Rice noodles, tofu, lemon grass, cilantro, shrimp and bean sprouts top this homemade pho. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

Rice noodles, tofu, lemon grass, cilantro, shrimp and bean sprouts top this homemade pho. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

On the strawberry patch: Pho, abbreviated

Make this satisfying broth and noodle dish at home

They say the best pho restaurants never start fresh broth, but continuously add ingredients to the pot and keep it cooking day and night.

Months and years of boiling bones, aromatics and spices create the deep flavor I have been craving. The rich broth with springy rice noodles, fresh herbs, crunchy bean sprouts, lime juice and chili sauce combine to make the perfect meal — a meal I could happily eat every day.

Unfortunately, traditional pho broth takes a minimum of two days to make, and I just don’t have that kind of time to spend babysitting a stockpot. This recipe makes a delicious broth in just a couple hours, and even though it’s not as good as the real thing, it comes close enough to satisfy.

My version is topped with lemongrass, tofu and Alaskan shrimp, but thinly sliced beef would be excellent as well.

Ingredients for broth:

2 quarts water

3 tablespoons beef base

1⁄4 cup peeled fresh ginger, in ¼-inch-thick slices

½ white onion, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons sugar

¼ cup fish sauce

4 whole cloves

2 whole star anise

1 cinnamon stick

For toppings:

Rice noodles

1 block firm tofu

2 tablespoons minced lemongrass

1 teaspoon minced garlic

4 large shrimp per person

Fresh cilantro, basil or mint or a combination of the three

Fresh bean sprouts

Lime wedges

Chili sauce

Chopped green onion

Very thinly sliced fresh white onion

Directions for the broth:

Whisk your beef base into the water and set on high heat to boil.

Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium low and add your ginger, onion, fish sauce and sugar and simmer for 45 minutes.

Wrap your cinnamon, star anise and cloves in cheese cloth and tie off with butcher twine to create a sachet. You could also use a tea bag or tea strainer, or even just add the spices directly to the broth. However, using a sachet will make removing them much easier, so I suggest you take this extra step if you are able.

Add the sachet (or loose spices) and simmer for another 60 minutes.

Strain the broth and taste. Season with extra salt if necessary.

Turn off the heat and let rest until you are almost ready to serve.

Lemongrass tofu:

Rinse your tofu and wrap in a kitchen towel or paper towels. Set the wrapped tofu on a plate or sheet pan, cover with another plate or sheet pan, and add weight to the top (a couple cans of beans work well) to press some of the moisture out. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Unwrap and cut into 1-inch cubes.

Prepare a sheet pan with lightly greased parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Spread the tofu out neatly on the pan, allowing plenty of room in between each piece.

Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes, until browned and crispy.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet and stir fry the lemongrass and garlic for 2 minutes, until fragrant.

Add your tofu to the pan and fry for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Season with salt and pepper and turn off the heat.

To serve:

Cook the rice noodles according to the package instructions, rinse in cold water, and portion into serving bowls.

Wash and cut your vegetable toppings.

Bring your pot of broth back to a boil.

When you are ready to plate, quickly boil your shrimp in salted water until cooked.

Heat the noodles up before topping by ladling boiling broth over them and pouring the broth back into the pot a couple times. If you skip this step your soup will be cold just a couple minutes after serving.

Arrange your tofu, shrimp, bean sprouts, sliced onion, and sliced green onion on top of the rice noodles.

Pour boiling broth over everything.

Top with the fresh herbs, a teaspoon of chili sauce and a squeeze of lime juice.

Tressa Dale is a culinary and pastry school graduate and U.S. Navy veteran from Anchorage. She lives in Nikiski with her husband, 2-year-old son and two black cats.

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