Take out your beef soup bones and brown them in the bottom of a large stock pot (I say large because if you're going to make pho ot may as well last you a couple meals...yum). After they are brown fill the pot up with water almost to the top and salt the water like you would any soup stock. Throw in a few pieces of celery, a whole onion (don't cut it up), about 6 pieces of star shaped anise, and add a pack of pho soup flavoring (its like a tea bag for soup, pictured below). Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and let it simmer all morning. When youre almost ready to eat begin the rest of your prep.
Cut and wash cilantro, green onions, Thai basil, mint, and some peppers (jalapenos or thai chillis depending on your heat preference). Also wash some bean spouts. I usually lay these all out on a big platter together on the table so everyone can choose how much to put in their individual bowls.
I line all the bowls on the counter beside my stove/work station and fill them with Fresh Rice Stick noodles. Yep that's what the English on the bag says but I took a picture so you can find them in your local Asian market. I slice some steak (or other beef) up incredibly thin and lay it over the noodles in each bowl. Then I heat the broth to boiling again and pour it over the noodles in each bowl (so it cooks the meat while you add your seasonings and herbs).
I set out the condiments/seasonings on our island area right by our kitchen table and two people at a time can take their bowl from the counter over to the island to season their dish. These seasonings include soy sauce, sriracha, lime juice, oyster sauce, pho beef paste, white sugar, fried garlic (we make this ourselves and keep it on hand in the fridge) and possibly fried pepper flakes (we also fry these ahead of time and keep them on hand, we use them instead of fresh peppers when we have them). I start by putting about a 1/4 tsp of each into my bowl and them tasting it and adding more as I go. I always use at least a tbsp of white sugar. If you like it hot, add more peppers or sriracha (but watch the sriracha cause it also makes it more sour), if you like it sweet then add more beef paste and sugar, if you like it sour of course the lime juice does that. My youngest only takes the beef paste in hers (she is very picky), and my 6 year old likes everything but the sriracha and peppers.
Then everyone takes their bowls to the table (we usually say grace at this point) and then we add the fresh herbs and sprouts. cilantro, green onions, Thai basil, mint, bean sprouts, and peppers (if you used these instead of fried pepper flakes).
Then you dig in, and enjoy your bowl of Pho, though that isn't the last step. You each (in laos culture at least) takes a spoonful of everyone else's broth to test it and see if you like the way they seasoned it. Our kids have a lot of fun with this!
I'm off to watch the last session of conference now. will add pictures later!