I should preface this post by saying that, up until a couple months ago, I didn’t like phở soup in the slightest. However, after my better half visited a Vietnamese restaurant in our neighbourhood and declared that phở was one of the best things he’d ever eaten, he insisted that I’d love it too. My previous experience with phở dictated otherwise but, being the open-minded skeptic that I am, I reluctantly agreed to accompany him to Phở Tan’s Vietnamese Restaurant.
I was instantly hooked.
Originating in northern Vietnam in the early 1900s, phở soup is one of those great “anything goes” dishes. Traditionally served with either beef or chicken (though we prefer ours veggie-friendly), it can contain any number of vegetables, fresh herbs, spices and curries and normally always contains rice noodles. Phở is also a surprisingly easy dish to throw together in your own kitchen while tweaking the recipe to suit your own tastes and preferences.
Something that’s an absolute must in almost any Asian-style dish we prepare is coconut milk. However, I often find that cans of coconut milk contain much more than the splash or two that’s required, so I recently came up with a solution to my coconut milk dilemma. Pouring the leftover coconut milk into ice cube trays, freezing them and storing them in a zip-loc bag in the freezer makes it easy to grab one or two coconut cubes for dishes such as phở soup. I like to take two and place them in the bottom of my bowl with a smatter of red curry paste so that both melt together as I add the heated ingredients to my bowl.
While the phở soup that we make is comprised of vegetables, dressing up the final product is always a lot of fun. Normally Thai basil is served alongside phở soup in restaurants, but because our garden is fresh out of basil, I grabbed a fistful of cilantro to accompany the sliced jalapeño peppers, bean sprouts and lime wedges. That’s the beauty of phở: whatever you have on hand will probably work. A dash of hoisin or gluten-free soy sauce can also add an extra zing of flavour.
Earlier yesterday when I’d told my mom we planned on making for phở soup for dinner, she immediately asked for the recipe. My only reply was “uh, we don’t really have one but I’ll give blogging about it a shot…”
This dreamy soup is perfect for chilly winter days and has just the right amount of heat to warm you to your core. Without further adieu, our homemade phở recipe (serves 4):
- 3 litres homemade vegetable stock (I always only ever make My G’s vegetable stock)
- 1 375 gram-package rice noodles
- 4-5 teaspoons red curry paste, to taste
- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- 1 crown broccoli, chopped
- 4 stems baby bok choy
- 1 large carrot, thinly sliced into coins
- 2-3 stalks celery, thinly sliced into coins
- 1/4 head green cabbage, roughly shredded
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- 1 jalapeño pepper, sliced
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or Thai basil
1. Place homemade vegetable stock in a pot, bring to a gentle boil. We like to add a dash of Chinese Five-Spice. Once boiling, add chopped broccoli, carrots and celery. Meanwhile, boil 1.5 litres of water in a kettle and pour over rice noodles in a metal bowl.
2. After the firm vegetables have cooked for 2-3 minutes, add green cabbage and baby bok choy to the vegetable stock.
3. Using four fairly large soup bowls, divide the coconut milk evenly between the bowls and smear a teaspoon of red curry paste in the bottom of the bowl. If you like extra heat, add more curry paste (though it actually tends to be somewhat mild).
4. Once the vegetables have fully cooked in the vegetable stock, you’re ready to rock and roll and assemble your phở soup. Using tongs, dish one-quarter of the rice noodles into each bowl. Ladle as much (or as little) vegetable broth over the noodles, allowing the coconut milk and paste to mix in. You might want to stir it up to get the process going. Add cooked vegetables over top of the rice noodles and adorn with bean sprouts, jalapeño pepper and lime.