I love pho and will soon try making it myself using an authentic Vietnamese recipe. I'm clear on all of the other ingredients and techniques, but "yellow rock sugar" has me stumped. Is this what the recipe means? If so, does it really taste different from regular sugar?

2 Answers 2


What's in the picture looks about right. This brand is commonly found in Asian grocery stores around here: enter image description here (your mileage may vary). It is essentially crystallized cane sugar. If you really can't find it, you could probably substitute regular sugar. The flavour is a little different though, as well it isn't a refined white sugar.

According to "this guy" (random search), there is a difference and the yellow rock sugar often includes a few other sugars (unrefined brown sugar), and that you shouldn't ever use the clear/white rock sugar for pho.

  • LOL, I came across the same "this guy". Otherwise I might have just substituted white sugar because the ingredients in my picture (visible with the magnification tool) just say cane sugar and water. Your picture does look like mine, so I think I'll just go ahead and add it to my ever increasing Amazon order. If I'm going to spend all the time to make "real" pho, I might as well do it with traditional ingredients.
    – Jolenealaska
    Oct 3, 2013 at 4:29
  • 2
    In "this guy's" recipe, there is 1/2 c. of rock sugar to an 8 quart stock pot. Unless there is something exceeding special about that rock sugar, taking into account the fact that it would not crystalize if it is was not nearly entirely sucrose, the percentage in the entire dish is going to be trivial. I would not worry about this.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Oct 3, 2013 at 9:37
  • Yeah, actually I only noted that link because it was different than what I had priorly assumed. Assuming it's a crystalized version of an unrefined non-white cane sugar, there would be some molasses present? (no idea if this is correct, which is why it's not in my answer) Because most of these rock sugars come from some Chinese Factory, they don't often list a lot details... You could add some brown sugar if that is true.
    – talon8
    Oct 3, 2013 at 21:36
  • A touch of molasses, the ingredient that makes brown sugar brown, should fix you up. Not sure how they get it yellow like that, maybe some weird extraction process, or even FD&C Yellow 5. Jun 14, 2015 at 11:39

Unprocessed lump sugar is readily available in our area of madison /sun prairie wi. Woodman's, multiple Asian groceries, you may even be able to use Mexican piloncillo. That tastes similar or same, but I think it may be harder?? I wouldn't use brown sugar, sugar in the raw and definitely not white sugar, the yellow rock is smoother, richer and non-cloying. Turbinado, sucanat or dehydrated cane juice would all be better than white or brown.

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