If you follow my blog regularly you know I have a fascination and love for Southeast Asian cuisine that originated with my travels to Thailand and Burma. There’s something about the classic southeast Asian combos of salty (fish sauce and soy sauce), spicy (chilis and chili sauce), sour (lemon and lime) and sweet that I find absolutely magical.
My latest addiction is Pho, a popular Vietnamese noodle soup. Though I’ve never been to Vietnam, Pho combines all those classic southeast Asian flavors into a unique and utterly delicious dish.
I include the recipe below in my ebook, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution. This is not because Pho is some mystical, ancient cure-all for heartburn. Rather, it’s because Pho is made with beef stock and homemade stocks are an essential part of all traditional diets. Homemade stocks work wonders for our digestion and I include them regularly in all my digestive protocols with clients, which of course includes heartburn.
Pho is basically three things. The first is an incredibly fragrant beef broth infused with some aromatic spices and roasted onion and ginger. Second, the broth is poured over thinly sliced beef and rice noodles. And third, it’s topped with a variety of garnishes including sriracha sauce, hoisin sauce, fish sauce, lemon or lime and herbs like cilantro and basil.
When I made Pho for the first time I of course consulted Google for some recipes. Man it was a lot more time-consuming than I thought! So I did what I usually do. I improvised my own quicker version.
More traditional versions call for the spices to be toasted and the onions and ginger to be roasted. They’re then added to the stock simmered for 4 – 10 hours. But seriously, who has time to do that?! I sure don’t.
My faux Pho version skips roasting the onion and ginger, toasting the spices and simmering them for the duration of the beef stock. Of course, cooking the beef stock from scratch will take time so if you’re doing that you could certainly add the spices, ginger and onion in the beginning. But that also means you have to use your entire stock for Pho. That would be A LOT of Pho!
So what I do is I just throw the spices in after I have the stock and simmer for a much shorter time period. I also add in some sliced ginger here too. I’ll simmer this for 30-60 minutes depending on how much time I have (rarely more than 30 mins).
Though this broth certainly won’t take on the complexity of flavor of a more traditional one, it’s still really good!
And you can more than make up for a perfect broth with the garnishes. For me, that’s where the magic really happens.
So we got sriracha sauce, hoisin sauce, lime, bean sprouts, fish sauce and mint or basil.
Fish sauce baby!
You can add as much or as little as you want to get the flavor profile you want. Drizzle in a little at a time, adjusting as you go. For me personally, I LOVE salty and add generous amounts of it.
Here’s a better pic of the fish sauce I HIGHLY recommend.
This fish sauce is the real deal. It’s made in Vietnam and contains no MSG, sugar or preservatives. It’s pretty tough to find a fish sauce of this quality in stores.
If you can’t find it locally in a specialty food store, you can find it on Amazon here.
After I get the exact amount of saltiness I want, I’ll then I’ll add a squeeze of lime, about a half teaspoon of sriracha, a full teaspoon of hoisin sauce, a handful of bean sprouts and some mint. Most recipes call for basil or cilantro but I love mint here. Use whatever works for you.
I was amazed how closely my faux Pho version came to the more traditional one. Purists would surely disagree but I’m not interested in being a purist. I’m interested in quick, simple and delicious. My Faux Pho fulfills all three.
1 quart beef broth
Flank steak, sirloin or London broil, sliced as thinly as possible
2 inch piece of ginger, diced
Rice noodles, optional if you’re on a grain-free diet
3-4 whole star anise, whole cloves, whole cardamom pods, black peppercorns
½ tsp fennel seeds and coriander seeds
Sriracha sauce ¼ – 1 tsp
Hoisin sauce, ¼ – 1 tsp
Fresh mint, basil and/or cilantro, handful each
Bean sprouts, handful
1 lime wedge
1. Put spices in a small mesh bag, tea bag or any thin piece of cloth that you can tie up and secure the spices inside. Alternatively, you can just add them loosely to the broth and strain them out later.
2. Simmer beef stock with ginger and spices for 30-60 minutes. Keep lid on pot, otherwise the stock will evaporate.
3. Prepare rice noodles according to package directions and set aside.
4. Put rice noodles and thin beef strips in bowl. Pour hot broth over them. The heat will cook the beef.
5. Add fish sauce to taste.
6. Add sriracha and hoisin sauce to taste
7. Top with mint, basil and/or cilantro and bean sprouts and a squeeze of lime.
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.