Traditional pho would take hours, or perhaps days, to make a rich beef broth. This recipe for Quick Pho with Ginger Pork Meatballs gives you a deeply-flavored broth in about an hour. Perfect for a quick warming dinner or lunch
How to make Quick Pho with Ginger Pork Meatballs
This recipe for Quick Pho with Ginger Pork Noodles came about because, well, cooking for two has its own set of challenges, and that is, what to do with left-over food. Seriously, other than a few dishes, it's hard to cook for just two people. There is always more than you can eat. And I'm not a big fan of reheating the same dish over and over, so I must come up with new ways to use my "excess" food.
While making our dinner of Ginger Pork Meatballs on Soba Noodles with Peanut Sauce, I realized I had way more meatballs than I needed. My first thought was to put the mixture in the freezer and then use it at some future date to make the same dish. But as they sat in the freezer I started thinking about other options. Other things these little meatballs might just be good in. And then it hit me, Pho Soup! Or maybe it's Faux Pho Soup. But regardless of what you want to call it, I thought it sounded yummy, so I proceeded down my merry little path of cooking.
The all-important broth
A true Vietnamese Pho is all about the broth. Richly cooked beef or chicken stock, long-cooked bones, cooked at least for hours, and possibly days.
But who has the time for that?
Not me. So I came up with these easy "cheats" to make a rich-tasting Pho broth, without the hours of cooking time. As a matter of fact, an hour will do you. And since it's mostly hands-off time, it's really a quick and easy broth - and will give your Pho soup just the right amount of deep flavor in a very short period of time.
It's all in the aromatics. Lemongrass, ginger, onions, jalapeno, cinnamon, star anise, and cilantro all simmer together for a short time, then they are allowed to just sit, and seep, melding their flavors.
Once the broth is full of deep flavor, simply remove the aromatics and continue.
The Soupy Part
Because this Pho included the deeply flavored Ginger Pork Meatballs, I thought that bok choy would hold up nicely. Bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage that has a sweet cabbagy mustard flavor. Used in Chinese cuisine for centuries, bok choy not only adds great flavor and crunch but has many health benefits. Containing vitamins C, A, and K, it is also an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and iron. Vitamin A, is essential for a properly functioning immune system, while vitamin C is an antioxidant that shields the body from free radicals. Bok choy supplies potassium for healthy muscle and nerve function, and vitamin B6 for carbohydrate, fat, and protein metabolism.
When working with bok choy, be sure to separate the white bottom from the tender leaves. The leaves should be added at the last moment to keep their vibrant green and tender flavor without getting slimy.
With the density of bok choy, I thought laterally cut yellow onions would be both visually and texturally complimentary. They were. And they held up to the rich beef stock very well.
As I said, I had left-over meat from making my recipe of Ginger Pork Meatballs on Soba with Peanut Sauce. If you don't have any left-over meatballs, just go to this recipe and make ½ of the pork meatballs. Or make the whole recipe and use half to make this and half to make the original recipe. The meat mixture holds up well in the freezer.
I like soba noodles. Their flavor is slightly nutty and being that they are made from buckwheat, they are gluten-free. Rice noodles have a neutral flavor, but also keep the dish gluten-free. Udon noodles are made of wheat, and while not gluten-free, they do offer a nice firm more chewy noodle. Whatever noodle you choose to use, cook them just under the package recommended cooking time as they will continue to cook in the soup. If you make them too soft to start with, you will have mush at the end.
We don't want mush.
Traditionally Pho is served with fresh bean sprouts, Thai basil, thinly sliced jalapeno peppers, and cilantro. I couldn't find any Thai basil, and Italian basil is NO substitute, so I omitted that. And as the soup was rich with beefy flavor, rich gingery meatballs, AND onion, I thought I would indulge my husband with thinly sliced fresh mushrooms.
He appreciated that.
Fresh lime wedges allow you to give your soup just the right ying/yang of citrus. Just a dash really brings out the flavors of the broth.
You can also add, if you wish, a dash of fish sauce, Sriracha, soy, or other flavorings. I find the flavorful broth to be just fine without too much additional embellishment. The jalapeno slices add plenty of heat if you need more than the broth gives, and as I said, just a squeeze of lime makes it all come to life, so I recommend trying it au natural first, Then add what you will to get the flavor you want.
In the end, you have a perfect warming bowl of Faux Pho Soup. Quick and easy.
Quick Pho with Ginger Pork Meatballs
- For the Meatballs
- ½ recipe Ginger Pork Meatballs
- For the Broth
- 1- quart low-sodium beef stock or homemade
- 2 cups water
- 1 stalk lemongrass trimmed of tough outside then slice thinly on the diagonal
- 1 2- inch piece fresh ginger thinly sliced (no need to peel)
- 3 green onions sliced into about 1-inch lengths (both the green and white parts)
- 1 yellow onion peeled, halved, and sliced into lateral slices (separated - we are going to use half in the broth, half in the final presentation))
- 1 jalapeno thinly sliced seeds included for heat, or omitted for not
- ½ of a cinnamon stick
- 3-4 star anise
- 8 - 10 cilantro stems
- For the Bowl
- 4 baby Bok Choy sliced, white bottom and leafy top separated
- Remaining half sliced onion
- 4 ounces Soba Udon, or rice noodles, cooked al dente (about 2 minutes less than package directions)
- For the rest
- Fresh bean sprouts
- Thinly sliced jalapeno
- Cilantro leaves
- Thinly sliced fresh mushrooms
- 1 lime cut into wedges
- For the Ginger Pork Meatballs: Form the meat into bite-sized meatballs, Set aside. (Refrigerate if you are going to be more than the hour needed to make the broth, remove from refrigerator ½ hour before cooking.)
- Prepare the Broth: Place all the broth ingredients into a saucepan, bring to a simmer, reduce heat and simmer slowly for ½ hour. Allow to "seep" for ½ hour. Remove the aromatics.
- Return the broth to a simmer, gently add the meatballs and onion slices, simmer until the meatballs are cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the bok choy bottoms and simmer for about 5 minutes more or until tender, then add the tops. Turn off heat and allow the tops to just wilt.
- Place the cooked noodles in a deep bowl, add the simmering broth along with the meatballs, onion and bok choy. Serve immediately with the toppings.