As we go into the cold season, our cravings for warm, comfort food will go through the roof. But wouldn’t it be great if said comfort food didn’t make us feel guilty about eating it? Let’s be honest, when we think of comfort food, it’s hardly a vision of crisp salads or room temp fruit. Thankfully, there is a food group that’s universally acknowledged by both health nuts and regular people as the go-to comfort food that satisfies all cravings – soup.
Soup is warm and slurpy and yummy, but it is, however, a pfaff. While it’s a great way to get rid of any unused veggies in one fell swoop, making soup is time-consuming and messy. Plus, the more shrewd amongst us carb cravers still can’t get past the fact that it’s still vegetables, just pulverized. A great way to zhuzh up the soup making process is – since you’re going to go to all that effort – to make something a bit more special. So here, we’re going to tell you how to make your own improvised Pho. (Pronounced “phuh”, not “phoh”)
The great thing about pho is that you can literally throw in whatever takes your fancy, whether you’re a meat-eater, vegetarian or vegan. The key ingredient, no matter what solid ingredients you add, is broth. Get that right, and the rest is mere decoration. And winter season doesn’t just call for delicious broth, but healthy as well. Below you’ll find the recipe that combines the best of both worlds! The quantities of all the ingredients below are entire to taste, so just throw stuff in, sample as you go, and adjust quantities accordingly.
What you’ll need:
- Ginger root
- Turmeric root
- Large onion
- Garlic cloves
- Roots of pak choi (more on that later)
- Bay Leaves
- Lemongrass (fresh or dried, either option works fine)
- Soy Sauce
- Mushrooms (we favour King Oyster and Shitake, but it’s really up to you)
- Noodles (again, up to you what kind you like. Thick Udon is a great choice!)
- 2 x large saucepan (the bigger the better)
- 1 x sieve
Minimum 4 hours of your life (but it’ll be worth it!)
Optional: for the non-veggies out there, you can commence the broth with a beef bone. One large one will do, but you’ll want to simmer that bad boy for at least an hour before you add the rest of the stuff.
Pour plenty of water into your saucepan, bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat so it’s at a steady simmer. The broth will just be standing doing its thing for a long time and a lot of the water will evaporate, so better to add too much than too little.
Thoroughly wash and chop up your ingredients – everything but the mushrooms, soy sauce and noodles! – then throw them all into the water. With regards to the pak choi and carrots – those will be your filler veggies once the broth is ready. Cut off the bottom part of the pak choi (get as much of the white portion as possible) and peel the carrots. Throw the carrots peelings and pak choi “roots” into the broth, put the rest aside for later. Chop up your mushrooms so they’re ready to go for later as well.
Let your broth gently simmer for at least a couple of hours – really let all the flavours infuse the water. Keep an eye on your saucepan and take little sips at regular intervals to see what more it needs. Useful hint: lemon can counteract spiciness! So if you’ve overdone it with the chilli or ginger, remove them from the broth and throw in a few wedges of lemon. More healthiness for your broth and it won’t burn your brain when you eat it. Soy sauce is, of course, very salty, but it gives the broth that lovely oriental flair. Generally, it’s a good idea to go easy on the salt at the beginning, and gently add splashes of soy sauce until your broth is at desired saltiness levels.
For those working with the bone, you’ll want 1 hour with the bone alone, then a further 2 hours with all the veggie ingredients. Once the broth is as flavourful as you’d like, use tongs or salad spoons to carefully fish out the bone. For the brave eaters out there, the bone marrow is insanely healthy and it will have been flavoured with all the other ingredients – gently knife it out of the bone and you can spread it on some toast as a yummy appetizer.
Once the broth is nice and delicious, the next part is a little messy. Get yourself that other big saucepan we mentioned, or a large mixing bowl (that can handle the heat!) and pour out your broth from one pan into the other, via the sieve, so nothing but the clear liquid remains in the new saucepan. If you’ve used a bowl, rinse out your saucepan to make sure there are no stray peppercorns or bits of chilli leftover and pour the broth back in.
Now you add your chosen ingredients. Our suggestions are pak choi, chopped up carrots and mushrooms, but the world is very literally your oyster. You can add beef, tofu, cabbage, eggs, spring onions, maybe even wild rice instead of noodles if you prefer! If opting for the mushrooms, it’s nice to let them add to the broth flavour as well so throw your chopped up ‘shrooms in and let them simmer for 20-30mins as well. Last, but not least, add your carrots, pak choi and noodles and let them simmer for an additional 10mins or so. The noodles can go soggy fairly quickly, so depending on what type you use, you might want to throw in the veggies first and add the noodles at the last minute.
Finally, that freezing we mentioned! As I’m sure by now you can tell, this takes ages and is a lot of effort. So you’ll want to avoid doing this process too often. If you’ve made yourself a nice large batch, you can freeze your broth for future occasions! Use a ladle or a funnel and apportion some broth into spare Tupperware or empty jam jars. That way, every time you’re craving some lovely noodle soup, you can defrost your ready-made broth and only spend 10-15mins in the kitchen, adding whatever ingredients you feel like on the day.
Super yummy, plus all that ginger, garlic and turmeric are great immune boosters and anti-inflammatories, so this broth is ideal for keeping those germs away!