Pho is a popular Vietnamese noodle soup
It includes broth, rice noodles, vegetables and meat.
It has traveled beautifully, and has become a complete meal comfort food in many homes and restaurants around the world.
It usually uses as its base beef bone broth that cooks gently and hurriedly overnight, sometimes even longer. If you have time to make it, more power to you. Here is a wonderful bone broth recipe. I will not go here into the making of a beef bone broth. Certainly not because I don’t think beef broth is wonderful and wonderfully nourishing, but because my goal here is to encourage you to make pho on short notice.
So my solutions to a bone-broth-less pho are:
Needless to say, a perfect natural vegan broth is in my eyes much more valuable than a commercial store-bought meat broth.
– Kale Rib Kelp Broth. Instructions right below
– Miso paste, and a good splash of sake
My hybrid Pho version is kind of the love child of miso soup and pad thai
I like my Pho Chunky:
I know, I am a rebel. I float nappa cabbage ribbons, shiitake and other wonderful goodies in my broth. It violates the sacrosanct “clear broth” rule, but it’s my dinner, and I cheat if I want to!
There are no hard and fast rules to what pho should include
However, some key ingredients are always in place:
- Very thin sliced meat and/or chicken. The meat practically cooks on contact, in seconds, and is added all the way at the end of cooking. Seitan and/or tofu for a vegetarian version
- Sprouts, lime, cilantro and scallions are served on the side as condiments to top the dish with.
I think of Pho as the culinary love child between miso soup and pad thai.
I will include some of my favorite ingredients, and you will play with your broth and your vegetables as you see fit
But first, a word about the broth in Asian Soups:
Kale Rib Kelp Broth
Bring the ribs and water to boil with a little kelp aka kombu (I love it ground but you can use the whole leaf), alone or directly in your soup. Then remove the ribs, they have given all their nutritiousness and deliciousness to the cause. Yup, that’s the whole story. You wouldn’t believe how delicious, deep and briny this broth is. Umami at its best! I even drink it like tea, just as is, and use it in soup. I even throw the ribs in Cholent.
You want even EASIER? throw the kale ribs right in the soup, and take them out at the end of cooking!
Attention Vegetarian Friends:
Pho is for you too! Simply skip the sliced beef and/or chicken, and add seitan strips and/or firm tofu cubes
Common pitfall of Commercial Pho:
Erring on the side of a mountain of noodles, at a price: A fraction of the broth that Pho is so prized for. If all you want is a bowl of pasta, just enjoy pasta with pasta’s traditional bells and whistles. That is another experience, for another day.
- 8 cups water or kale broth above, or just add kale ribs in the pot (if you have homemade natural beef or chicken broth, use that)
- 3 ribs celery, peeled and sliced very thin
- 1 pound shiitake, caps only, sliced very thin
- 6-8 ribs nappa cabbage, sliced very thin
- 2/3 cup dark miso paste (skip if you used beef broth or kale rib kelp broth)
- 1 cup dry sake, optional
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
- 1 green or red jalapeno pepper, minced
- 1 cheesecloth tied around: 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 star anise pods, 1 rib coarsely chopped lemongrass, 2 inch coarsely chopped piece ginger
- 1 1/2 pounds London broil or oyster steak, well chilled, sliced very thin (vegetarian: use strips of seitan and/or diced firm tofu)
- 6 skinless boneless chicken thighs, or 4 chicken cutlets, well chilled, cut in thin strips
- 1/2 pound rice noodles (do not be tempted to use more, or you will dilute the good flavors)
- 2 cups soy bean sprouts
- 6-8 sprigs cilantro, minced
- 1/4 basil leaves, packed, sliced very thin
- 8 scallions, sliced very thin
- 2 limes, cut in wedges
Bring the first set of soup ingredients to a boil. As soon as it is boiled, turn down the heat to medium, add the beef and chicken, and cook just a few minutes. Turn off the heat and add the rice noodles. Discard the cheesecloth bag.
Divide the soup evenly between 6 soup bowls. Let guests add their own condiments to their bowl. Serve hot.