As I promised on instagram, after it appeared in my meal plan twice in as many weeks, today I am bringing you Zoodle Pho. This is one of my favorite dishes, and has been super easy to make AIP-compliant. Just cut the rice noodles, bean sprouts, spicy peppers, and anise seed. Replace with some equally flavorful, AIP-compliant ingredients.
All of you anti-zoodlers, wait! Don’t go! I admit, I too, am really not a fan of zoodles. (Did you know that in the UK, since zucchini are called courgettes, some people call zoodles “courgetti”–like spaghetti, but courj instead of spag?) I might like the term courgetti better…But whatever you call them, I am now a zoodle acceptor! At least, in pho. I think, since there are so many other tidbits in pho: herbs, meat, etc, that you are slurping up with the zoodles, the difference in noodle texture is less noticeable. Plus, it pack a little more vegetables into this dish, which is always a plus.
Pho relies on really good broth–it’s one of those dishes where bone broth really stands out. And that means that it is extra good for you while on AIP, since bone broth is an important part of the protocol. In fact, I’ve been adding additional gelatin and collagen to my pho stock whilst on the AI Protocol. These additions are included in the directions, but are optional, of course. If you only have regular broth, adding gelatin and collagen can round it out, adding that silky sort of touch that is so nice in pho.
I always do my pho broth in a crockpot, so dinner is quick to assemble when I get home from work, but I’ve included stovetop directions as well. I also make my own bone broth fairly regularly, to help with our food waste, so I usually have a stash in the freezer. I flavor my pho broth with onion, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, a touch of sweetener, cinnamon, cloves, and–usually–anise seed. Anise is not AIP compliant, since it is a seed pod. (Cloves are, but I cannot remember the rationale…must not actually be a seedpod…maybe they are berries?) In lieu of the licorice-y anise seed, I turned to another source of licorice-y flavor: fennel. The actual vegetable, not fennel seeds–which are not AIP compliant. Thai basil can also taste a little like licorice, and would be a good addition, if you can get your hands on it.
If I have a few extra minutes in the morning, I like to broil my fresh vegetables and roots before I add them to the broth, just until they start to blacken. The char adds nice flavor. I, obviously, do not stick the dried spices under the broiler, because they would burn. So the broiled veg + dry spices go into the crockpot with the broth (and gelatin) and spend 8-10 hours infusing into a delicious, delicious broth for the soup.
Then, at dinner time, it’s just a matter of chopping any fresh toppings and cooking up the meat. Spiralize up some zoodles/courgetti, plunk it all in a bowl,top it with piping hot broth, and dinner is on the table!
I prefer shaved steak or pork in my pho, so, in theory the meat is thin enough to be put in the bowl raw and cook in the broth like in Vietnamese restaurants. However, the broth has to be boiling for this to be achieved, and I have found that the amount of meat that I want in my pho bowl is usually too much for a few cups of broth to cook. So I just spend 5-10 minutes at the stove, quickly cooking the shaved meat before adding it to the bowl.
Also, this totally makes great–if slightly messy–leftovers for lunch the next day. The flavors in the broth continue to meld. Usually, I travel with two containers: one of broth + meat/mushrooms and one container with zoodles + fresh toppings. I microwave the noodles just enough to take the chill off, then pour over super hot broth right when I’m ready to eat, so my bowl of pho is nice and fresh!
The directions are long, but trust me, it is a fairly quick dish. Especially when made in the crockpot. After making it a few times, I hardly have to think about it. I regularly make this on a weeknight, sometimes even after class, and it comes together very swiftly! Make some pho this week!
Serves 4 | Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook Time: 15 min (+ more, unattended)
For the broth:
- 6 cups broth (beef or chicken is best, as is bone broth–the silky gelatin is a bonus here)
- 1 onion
- 1/2 fresh fennel bulb, green stems removed*
- fresh ginger, 1 thumb-sized piece
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 7 whole cloves
- 3 Tbsp. fish sauce
- optional: 1 Tbsp. honey
- optional: up to 4 Tbsp of gelatin powder and/or 4 Tbsp. collagen powder
- 1 lb. shaved beef or pork
- 2 medium-large zucchini (or 3-4 c. pre-spiralized zoodles)
- Coconut aminos
+Any combination of below:
- Lime wedges
- Fresh cilantro
- Green onions
- Sautéed mushrooms
- Fresh mint
- Fresh basil or thai basil
- Raw or pickled red onion
- Bean sprouts**
- Fresh jalapeño**
*When not on AIP, replace with 4 anise seed pods–skip the broil and treat like other whole spices
**Only when not following AIP, these pulses & nightshades are not AIP-compliant
In the morning, set the broiler to High. Slice the onion in half, remove the paper-y skin. Slice the half of the fennel bulb in half again. Slice the ginger in half (it can be peeled, if desired, but I usually just leave the skin on). Place onion, fennel, and ginger face-up under the broiler for 5-15 minutes, until beginning to blacken.
Meanwhile, if using gelatin powder, add up to 4 tablespoons to a bowl of about 3/4 c. cool water. Allow to bloom: the gelatin will soak up the water and no longer be a dry powder.
Add remaining broth ingredients (broth, cinnamon, garlic, whole cloves, fish sauce, honey–if using) to the crockpot. I tie up the cloves in a bit of cheesecloth or drop them into a tea satchet to keep them together. You can add them loose, but just need to remember to strain them from the broth in the evening.
Add the blackened onion, fennel, and ginger to the crockpot. Add in the fully-bloomed (no longer dry) gelatin powder. Stir, cover, and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
Stove top is entirely the same as above, but, instead of adding the ingredients to a crockpot, put them in a large stock pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, then turn the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1-2 hours.
When ready to serve, strain out the onion, fennel, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Discard. Just broth should remain. If using collagen powder (up to 4 tablespoons), add to the broth at this point. Sprinkle over the hot broth and stir until dissolved. Turn the crockpot back to High, or turn the heat under the stockpot up to medium.
Spiralize the zucchini into noodle shapes. I prefer to leave the skin on and I break the strands every 8 inches, or so, so that the noodle length is manageable.
Prep the toppings: slice the limes and green onions, slice and sauté the mushroom, chop the herbs. Set aside.
In a large, shallow pan, cooked the shaved meat over medium. I separate all the thin layers with my fingers before laying in the pan, to ensure the pieces cook evenly. Once the meat is browned, add a splash or two of coconut aminos. Cook for two minutes more.
To assemble a bowl: place 3/4-1 c. of zoodles in a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds-1 minute. The aim is just to get the zoodles warm, but not to actually cook the zucchini. Lay the warm meat and any desired toppings over the warm zoodles. Top with about 1 1/2 c. of hot broth. Enjoy.
To store: place un-warmed zoodles in a large container, with or without additional fresh, cold toppings (herbs, onions, etc). In a separate container, store meat and mushrooms in the broth. Reheat and re-assemble when ready to eat.