Faux Pho: A dish to make at home

By Mark Mederson (TheLorian)

I was living in Dallas, Texas in the 1980s. The area had a huge population of Vietnamese and Laotian war refugees. Those folks needed to eat, so many of the refugees opened and operated small restaurants. In those days Vietnamese and Laotian cuisine was, for the most part, unknown to Texans. It’s since become hugely popular, even among the barbecue brisket crowd. 

At the time one of my best friends was a very adventurous eater. A group of friends and I used to go to lots of little restaurants that most people had never heard of. One of these was a small Vietnamese place. We knew it was authentic because I recall going there in the early days and my friends and I were the only white people in the tiny restaurant. We often had to order from the picture of the dish since the menu was not in English. This is where I first discovered a couple of my favorite things to eat and drink. 

One of those is Vietnamese iced coffee, which is made by dripping hot coffee through a filter into sweetened condensed milk and then pouring the mixture over a tall glass of ice. (Think of a Starbucks nitro cold brew with sweet cream but about ten times better.) 

The other was a big bowl of what can be described as soup; a hot beef broth with noodles, vegetables and thinly sliced raw beef (or other meats like tripe and tendon – my adventurous eating friend’s favorite). It’s called pho, and pronounced sort of like “f’uh uh.”  

Since many of us don’t have the time to brew broth and get all of the ingredients I’ve come up with a rather poor but tasty faux version. Faux pho, if you will. And the basis for this tasty treat is something that most college students’ already stock in abundance: instant ramen noodles. Here’s a simple recipe that is extraordinarily easy to make.  


  • fresh greens – about two cups (I use power greens which you can get in the produce section – a mix of spinach, kale and chard. You can substitute fresh spinach or kale if you prefer.) 
  • sweet onion – two very thin slices 
  • 4 or 5 basil leaves, chopped (you can substitute dry basil, but if you’re looking for a small plant for your dorm or apartment, buy a basil plant – it’s fragrant and functional for recipes like this one and spaghetti sauce!) 
  • rare roast beef – 2 or 3 pieces sliced very thin (I get thinly sliced rare roast beef at the grocery store deli counter – a half-pound will be enough to make this dish three times) 
  • sriracha (you can probably grab a little at the cafe if you don’t have it in the fridge) 
  • hoisin sauce (skip it if you don’t have it, but it’s very tasty stuff) 
  • powdered ginger (skip it if you don’t have it) 
  • white pepper (substitute black pepper if you don’t have white pepper) 
  • to be more authentic add fresh bean sprouts and sliced fresh jalapeno 

Begin by cooking the beef ramen noodles as usual. While they’re cooking, place the onions in the bottom of a large, flat bowl. Add the greens, basil and rare roast beef to the bowl. Sprinkle about a half teaspoon of powdered ginger and white pepper into the bowl followed by a squirt (about a teaspoon) of sriracha and a squirt (about a teaspoon) of hoisin. I add about half of the beef flavor packet to the ramen in the pot when the water is boiling (to reduce the amount of sodium). After the ramen noodles are cooked pour them and the boiling broth over the bowl of beef and seasonings; this will partially cook the onion, greens and beef. Stir and let sit for about a minute. Voila! Faux pho (with apologies to my old friends who helped me discover the original amazing dish).

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