Warm up with a Vietnamese staple this fall. A Simple and Tasty Low GI Noodle Phở 🍜
Updated: Nov 30, 2018
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Summer has slipped away, the leaves are changing and the air is becoming crisp. With a change of the leaves comes a change of the types of foods we like to enjoy. Personally, I enjoy baking, roasting and simmering soups more once fall has arrived. A warm, comforting meal is a great way to warm up not only your home but your self! Soup is one of my favorite things to enjoy this time of year. Not only is the Vietnamese noodle soup, Phở, comforting and warming, it is loaded with ingredients that can help ward off a cold. At the very least it will make you feel better while you are enjoying it.
In March 2015, I had the opportunity to travel to Vietnam. I am forever grateful that I went on this trip. The people are welcoming and pleasant, the landscape is lush and vibrant, and the city of Hanoi is bustling with activity. The cuisine in Vietnam is an adventure of its own. I must admit that I tried many food items I do not know the name of, because of the language barrier. A friend and I had an adventurous meal, just sitting at a table on the sidewalk and letting the server bring us food. We could not communicate or understand a thing on the menu, but none of the dishes our friendly server brought disappointed. I have to agree with Anthony Bourdain about Vietnam, “once you love it, you love it forever.” I hope to get back soon, but until then, I will make Phở at home and reminisce about the trip.
Phở was the star dish of the trip for me. Not pronounced like faux, but like the lyrics in Talking Heads’ song, Psycho Killer. (Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa…..) You may just have to listen to the song now. Pho is a noodle soup, and most places offer a choice of meat, and then serve it studded with fresh herbs, bean sprouts, a lime wedge, and condiments on the side. The condiments were typically fish sauce, hoisin and a spicy siracha-like sauce. The broth itself has delicious, aromatic flavors, and in my opinion, adding too much of a condiment will cover up the flavors in the broth. I love the flavor of star anise, and this is used in the broth, however it is very delicate, and can easily be missed if you add too many condiments.
The broth is usually a beef broth base, with sweetness from star anise, nice spice from ginger and a savory spice from the garlic and onion. The combination of flavors is fantastic. (So good, that I had a bowl almost everyday for breakfast!) The toppings are fresh, bright flavors and there is some crunch from the fresh bean sprouts and chili peppers. The noodles in Phở are important too. Thin rice noodles are used in Pho, the thick rice noodles are more commonly used for stir fried dishes. The delicate thin noodles are great with the delicate, complex flavors of the broth. Holista low GI noodles work perfectly in this dish, and they have added superfoods that help decrease the impact on your blood sugar. Speaking of “superfoods”, Phở delivers a good dose of health promoting ingredients. I will highlight a few below that make this soup so delicious and healthy.
Cilantro also known as coriander, which is both an herb and a spice because the seed and the fresh leaves are both used, is commonly used in Vietnam. The second dish pictured above is covered in it! The coriander seed is used fresh ground or in powder form. The leaves are usually called cilantro. Cilantro and coriander are rich in phenolic compounds, and contain a significant amount of antioxidant power due to these phenolic compounds. Antioxidants help us fight free radicals that can damage our cells. Additionally, cilantro has anti-microbial properties. This means cilantro has the potential to help you fight off bacterial infection! Phở can be served with Thai basil or cilantro. I used cilantro in this recipe, as it is easier to find, and it was commonly used in Hanoi.
Garlic has a number of health promoting benefits. Research has shown garlic to have; antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, blood sugar lowering, anti-thrombotic and antifungal properties. I always use more garlic than what is called for in a recipe, and I guess I have been doing my health a favor ☺️
Ginger is well known for its ability to relieve gastrointestinal distress. It has been shown to be effective in preventing motion sickness, as well as nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. It is also anti-inflammatory, and like garlic and cilantro, it has anti-microbial properties.
The Recipe: Holista Noodle Phở
The September/October issue of Food and Nutrition Magazine featured a recipe for Easy Phở Beef, which I think is a great recipe because you do not have to simmer the soup for hours to get the authentic flavors of Vietnamese Pho. The recipe below is adapted from that recipe, developed by Rachael Hartley, RD, LD. Makes 4 servings
What You Will Need:
2 star anise pods*
8 cups unsalted or low sodium beef broth
1 large onion, sliced thin
3 inch piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp. fish sauce
12 oz. eye of round beef, or pork ribs, sliced 1/8 inch thick**
8 oz. Holista Spaghetti
2 cups bean sprouts
1 jalapeno, sliced
4 scallions cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup of cilantro leaves
4 lime wedges
Optional: Siracha and/or hoisin
A few things before you begin:
*If you are in a bind, and cannot find star anise, use ¼ tsp. fennel seeds. You do not want to omit the flavor star anise adds to the soup.
**Freeze beef or pork for one hour before preparation to make it easier to slice thin.
Vegetarian: Use mushroom or vegetable broth. Substitute king trumpet mushrooms, sliced thin, for the beef or pork. You can also use tofu.
1. Start out by toasting the star anise pods or fennel seeds until fragrant in a large stockpot over medium heat.
2. Add broth, ginger, garlic, and onion, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. While soup simmers you can slice jalapeno, cut scallions, chop cilantro and divide rinsed bean sprouts among the bowls. If you are having one serving, just add a half-cup of bean sprouts to your bowl.
4. Remove the star anise pods from the soup after simmering. Stir in soy and fish sauces.
5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for your noodles. Holista noodles cook in 3 minutes, which is the same amount of time it will take your beef to cook. After adding the noodles to the boiling water, immediately add the sliced beef to the soup.
6. Drain your noodles when they are done, and divide among the bowls. Ladle soup over noodles and bean sprouts.
7. Top with scallions, jalapenos, cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Option to add Siracha and hoisin, or keep these on the side for dipping your beef/pork or mushroom.
Nutrition Information (analysis done using beef in the recipe)
490 calories, 13g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 50mg cholesterol, 370mg sodium, 57g carbohydrate, 4g fiber, 1g sugar, 35g protein, 55% vitamin A, 80% vitamin C, 9% Calcium, and 40% Iron.
A note on storage. I love leftovers, but you want to make sure you store them in a way that will allow you to recreate the experience. You do not want to store everything together, it will compromise the texture of the crisp veggies and the noodles. It may also mute the individual flavors. Storage containers are your friend! Store the broth, noodles and fresh ingredients separately.