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Easy Pho

pho finished

I was introduced to my first steamy bowl of Pho while I was in massage school in the winter of 1998.  I was intrigued by the mysterious subtle spices that I couldn’t quite place.  I began experimenting with any recipe I could find and came up with this express version.  Traditional Pho is an art form, simmered over 24 hours and and doesn’t contain sake like my recipe here.  I use the sake to enhance the sweetness of the star anise.  I have tried various pre-made Pho broths in the stores but I find they are too heavy with cloves, sugar and salt.  Pho is really all about the broth and is great alone without the toppings.  This dish is very nourishing and has become a staple in my home year round.

Pho For Two

Pho Spices

Star Anise, Cinnamon Twig and Fresh Ground Coriander Seeds are warming and dispersing medicinal herbs.


Pho Broth
6-inch piece fresh ginger
2 yellow or sweet onions
3 cinnamon sticks
1 clove
5 star anise
3 teaspoons coriander seeds
1-32 oz box of low-sodium chicken, vegetable or beef broth (or bone broth would be ideal)
2 T Sake or Rum
Sesame Oil

Pho Toppings:
4 Green Onions
Fish Sauce
Mung Bean Sprouts
Fresh Hot Pepper of your choice: Serrano, Jalapeno, Thai Chili.
2 limes
Mint, Cilantro and Basil
Rice noodles
Sriracha-I love the Thai True brand Its gluten and GMO free and nicely hot!
Optional-10 prawns with shell on, or any other meat or tofu of your choice.
Fresh ground black pepper


Peel and slice the onions.  Slice the ginger into thin strips.  Roast the onions and ginger: Drizzle sesame oil into an iron wok or heavy pan and roast the onions and ginger over medium heat until charred and remove.  You may also broil them with sesame oil in the oven. Toss any pieces that get burnt.

broil onion charred

Broiling or roasting onions and ginger brings out the sultry flavors that balance the sweet anise.

Roast the spices: Using a mortar and pestle, lightly crush your spices and place in your iron wok or heavy pan and dry roast over medium heat until aromatic. This will also make your home smell fragrant and welcoming.

Place the roasted ginger and onions back into your pan, with the roasted spices and add the broth and sake. Bring to a quick boil, and then simmer on low for 30-40 minutes while preparing your fresh herbs and noodles for serving.  Its a good idea to have extra broth in case you end up cooking it longer or it reduces down and you need more broth before serving.  The idea is to infuse the broth with the roasted herbs and barely reduce the liquid.  (If you were making a traditional 24 hour Pho, starting from the meat bones, then you would just keep adding water.)

simmer pho spices in broth

Spices simmering in broth. In this image I let my decoction boil down too fast and needed to add more broth. Its OK if this happens, just add more broth or water.

Boil the rice noodles. This only takes a few minutes; be careful not to overcook. If you do overcook and they are mush, its better to compost the noodles and start over.

Sauces with herbs

Fish Sauce, Tamari and Sriracha. Traditionally fish sauce is cooked in the broth.  Its fun to let your guests experience the broth alone and make their own adjustments.

Assemble your Pho toppings on a side plate.  You may either make one big platter of toppings to share or make individual plates.  Thinly slice the hot peppers and green onions. Wash and pat dry the basil, mint and cilantro, quarter the limes and arrange on side plates with the mung bean sprouts and green onions. Set out the fish sauce and Sriracha.  Offer generous amounts of fresh herbs.  The herbs are an important part of the dish, and not a simple garnish.

Strain the broth. Compost the used spices, ginger, onions and other scraps.

Return the strained broth to the stove and quickly blanch the prawns (or other meat) in the broth until done. Leaving the shells on the prawns while cooking imparts an earthy flavor to the broth. Remove the shells before serving.

Portion the noodles into the bowls and top with prawns or your other protein.

Pour the broth into the bowls and serve with the Pho toppings.

pho with accouterments


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Easy Healthy Blueberry Dessert

Here is an easy healthy blueberry dessert to celebrate the summer!  The Summer Solstice is technically 11 days away, but I’m declaring it summer right now anyway.  Even though it rained 2 days ago, it’s been pretty sunny and warm in Seattle and Anacortes.  I even felt ashamed running inside on the treadmill and wasting that fresh air and healthy sunlight.

Whole foods on Westlake had a screaming deal on organic blueberries so I thought I’d share this  recipe (if you want to call it that-it’s more of a throw in a bowl dessert).  You’ve probably heard that blueberries are full of antioxidants, and great for your skin, but these are also full of rich summer flavor.  (I was actually lured to the display by the balmy scent…that is my rule, I must smell berries before I see them or I won’t buy them).

Items needed: Organic if possible.

  • Pint of blueberries
  • Nectarine or honey mango is a nice option
  • Banana
  • Walnuts
  • Greek Yogurt-Plain, unsweetened
  • Coconut Milk-Organic regular-NOT low fat (Why? See note below)

I’m not big on measuring when cooking as its kind of constraining so I’ll leave the proportions up to your liking.  Cut up the banana and nectarine and toss in a bowl with the berries.  Put a scoop or so of the Greek yogurt and drizzle I mean pour coconut milk over the top and sprinkle with walnuts.  That’s it, you’re done.  You can break up the walnuts with your fingers-no need for fancy tools or grinder.  If you are entertaining a vegan or a non-dairy diner, be kind and omit the yogurt.  They will appreciate your thoughtfulness.  This dessert is also gluten-free, BTW.  (I’m not a vegan myself but feel its important to be aware of others eating preferences.)  I prefer to eat the fruit at room temperature (its an Acupuncturist thing-don’t want to put out the digestive fire) but feel free to serve chilled if you like.  The berries are a nice flavor contrast to the creaminess of the banana and the floral note of the nectarine.  The walnuts and yogurt add protein and healthy fat, and the banana texture gets along really well with the walnuts.  The color palette is quite appetizing too.  Hope I don’t sound like a snob here but these things matter.

Easy 6 ingredient healthy blueberry dessert

Thai Kitchen is my favorite organic coconut milk.  It’s thicker and more creamy than the 365 Whole Foods brand, and readily available at most grocery stores.  The reduced or low fat version just has more water, so if you really want have less fat you can buy this and water it down.  I would keep the fat content so your brain is satiated, and you won’t crave more sugar or something else to make up for it.  I still haven’t found coconut milk in a lined can to protect from the aluminum, so if anyone knows of a brand let me know and I’ll post it.  Anyone who’s been around me knows I love coconut milk and use this in place of cream in coffee, hot chocolate and in soups like clam/seafood chowder or other “cream” based broths.  Coconut milk is non-dairy and also vegan friendly.