I love Pho. I have an appreciation for Vietnamese culture in general which began in high school when I became close friends with a Vietnamese kid named Quynh. He introduced me to his traditional Vietnamese family, whom I grew to love, and Pho, to which I quickly became mildly obsessed. I was fascinated by the Pho restaurants, formed my own Pho eating techniques and tried other Vietnamese dishes. No dish held my attention quite like the delicious noodle soup. Quynh and I would frequent the slightly ghetto restaurants in the heart of Little Saigon on Bolsa Ave. (which Quynh pronounced “bow-suh”). A large majority of these establishments would be open 24/7 and we’d patronize them as late as 4 am, after the dance clubs closed. Eating Pho was always the preferred method of ending a night out, or restoring calories after marathon video game battles of counterstrike and Halo. Pho has always meant something more than food to me. Pho has been a cornerstone to friendship, culture and flavor. Over the years my view of this noodle soup has changed somewhat though.
These days I’m no longer out till 4am with the drunk munchies, nor do I have spare hours to play video games, but my infatuation with this dish hasn’t diminished. What has changed is my reckless abandon for eating anything that is tasty. Since High school I have become increasingly interested in food, from a health standpoint. Along the way I’ve learned which foods supercharge my performance and those that stifle it. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is one piece of modern food that I’ve found rather deleterious to my total wellness. I was saddened to learn that my beloved Pho contained large amounts of it. I gave it up, aside from the occasional “relapse”. If you consume MSG I definitely recommend looking into it. Epic Bummer. I simply wasn't down to consume MSG…or give up Pho, so I set out to find a healthy option.
I scoured the internet looking for safe alternatives, one of which was vegetarian. With Pho Ga (chicken noodle soup) being my favorite variation, this wasn’t going to work for me. I found a place that actually advertised “NO MSG” on the menu and my lady and I made it a date. It was clearly false advertising. I felt the MSG headache and weird “buzz” before I even finished the bowl. It was delicious, but I couldn’t enjoy myself knowing what I was consuming. Aside from realizing I was basically lied to, the servers were beyond rude. I’ve always experienced very poor service in Viet restaurants and just accepted it as it was mostly eclipsed by my love for Pho. Maybe the sight of a half Mexican guy with a White girlfriend patronizing a predominantly Vietnamese business in the heart of Little Saigon is too much for the servers to handle, or maybe that’s just how Vietnamese businesses roll. Regardless, I was beyond over it and for the first time ever left without tipping. I departed a little pissed off, with an MSG headache, my servers tip in my pocket and one BIG idea. I was determined to make the best Pho I’d ever had, devoid of any bullshit chemical ingredients, factory farmed animals, shitty service and false advertising. 100% Organic sounds sexy and I plan to enjoy it in the comfort of my own home. A few days later I accomplished that goal…Here’s how I did it.
For the most part Pho is a fairly simple dish. There aren’t many moving parts and each bowl generally consists of a meat, some basic veggies, rice noodle and the broth. The broth is the heart and soul of the bowl, where the flavor comes from and also where the MSG resides.
I’ll be real with you, MSG tastes fucking delicious. Fortunately for me I’d recently become engaged in a love affair with another type of soupy liquid…Enter Bone Broth.
My foodie expeditions are usually lead by my feverish search for any consumables that make me bigger, faster and stronger. Bone broth is undoubtedly a physical performance game changer and force multiplier for basically any health endeavor. Whether your goal is healing ones gut, improving hair, skin and nails or roping god like home runs during recreational softball with the boys, bone broth is Boss. The amino acid profile and omega 3 fatty acid content alone is phenomenal for strength gains. Over the past several months I’d been experimenting with Indian spices to create the perfect flavor with added anti-inflammatory benefits. It was simple, remove the MSG laden broth and replace it with the performance enhancing drug we call bone broth, throw in organic chicken, veggies and a high quality gluten free rice noodle.
It worked! My old lady even said it was better than what we’d had in the restaurants. Overall, I feel that the noodles have some room for improvement and I will continue to tweak that part.
The most satisfying part of preparing this dish was knowing that all the ingredients, from the organic chicken to the anti-inflammatory spices, were totally top notch, healthy and contained no unwanted bullshit. Pho was now guilt free…and actually a very powerful meal.
Step 1-Bone Broth:
1. Organic, grass-fed, beef marrow bone
2. whole onion
3. whole garlic clove
6. apple cider vinegar (2-3 tablespoons)
7. anti-inflammatory spices: Turmeric, cumin, fenugreek (whatever you prefer, to taste)
8. Celtic sea salt (this can be added after to taste)
9. Water (fill crock pot)
1. Throw all ingredients into a crock pot, set on low for 16-24 hours.
2. Strain all solids out of the broth using a fine mesh strainer.
Step 2 – Organic chicken
I used “Rosie” USDA certified organic chicken thigh (with bone and skin) and simply pan fried it in a little olive oil. Depending on the thickness of the chicken it may take 15-25 minutes on medium heat. Cook until chicken is pale white all the way through (no pink). Cut up large pieces and add them to the broth.
Step 3 – Organic Noodles:
Add dry hard rice noodles into hot bone broth 5-10 minutes prior serving. This allows for the noodles to soften. I chose a gluten free rice noodle (pad Thai style).
Step 4 – Organic Veggies
This part is a matter of preference but in honor of Vietnamese tradition I went with what’s usually served: thinly sliced onion, green onion and bean sprouts into the broth just before eating. I also garnished a separate plate with dandelion greens, fresh mint leaves, more bean sprouts, jalapeno and lime to emulate the Little Saigon experience.
Step – 5 Sriracha!
The only non-organic piece of this dish but a total must have for me personally. I add enough to make my Pho pretty spicy. Just personal preference. Hoisin sauce is also commonly used in Pho but I left it out. I think it’s mostly high fructose corn starch anyway.