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Vietnamese Pho soup demystified

Here is one of my favorite go-to recipes on fast paced days. This Vietnamese Pho soup is loaded with the healing benefits of the spices infused in its broth, while simple and fast to prepare. You might take a little longer when making it for the first few times, but this soon becomes one of those easy-to-make dinners allowing for healthy eating even after an intense work day when you don't really feel inspired for cooking.

The most "time consuming" part of the preparation is infusing the spices to the broth, but just add the spices to the broth and let it simmer on low heat while you take a nice shower or chill out slowing down the pace.

What you will need to make 4 servings
  • 8 cups of unseasoned bone broth (homemade or store-bought) that you will infuse with spices (star anise, cloves, cinnamon, green or black cardamom, coriander, and ginger) to obtain the traditional Pho flavor. Add sea salt to taste if desired (when using store bought broth, verify if it has already some added salt)

  • 1 pound of thinly sliced organic grass-fed skirt steak

  • 240g of organic rice noodles

  • A bunch of some of the following: mung bean sprouts; fresh cilantro, mint, Thai basil leaves;

  • One of these: a thinly-sliced red or yellow onion, a sautéed shallot, a slightly broiled sliced onion, or thinly-sliced green onions;

  • A lime sliced in quarters, one thinly sliced chile, and/or sriracha sauce to taste.

How to prepare
  1. Prepare the Pho broth by infusing your spices into the bone broth and simmering for at least 30 min or more for enhanced flavor. Use a good-quality store-bought stock to save time, or make a more authentic recipe using homemade bone broth made from organic grass-fed bones if preferred. The spice blend in a Pho broth is commonly made with star anise, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom (use black cardamom for a more traditional smoky flavor), and coriander seeds. I recommend using whole spices (not ground) for enhanced flavor. People often ask me how much of each spice they should use, I tend to answer that there is no specific rule but that the blend will vary from cook to cook, and in a good Pho, no one spice should overpower the others. It’s about balance and experimentation. I tend to blend 2 star-anise, 5 cloves, 6 to 8 crushed cardamom pods, a table spoon of roughly crushed coriander seeds, 2 cinnamon sticks, a chunk of ginger to obtain a flavorful Pho broth. Some traditional recipes include rock sugar and a little splash of fish sauce (these are optional, in my opinion, and a matter of personal preference). Once your broth is ready, use a strain to completely remove the spices;

  2. Thinly slice the meat (placing it in the freezer for about 45-60 minutes will make it easier to slice)

  3. Prepare the shallots (or onions) and ginger by briefly sautéing in a skillet or slightly broiling them in the oven. This step will add that traditional smoky flavor to the broth;

  4. Cook the noodles according to the package instructions and place a handful in each serving bowl (tossing or adding a drizzle of sesame oil to prevent them from sticking).

  5. Garnish and serve your Pho topping the noodles in each bowl with slightly thinned red onions (or sautéed broiled shallots), followed by the raw steak slices and your choice of herbs (mung bean sprouts, green onions, fresh cilantro, mint, or Thai basil leaves). Add your spice-infused broth to each bowl while super hot covering the meat to allow the thin slices to cook, then immediately add the aromatic herbs and onions so they will release their aroma and flavors. Serve immediately, garnishing with lime wedges, sriracha sauce, and Thai chile (or jalapeño) if desired.

Why Pho?

This is one of those wonderful recipes for when kids or adults are experiencing symptoms of common cold, and respiratory or sinus congestion. I find Pho one of the most kids' friendly recipes to start introducing spices and herbs to children. A delicious way to enjoy the healing benefits of our home pharmacy!

This is also one of my favorite soups to sustain intermittent fasting and manage weight.

Naturally gluten-free when made with rice noodles, Pho can be made vegetarian or vegan by replacing the bone broth with vegetable broth and using tofu instead of meat. Skipping the rice noodles or choosing konjac noodles, provides a low-carb keto-friendly version.

If you want to master traditional Pho recipes, I recommend the book The Pho Cookbook: Easy to Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam's Favorite Soup and Noodles.


About the author: Carol Jamault is a Certified Health and Life Coach (CHC), Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT), and Yoga Instructor (RYT-200) with extensive training in Ayurveda and Herbalism. She focuses on supporting her clients with stress management tools and self-care routines through an integrative approach to wellness. She guides those in a quest for personal growth and better health, by providing curated information and teaching a therapeutic lifestyle that naturally allows to restore balance, improving wellness and fostering longevity. Carol has been studying alternative healing, ethnobotany, circadian medicine, Ayurveda and herbalism since 2001. She is the founder of Hridayam Bodywork & Apothecary and partners with corporations and wellness studios to provide therapeutic bodywork, private coaching, workshops, and lectures.


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