It’s Pho Real: Gotta Try This Soup

Hi everybody, it’s KC. Andrew’s right (of course he is), Pho should be Gluten Free! But since some commercial soup bases or broth bases can have gluten, and we don’t know what all restaurants are using, you’ll want to check up before you order up your Pho. (And, as Andrew suggests, you only really want Pho from places making broth the legit old-school way, anyway.)

It’s hot and spicy. It’s savory and meaty. It’s also salty, fresh, unctuous, herbaceous, and slightly sweet. It is also very trendy. And, oh yeah, it is gluten free. What is this amazing concoction called and where can you get it? The dish in question is the traditional Vietnamese soup called “pho” (pronounced “fu,” like “fun” without the “n”). Pho is starting to pop up in many restaurants and eateries all across the nation, but it is most popular in big urban cities with large Vietnamese populations.

A traditional Vietnamese dish and popular street food, pho has actually been around for only about 100 years and is thought to have originated in northern Vietnam, and then spread slowly to southern Vietnam. Pho began to be introduced to the world in the 1970’s when refugees from the Vietnam War began to migrate to other countries and brought their traditional recipes with them.

Pho is a soup-like dish consisting of a broth, rice noodles, meat, fresh herbs and vegetables. The broth is typically either a beef or chicken broth, made from bones, meat, and sometimes organs. Many various herbs and spices are also used in the making of the broth and include things like roasted ginger and onion, coriander, fennel, clove, cardamom, cinnamon, and star anise. As with any great soup or soup-like dish, a good broth is the first key to delicious success. If the broth isn’t on point, neither will the dish be. In beef pho, the traditional meats used are thin-sliced against the grain cuts of something like flank steak or brisket. The thin slices allow the meat to be placed in the bowl raw and cooked when the hot broth is poured over it and slicing it against the grain ensures a tenderness to what can be chewier cuts of meat. With chicken pho, mostly chicken meat is used but tendons and organs are possible as well. The noodles are simple rice noodles (gluten free) and are placed on the bottom of the bowl when plating the dish. The meat goes on top of the noodles and the hot broth is poured over that. The dish is finished with a liberal helping of herbal garnishes including things like thai basil, thai chilies, green onions, white onions, bean sprouts, and cilantro. The diner can then add various types of hot chili pastes and perhaps a squeeze of lime.

In addition to being comforting, delicious, and gluten free, pho is also a pretty good choice nutritionally. The meat provides a good source of protein and although there is some fat, a good portion of the fat is skimmed off the top of the broth in order to keep the broth clear. The various vegetables and herbs all confer positive health benefits as well. They are a good source of fiber, a nutrient often lacking in gluten free diets, and one that helps to keep digestion regular and provides feelings of satiety and fullness. Fiber is also beneficial with respect to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. The vegetables and herbs also contain many phytochemicals, compounds in plants that offer many health benefits. These nutrients combined with the spiciness of the dish are why pho is thought to be good folk medicine for sicknesses like the cold and conditions like a hangover.

So if you haven’t already given pho a shot, perhaps now is the time to do so. Only slightly exotic, its flavors and textures should be quite approachable to even the most American of palettes. There really is no reason not to give it a shot, being that it is delicious, nutritious, and gluten free. It is probably one of those foods that once you try it, you’ll wish you’d done so earlier in life and lament all those years you’ve lived pho-less. It is definitely a dish that stays on your mind and keeps you coming back for more. Great on a cold day when it seems like you just can’t warm up no matter what you do, a bowl of pho will provide that warm and comforting feeling that seems to generate heat from the inside out. Now, pho heaven’s sake, jump in your Toyota pho-runner, and set off in search pho the nearest pho restaurant and pho-get about your problems and worries pho a while as you get lost in the delectable flavors, textures, and experience of eating pho.

Article Courtesy:  Andrew Steingrube

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