Spicy Vietnamese Beef & Noodle Soup

I just found this buried deep within the archives of my blog….forgotten, unpublished and without a pic, but I figured I’d just post it anyway, since we’re in Vietnam right now….and it’s kind of a westernized version of Vietnamese Pho.

This is one of our favorite recipes from Beverly Leblanc’s recipe book called Soups: 365 Delicious and Nutritious Recipes. It’s fairly easy to make, pretty healthy, and hearty enough to call a meal. The only changes we make are substituting beef broth instead of beef stock, we add thai chilis to the simmer, and we add basil as one of the herbal garnishes. This time we forgot to throw the red peppers into the simmer, so we ended up adding them at the end…it was still good, but I’d definitely not forget them again.


Serves 3-4 hungry people.

2 cartons Pacific Foods Organic Beef Broth
1 1/2 pounds top sirloin, cut into thin strips (against the grain)
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 1/2 inch section of gingerroot, peeled and minced (we usually do a little more than this)
4-5 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom  seeds
1- 1 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
1 package of rice noodles (pad thai size…vermicelli rice noodles work fine too)
3 thai chilis
lime cut into wedges
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped
handful of mint, chopped
handful of thai basil (or regular), chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 large jalapeño, sliced
1 cup of beansprouts


1. Soak bean sprouts in cold water until ready to use.

2. In a large soup pot combine beef broth, thai chilis, star anise, cinnamon, cardamom seeds and fish sauce, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add bell peppers for the last few minutes until they have softened.

3. Pre-cook noodles according to package.

4. Remove spices from pot with chopsticks, slotted spoon, or other utensil.

5. In deep serving bowls combine beef (uncooked), noodles and bean sprouts. Pour boiling (or near boiling) broth over the top and garnish with cilantro, mint, basil, jalapeño, green onions and lime.

We love our asian condiments, so we usually also serve it with sambal, siracha, spicy black bean sauce…you get the picture….anything spicy we have in the fridge will usually end up in the soup, but it’s also delicious when served a bit more mild.

We’re soup addicts and usually make soup(from scratch) atleast once a week, so we’ve loved using Beverly LeBlanc’s Soups: 365 Delicious and Nutritious Recipescookbook. I don’t think it is being published anymore, but I’ve seen used copies for cheap on Amazon.

Food Coma

Steve and I stuffed ourselves silly during a full day cooking course at Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School. We ate so well in Chiang Mai….mostly we ate tons of Khao Soi (Khow Soy), a delicious yellow curry with egg noodles, chicken, fresh red onion, crispy noodles and lime.

Between stuffing ourselves to oblivion we enjoyed plenty of mojitos at Griffin Bar. I have a sweet spot for Griffin Bar…Egg and his friends are always welcoming and they don’t mind practicing their English. They’ll help you plan a moto trip, whip up a mean mojito (for only 50 Baht), and if you’re lucky they’ll treat you to some live music. Griffin Bar’s street front is completely nondescript and without their sign advertising 50 baht mojitos you probably wouldn’t give it a second look(on Soi 7 off of Moonmaung). Before you know it you’ll be helping Egg hold up the bar and you’ll be many mojitos deep…and each one is stronger than the last.

Mojitos, reggae and impromptu jam sessions

And about that cooking school induced food coma….or maybe it was a mojito induced coma…

Sawat, our cooking instructor at Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School, was AWESOME!!! He was hilarious, his english was nearly perfect and he was patient…far more patient than I would have been. They had a menu of about 18 different dishes so we could choose our favorites to learn how to make. Everything was delicious. For about $30-35 a person we each learned how to make 6 dishes including how to make our own curry paste and Sawat made one of our favorites….green papaya salad.

chiang mai cooking class1

From the top left: curry paste at the market, my homemade curry paste, yellow curry ingredients and the finished product.

We were stuffed after the first three dishes. Steve made: green curry (the paste and the dish), tom yum soup, chicken basil stir fry, fried spring rolls, and bananas in coconut milk. And I made chicken coconut galangal soup, yellow curry (the paste and the dish), cashew chicken, fried big noodles, and mango sticky rice.

Here are some more pics from our day of cooking class.

chiang mai cooking class2

From top left: Sawat (our cooking instructor), Minced chicken for Steve’s Chicken Basil, Cashew Chicken, and sauces and seasonings from the market


Steve’s Tom Yum Soup


Chicken Basil Stir Fry


For all of our dishes we used super fresh ingredients from the market and their garden.


Roselle at the cooking school’s garden.

If anyone is interested in any of the recipes just shoot me a message and I’ll forward a copy to you.

Getting Off The Beaten Path in Chiang Mai

Just beyond the tourist trap of Doi Suthep is another tourist trap catering to busloads of tourists…a Hmong village (Ban Doi Pui)….selling more of the same tourist crap. Okay, that’s not nice….it is beautiful and I regret not buying some of their beautiful embroidery, but they sell it everywhere in northern Thailand, so it loses some of it’s originality.

I was starving and my blood sugar was plummeting so we stopped for a chance to stretch our legs, use the loo and grab a bite to eat. One of the women was serving up some piping hot Khao Soi (one of our favorite foods) with all of the goodies, so we stuffed ourselves silly and hopped back on the bike.

Delicious Khao Soi

Delicious Khao Soi…probably should have taken a pic before I devoured the chicken…I was just so hungry!!!

YUM!!! Super strong black coffee!!!

Me at the little cafe in the jungle enjoying a cup of super strong black coffee!!!

With a map in hand we headed out through the Doi Pui National Park and to the Chiang Mai University Coffee Farm. The farm and cafe are run by CMU students and local villagers  and it overlooks a beautiful valley where it’s possible to enjoy a cup of coffee while you wander the grounds.

doi_suthep_coffee_break_cherry blossoms

Looks like spring!!! There were beautiful blossoming trees everywhere. Apparently the trees blossom annually in December and January during the Thai winter.


Cute little bungalows, unfortunately I think they are for students and not guests.

If I remember correctly there was another village (Baan Khun Chang Kian) not much further than the coffee farm. The “road” beyond the village deteriorated quickly and I don’t recommend it unless you have experience on rough, rocky roads. There were multiple times where I had to get off of the scooter while Steve half-rode half-walked the bike through rough patches. We did run into a couple of guys that were on big dirt bikes who said the route was popular among dirt bike “enthusiasts.” Unfortunately I had my camera put away for most of the crazy part and I only dug it out to take a picture of the view once.

Steve on the little scooter that could.

Steve on the little scooter that could.

The road winds down the hill through groves of lychee (I think), but there wasn’t fruit on any of the trees to confirm.

The view.

The view.

After a fun day of motoring around the countryside, that left my behind and back throbbing, we returned to our favorite Chiang Mai dive (Griffin Bar) for mojitos….



Buddha Disneyland

After the long bus journey from Ayuthaya to Chiang Mai Steve was itching to rent a scooter, so I obliged and we decided on a route up to Doi Suthep and beyond. We were surprised by the presence of so many hawkers selling trinkets, scarves, snacks and drinks and children demanding baht for photos. Lines, lines and more lines….it’s slow going and you’re constantly being bumped and jostled. Tourists pay a fee (I don’t remember how much) and if you’d like you can buy an offering from one of the vendors.

Doi Suthep...just a few kilometers outside is sheer madness...yes, it's a holy place, but it's a profitable racket too....Hurry up and line up!!!

Doi Suthep…just a few kilometers outside is sheer madness…yes, it’s a holy place, but it’s a profitable racket too….Hurry up and line up!!!

Even though the hawkers tainted our first impression of the temple the architecture was beautiful and it was interesting to see people practicing their religion, but it was also disturbing to see all of the camera wielding tourists taking their pictures.

Just as guilty as the others I also snapped a few pictures.



Architectural detail at Doi Suthep.


Just a few of the many Buddha statues at Doi Suthep.


Remember that reference to Buddha Disneyland I made earlier….you better get in line to say your prayers and make offerings…and don’t forget to walk in the correct direction!!!


I was trying to get a picture of the interior of the temple, but it’s quite difficult to take pictures when a monk is blessing you with holy water by flinging it in your general direction and this monk (out of the picture) must have thought I needed a lot of blessing because it kept coming my direction.

You can only take my picture if you give me candy....or Baht...naughty little girl!!!

You can only take my picture if you give me candy or Baht…naughty little girl!!!

After spending the morning at Chiang Mai’s equivalent of a Buddhist Disneyland, complete with child hawkers and the occasional hustler, we were tired of the tourist trap and decided to make for the hills.