Five years ago was the last time I fell ill with a contagious cold or flu type sickness (I’m vigorously knocking on wood that this remains true). Instead, I am now blessed/cursed with a sinus or respiratory infection each year.
Last year I had an upper respiratory infection and this year I’ve got a lower respiratory infection. And like every year, I try to battle it the hippie way with natural remedies only to end up at the wellness center or urgent care to get a prescription for antibiotics and medications. Here I am still trying to get over this nasty cough, but lucky for you (and me) this year’s natural remedy included pho!
In case you’re not sure what pho (pronounced “fuh”) is, it’s basically a big bowl of Vietnamese comfort food in the form of soup with rice noodles, beef (or other proteins) and lots of garnishes. I haven’t really tried any pho in El Paso, but everyone’s favorites seem to be Pho Tre Bien on the eastside and Saigon Taste on the westside. Eastside newcomer, Pho So 1 has had mixed reviews. What’s your favorite place for pho? I’ve been to Pho 79 in Denver, but that was way too long ago for me to remember.
The following recipe is adapted from a Vegetarian Times recipe which I cut in half, but then added more water to cut the sodium. All of these ingredients are fairly easy to get a hold of with the exception of the vegetarian beef broth. I was able to find it at Sprouts, but you can just use veggie broth if you can’t find it. I found dried shitake mushrooms for less than $3 at Albertsons.
Vegetarian Pho Broth
2 cups vegetarian “beef” broth or vegetable broth
6 cups water
1 large shallot, sliced
¼ cup dried shiitake mushrooms
5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1½ tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
6 ¼-inch-thick coins fresh ginger
½ tablespoon brown sugar
½ tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon (or half if you don’t want it so peppery) ground black pepper
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
Place all of the ingredients in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer covered for an hour. While the broth is cooking, take the time to prep all of the other ingredients, like soaking the rice noodles. Package directions say they’ll need to soak in hot water for 50-60 minutes, but I soaked mine for about 30 minutes. After the broth has simmered for an hour, strain it, discard the solids and return the broth to the pot.
Garnish options (which I had none of at the time. I just used cilantro, lime and julienned zucchini & carrots): tofu, scallions, onions, cabbage, sliced chile peppers, lime wedges, bean sprouts, herbs (basil, cilantro, etc.), sriracha, hoisin…whatever you want!
To serve, place the soaked noodles in bowls, ladle hot broth over the noodles and top with garnishes. Slurp away!