Pho Sate 101: Everything You Need to Know About This Flavorful Soup

Pho sate, also known as pho satay or pho saté, is a spicy version of the classic Vietnamese noodle soup dish, pho. The broth of this dish is infused with ingredients such as chili, lemongrass, and garlic, giving it a bold and fiery flavor that sets it apart from traditional pho. In this article, we’ll explore what is pho sate, how it’s made, its pros and cons, and alternative options for those who want to try something similar.

Who Created Pho Sate?

It’s unclear who specifically invented pho sate, but the dish is believed to have originated in Vietnam, where it’s a popular street food item. It likely evolved from traditional pho, which typically features a clear, mild broth made with beef bones and spices like star anise and cinnamon.

What Are the Ingredients in Pho Sate?

What Are the Ingredients in Pho Sate
What Are the Ingredients in Pho Sate

The key components of pho sate are:

  • Beef: Typically sliced thinly and cooked in the broth.
  • Noodles: Usually rice noodles are added to the broth towards the end of cooking.
  • Broth: A spicy, aromatic broth made with lemongrass, garlic, onion, chili, and other spices.
  • Vegetables: Bean sprouts, scallions, and cilantro are often used as toppings.
  • Condiments: Hoisin sauce and sriracha can be added to taste.

When Should You Eat Pho Sate?

Pho sate is a great option for anyone who enjoys bold, spicy flavors. It’s typically consumed as a main course for lunch or dinner, but it can be eaten any time of day. If you’re looking for a warming and satisfying meal on a cold day, pho sate is an excellent choice.

How to Make Pho Sate?

How to Make Pho Sate
How to Make Pho Sate

Making a pho sate requires some preparation and attention to detail, but it’s not as difficult as you might think. Here’s a basic recipe to get you started:

  1. In a large pot, add beef bones, water, lemongrass, garlic, onion, chili, and other spices.
  2. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for several hours until the broth is rich and flavorful.
  3. Strain the broth, remove any solids, and return it to the pot.
  4. Add sliced beef to the broth and cook for a few minutes until the beef is cooked.
  5. Cook rice noodles according to package directions.
  6. Serve the noodles in bowls with the meat and broth on top.
  7. Add bean sprouts, scallions, cilantro, hoisin sauce, and sriracha as desired.

Pros and Cons of Pho Sate

Pros and Cons of Pho Sate
Pros and Cons of Pho Sate


  • The bold, spicy flavor that’s great for anyone who loves heat.
  • The hearty and satisfying meal that’s perfect for cold weather.
  • It can be customized with different toppings and condiments.
  • It can be made with chicken or tofu instead of beef for a vegetarian option.


  • The spicy flavor may not be appealing to everyone.
  • Preparation can be time-consuming.
  • It may be difficult to find restaurants outside of Vietnam or Vietnamese communities.

Alternatives to Pho Sate

If you’re interested in trying something similar to pho sate, there are a few options to consider:

  • Laksa is a spicy noodle soup from Malaysia with a coconut milk-based broth.
  • Bun bo hue: A spicy noodle soup from central Vietnam with beef and pork.
  • Tom yum soup: A spicy and sour soup from Thailand that typically includes shrimp and lemongrass.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Customize Your Pho Sate

Step by Step Guide How to Customize Your Pho Sate
Step by Step Guide How to Customize Your Pho Sate
  • Choose your protein: While beef is the most common protein in pho sate, you can also use chicken, shrimp, or tofu.
  • Adjust the spice level: If you prefer a milder flavor, reduce the chili used. Add extra chili or hot sauce if you’re a heat seeker.
  • Experiment with toppings: Bean sprouts, scallions, cilantro, and lime wedges are traditional toppings, but you can also add sliced jalapenos, Thai basil, or even avocado.
  • Try different noodles: While rice noodles are traditional, you can also use egg noodles or udon noodles for a slightly different texture.

Compare Pho Sate to Traditional Pho

Pho sate differs from traditional pho in several ways:

  • Flavor: Pho sate has a spicy, bold flavor thanks to the addition of ingredients like chili and lemongrass.
  • Broth: Traditional pho features a clear, mild broth made with beef bones and spices like star anise and cinnamon. Pho sate’s broth is richer and more complex.
  • Toppings: While both dishes typically feature bean sprouts, scallions, and cilantro as toppings, pho sate may also include additional ingredients like sliced chili peppers or peanuts.
  • Heat level: Traditional pho is not typically spicy, while pho sate has a notable level of heat.

Tips for Enjoying Pho Sate

  • Start with a small bowl to gauge the spiciness before committing to a larger serving.
  • Don’t be shy about adding extra condiments like hoisin sauce and sriracha to balance out the heat.
  • Experiment with different toppings and proteins to find your favorite combination.
  • Sip the broth along with the noodles and meat for the full flavor experience.

The Best Places to Try Pho Sate

If you’re lucky enough to live near a Vietnamese restaurant, chances are they serve pho sate. Some popular chains, such as Pho Hoa and Pho 24, also offer this dish. If you’re traveling to Vietnam, seek out street vendors specializing in pho sate for an authentic taste of this spicy soup.

What Is Pho Sate?

Pho sate is a delicious and satisfying noodle soup dish perfect for anyone who loves bold, spicy flavors. With its rich broth, tender beef, and customizable toppings, it’s no wonder why this dish has become so popular around the world. Whether you’re a pho aficionado or new to Vietnamese cuisine, try pho sate and see what all the fuss is about.


  1. Is pho sate typically spicy? Yes, pho sate is a spicy version of traditional pho, which typically includes chili and other spices to give it a fiery flavor.
  2. Can pho sate be made vegetarian? Yes, you can use tofu instead of beef to make a vegetarian version of pho sate.
  3. What are some common toppings for pho sate? Traditional toppings for pho sate include bean sprouts, scallions, and cilantro, but additional toppings like sliced chili peppers or peanuts may also be used.
  4. Can I adjust the heat level of pho sate? Yes, you can adjust the heat level by using more or less chili depending on your preference.
  5. What other dishes are similar to pho sate? Other spicy noodle soups like laksa, bun bo hue, and tom yum soup may appeal to fans of pho sate.
About Mai Tran

As Mai Tran, the author of the Bunker Vietnamese website specializing in Vietnamese food, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all my readers. Growing up in a Vietnamese household, I have always had a deep appreciation for the rich and diverse flavors of Vietnamese cuisine. Through my website, I aim to share my passion for cooking and my cultural heritage with the world. From traditional recipes passed down through generations to modern twists on classic dishes, my website is a celebration of the vibrant and delicious world of Vietnamese food. Join me on this culinary journey and discover the beauty and complexity of Vietnamese cuisine.

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