Recipe courtesy of Ching-He Huang
Episode: Crimson
45 min
30 min
2 to 3 servings


Sesame Seed Paste:
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon Vietnamese soy sauce 
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro 
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil 
  • 1 1/2 Thai (bird's eye) chiles, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime 
Spicy Fish Sauce:
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic 
  • 2 Thai (bird's eye) chiles, sliced 
  • Juice of 1 lime 
Spice Sachet:
  • 2 black cardamom pods
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 1/2- to 1-inch-piece cassia bark 
  • 1/2- to 1-inch-piece licorice root 
Herb Sachet:
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger 
  • 2 tablespoons minced lemongrass 
  • 2 to 4 leaves fresh Thai basil 
  • 2 cloves garlic 
Soup and Add-Ins:
  • 6 cups good-quality prepared beef pho broth or homemade broth, heated
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced beef, such as New York strip, eye round or rib eye 
  • 1 cup sliced spinach or yu choi
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced mushrooms, such as maitake, oyster or enoki 
  • 6 scallions, green tops only, sliced into 3-inch lengths 
  • 4 leaves Napa cabbage, cut into 2-inch squares 
  • Thinly sliced red onions, for serving
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, for serving
  • Fresh Thai basil leaves, for serving 
  • Fresh Vietnamese mint leaves, for serving
  • Bean sprouts, for serving
  • Chile oil, for dipping


For the sesame seed paste: In a mortar and pestle, crush the sesame seeds. Add the sugar, soy, cilantro, sesame oil and chiles. Mash together until a thin paste forms. Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and stir in the lime juice.

For the spicy fish sauce: In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, sugar, garlic, chiles and lime juice and stir well to dissolve the sugar.

For the spice sachet: Put the cardamom, star anise, cassia bark and licorice root on a small piece of cheesecloth and tie with some kitchen twine.

For the herb sachet: Put the cilantro, ginger, lemongrass, basil and garlic on a small piece of cheesecloth and tie with some kitchen twine.

For the soup and add-ins: Put the hot beef pho broth in a hot pot heated with a sterno or an electric fondue pot and add the spice and herb sachets. Let the mixture cook and steep for 15 minutes.

Serve the soup with platters of the "add ins"--sliced beef, spinach, mushrooms, scallions, cabbage, red onions, cilantro, basil, mint and bean sprouts--and bowls of the sesame seed paste, spicy fish sauce and chile oil for dipping. Ladle into bowls, allow the guests to choose the "add ins" they prefer and enjoy with the dipping sauces.

Cook's Note

Yu choi is a Chinese green that can be found at specialty Asian markets. Cassia bark, black cardamom and licorice root can be found online or at specialty markets.

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