This is the 20th huge pot of pho I’ve made since September, so I figured it was finally time to give it the attention it so rightfully deserves and demands on the blog. Pho is one of the most addicting and nourishing things I’ve ever come across. If you don’t want to get sick this winter, eat pho. Lots and lots of pho. The spices will restore you, the noodles will entertain you, the broth will soothe you. Nothing else takes care of you when it seems like the world has given you the cold shoulder quite like a big bowl of pho. I purposefully left it near garnish-less to show off just how perfect this simple relationship between broth and noodles can be (if you’re looking for a similarly flavored soup but with tons of garnishes, check out my Thai Coconut and Lemongrass Instant Soup post). It’s also vegan, because animal products are unnecessary here. This pho is deeply satisfying. This pho is tranquility itself. It is the death of longing.
When I say this soup takes care of you, I really mean it. The broth doesn’t look that different from the potion I make for friends when they’re sick. Here’s the benefits of just a few of the ingredients in this soup:
Cinnamon and clove are the top medicinal spices in terms of protective antioxidant levels.
Turmeric is an amazing anti-inflammatory, it’s linked to improved brain function, lower risks of heart disease, cancer prevention and revovery, and a small study showed it’s as effective as prozac at alleviating the symptoms of depression on some people. It’s even more effective when eaten with black pepper (which this soup happens to contain a large amount of as well). Black pepper is super beneficial for digestion (and therefore better nutrient absorption and controlling blood sugar levels).
Ginger is a powerhouse when it comes to boosting immune and respiratory system functions as well as fighting bacterial infections.
Garlic, which this soup calls for a whole head of, is incredibly nutritious and actually contains a little bit of everything we need. It helps combats colds, lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels and reduces lead levels in the body.
Anise can also improve digestion, alleviate cramps/muscle soreness, reduces nausea and is great for respiratory health.
My turmeric plant, happy and selfish as it takes up the whole window. It should be ready to harvest very soon, I planted it about 8 months ago, and I’m (reasonably) very excited.
If you cook a lot of Asian food, epspecially Thai or Vietnamese, I definitely recommend buying a big stalk of lemongrass, grinding it, then freezing it in an ice cube tray for perfect single-use portions. It is an absolutely integral flavor and dried lemongrass just doesn’t compare. I do the same with thai basil from my garden. I also can’t imagine living without prickly ash, or sichuan peppercorns. It’s not actually related to black pepper or chili peppers, it’s in the citrus family and one bite would reassure you of that. It’s lemony, floral, spicy and makes your tongue tingle. They also enhance the flavors of everything they’re accompanied with. It’s not a traditional pho ingredient, but I’m obsessed with them so of course they find their way in.
Here’s my rice noodle ratings journal, along with a drawing of me mummified in rice noodles, where I track my quest for excellence. Some things that I rate them on? WELL I’M GLAD YOU ASKED! The biggest factor is if they have to be boiled/rinsed separately lest you want to end up with a opaque, starchy, globby broth. The only noodles to get a perfect 10 rating so far you can throw right into your bowl of soup (which saves time, energy and water). I also consider price, how easily they separate (I’ve come to learn that it’s never easy and will always result in little broken rice noodles scattered everywhere), and general preferences like thickness, texture and taste. The rice noodles in the pho pictured in this post? They got a 5
makes 10 servings (and the broth freezes really well)
7 whole cloves
5 star anise
two 3-inch sticks of cinnamon (or 1 tbsp dried cinnamon)
1 tsp coriander
1-2 tbsp dried turmeric
1 large garlic head, peeled
2 large onions, quartered
2 stalks of celery, chopped
4 to 5 inch knob of ginger, peeled (if not organic) and chopped
2 tbsp sesame oil (any oil works though)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
juice of 2 limes
2 tsp whole black peppercorns (or 1/2 tsp ground)
small handful fresh or dried asian chilis (or 1/4 cup chili oil)
5 quarts vegetarian chicken broth
2 tbsp dried, crushed prickly ash (optional but amazing)
2 tbsp ground lemongrass
2 tbsp thai basil (optional)
1 tsp salt
cilantro to garnish
In a large pot, toast the dried spices until fragrant. Add sesame oil, then the onion and garlic. Sautee for 3-5 minutes until slightly browned, then add the rest of the ingredients besides cilantro and rice noodles. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Strain out solids, then serve with garnishes and rice noodles.
For better nutrient retention, make this in a pressure cooker and let it decompress naturally. A lot is lost to steam!
Please compost! This recipe leaves cups and cups of organic matter that doesn’t belong in a landfill.