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 charm 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 is the #1 medicinal spice in terms of its protective antioxidant levels.
Turmeric is an amazing anti-inflammatory, is linked to improved brain function, lowers risk of heart disease, helps prevent or even fight cancers, and a small study showed it’s as effective as prozac at alleviating the symptoms of depression. It’s even more effective when eaten with black pepper (which this soup happens to contain a large amount of as well). One of black peppers biggest benefits is it’s great for digestion. A healthy body starts with healthy gut bacteria. Good digestion also helps you absorb more nutrients from your food.
Ginger is a powerhouse when it comes to boosting immune and respiratory functions as well as fight bacterial infections.
Garlic, which this soup calls for a whole head of, is incredibly nutritious, it 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 unreasonably excited.
If you cook a lot of Asian food, 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. When making pho, I use both the dried, mature peppercorns as well as young pickled peppercorns to reach the whole spectrum of flavor this one-of-a-kind spice has to offer. 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. I haven’t been able to find the dried ones, just the pickled ones, at the three biggest Asian markets in Milwaukee despite diligently looking for years and have to buy them online.
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. Yeah, out of 10.
makes 10-15 servings
7 whole cloves
5 star anise
two 3-inch sticks of cinnamon (or 1 tbsp dried cinnamon)
1 garlic head, peeled
2 very large onions, quartered
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
4-5 inch knob of ginger, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
juice of 2 limes
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
small handful fresh asian chilis or 1/4 cup chili oil
5 quarts vegetarian chicken bouillon
2 tbsp prickly ash
2 tbsp lemongrass
2 tbsp thai basil
1 tsp salt
cilantro to garnish
In a large pot, toast the dried spices until fragrant. Add 1 tbsp olive oil then the onion and garlic. Sautee for 2-3 minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Strain out solids, then serve with garnishes and rice noodles.
Please compost! This recipe leaves cups and cups of organic matter that doesn’t belong in a landfill.