Being Asian, my family would eat pho often and anytime we had a party. For the most part it’s a healthy comfort food since it’s broth based and flavored with exotic spices. It’s the rice noodles that has made me stay away from this filling and satisfying dish. Rice noodles are full of the “bad” carbs but I can’t eliminate it because then I’ll just be drinking broth, and that’s not fun.
Since I’ve used zucchini noodles from my Paderno World Cuisine A4982799 Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable slicer from Amazon for pasta substitute, I thought I can do the same for Pho noodles. This will save lots of calories but more importantly, not consume white starch that quickly stores as fat in the body and makes you feel sluggish. I gotta say it was a huge success. I use the smaller blade and slightly blanch the “noodles” to make them more flexible like cooked rice noodles. Season your pho as you normally would and you will barely notice the difference but it will make a huge impact on your body. Slow changes to eating clean will yield big results.
- 5 to 6 pounds of beef knuckles or leg bones (I usually use a whole chicken or 3 chicken breast. It will just be a lighter flavor)
- 6 quarts cold water
- 2 medium onions, quartered
- 4-inch piece of fresh ginger, halved lengthwise
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds (or ground coriander seeds)
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 6 star anise
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 cardamom pod (or 1tbs ground cardamom)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
- 1/4 cup fish sauce, (found at Asian stores but I also see them at Walmart and the local grocery stores now)
- 1-inch piece yellow rock sugar (or 1-2 tbs of white sugar)
I like to get the spices in the bulk food section because it’s cheaper and you can just get what you want. Star of anise is expensive so sometimes I omit it.
- Parboil Bones: Add beef bones to a large pot that will hold at least 10 quarts. Then, cover bones with cold water. Place pot onto high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 3 to 5 minutes. During this time, impurities and foam (or scum) will be released and rise to the top.
- Drain bones, discarding the water. Then, rinse bones with warm water and scrub stockpot to remove any residue that has stuck to the sides. Add the bones back to the stockpot and cover with 6 quarts of cold water. (This is if you want to use this for more flavor. I just boil chicken for a chicken stock in 6 quarts of water and remove chicken once cooked).
- Char Onion and Ginger: Move an oven rack to a high position then turn broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
- Place quartered onions and halved ginger onto baking sheet then broil for 10 to 15 minutes, turning onions and ginger occasionally so that they become charred or browned on all sides.
- Toast Spices: Add cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, cloves and the black cardamom pod to a dry frying pan. Place onto low heat and cook, stirring occasionally until fragrant. About 5 minutes. (Sometimes I get lazy and skip this step. It still tastes good, just not as fragrant because toasting always brings out the flavor of spices).
- Place toasted spices into a cotton muslin bag/herb sachet or cheesecloth then tie with butchers twine to seal.
- Simmer Broth: Bring stockpot with parboiled bones and water to a boil then lower to a gentle simmer. Add charred onion and ginger as well as the bag or sachet of toasted spices.
- Next, add 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt, a 1/4 cup of fish sauce and the rock sugar or white sugar.
- Continue to simmer broth for 3 hours. If at any time foam or scum rises to the surface, use a spoon to remove it.
- Strain Broth: Use tongs or a wide mesh spoon to remove bones, onion and ginger from broth then strain broth through a fine mesh strainer.
- Skim Fat: The broth will have a layer of fat at the the top. There are two ways to remove this. First, if you plan to enjoy the broth now, skim the fat from the top of the broth using a spoon. If you do not mind waiting, you can also pour broth into containers then refrigerate overnight. As the broth cools, the fat will solidify, making it very easy to remove. (This makes it healthier and for ascetic purposes. Sometimes I get lazy too and don’t strain broth if I’m not trying to impress anyone. It does look a lot better strained).
- Use the small noodle blade. For one serving, it takes one small zucchini or half of a good sized zucchini. For this batch it will take about 3-4 zucchini depending on size. Bring about a quart of water to boil and lightly blanch zucchini about 2-3 mins. Strain.
- Handful of noodles
- Meat of choice. I just shred the chicken I used for the stock. For beef: 1/2 pound raw eye of round, sirloin or tri-tip steak, thinly sliced across the grain. It will cook when you pour the hot broth over it. Shrimp is also a good choice.
- Ladle enough broth to cover noodles
Options for garnishes. The beauty of pho is you make it how you like it:
- thinly sliced onions
- chopped cilantro leaves
- Sprigs of fresh mint
- Thai basil
- Bean sprouts
- thinly sliced cabbage
- Thinly sliced red chilies or jalapeños if you like it spicy
- lime wedges
- Fish sauce
- Hoisin sauce
- Oyster sauce
- Siracha hot sauce
You can always freeze the broth not used and heat up when needed because it yields a lot.