 hrs cooking & 1 hr rest & 25 mins sauce

Calories per serving: 485 delicious calories that will melt in your mouth!

In a large seal-able bag, mix the ingredients for the dry rub and place the brisket in the bag. Coat the brisket’s surface evenly with the dry rub and massage the rub into the meat making sure to reach all cracks and crevices with the spices. Refrigerate overnight.

In an oiled pan over a medium heat, sear the surface of the brisket until brown. Transfer the joint, spices & liquid into a large oven-proof dish and cover the joint completely with water (between 500mL – 1L depending on your dish). Cover the dish with a lid or aluminium foil to reduce evaporation.

Place the dish in a pre-heated oven @140°C and roast for a minimum of 6 hours, turning the joint every hour. For the final hour, remove the lid/foil and allow the liquid to reduce and the meat to form a crispy, dark coating.

Remove the brisket from the oven 1 hour before serving, cover the dish with a lid/aluminium foil and allow it to rest.

For the Dark Nirvana sauce, strain 500mL of the liquid from the cooked Brisket into a jug. In a pot, mix the cornflour with 200mL of the liquid and heat to thicken, mixing constantly.


Add the sugar and 1 tablespoon of the salt flakes to the sauce and gradually add 1 bottle of Pokertree Dark Nirvana and the remaining juices.

Bring the sauce to the boil and simmer for another 15 minutes, adding more salt to taste if required.

To serve the Brisket, take two forks to the meat and tease the meat apart. Serve on a Brioche bun with home made mayonnaise and Passion Preserve Sunshine Relish!


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SculleryMade is a Belfast blog sharing recipes using quality, locally sourced ingredients in cooking, brewing, baking and curing.

SculleryMade – Ormeau Rd, Belfast                                                      Contact: Caoimhe@scullery-made.com