Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Pho, A Delicious LCHF / Keto Soup

If you are into Asian style cuisines, then you really need to try the Vietnamese noodle dish called Pho. Now I live in East Texas, so there are quite a few different ways to pronounce the name of this dish, but phonetically it is pronounced as 'faa' or 'fha', not 'fhoo' or 'phoo', but however you wish to pronounce it, the bottom line is that it is delicious and very LCHF and Keto friendly.

If you have been eating LCHF or Keto for sometime, then hopefully you have some delicious bone broth sitting on your pantry shelves (we can ours) or in your freezer. A good bone broth not only makes this dish delicious, but nutritious as it is packed with fat, and sodium, magnesium, and potassium that your body needs to function properly. If you do not have any bone broth on hand, no worries, you can use stock or even water with bouillon, but it is just not quite the same. In this article, I will be showing you how we make Pho in our Instapot pressure cooker, but it can be made in any pressure cooker, or you can make it on the stovetop or even overnight in your slow cooker if you wish.

The Broth

Because I am using a pressure cooker to cook our broth, I do not take the time to toast the spices as they will release their flavors and essential oils under pressure. If you do not have a pressure cooker and make the Pho on the stovetop or in your slow cooker, then you can lightly toast the whole spices in a heavy skillet for just a few minutes until they become fragrant. Be careful, once you begin to smell their aroma, then remove then spices from the skillet as they can burn rather quickly. Set them aside and allow them to cool.

8 cups water, stock, or bone broth
3 whole star anise
3 whole cloves
3 green cardamom pods
1 ½-inch piece cinnamon stick
½-inch piece dried ginger
½ large yellow onion, sliced into chunks
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon fish sauce

Combine all the whole spices in a piece of cheesecloth, tie it up, and set it aside. In this recipe I use dried ginger, because I have a lot of it. However, if you have fresh ginger then use about a 1-inch piece peeled and sliced, or you can substitute 1 tablespoon of ginger paste for the dried ginger.

Add 2 tablespoons butter to your instapot and saute the onion until lightly brown, then add 6 cups of water, stock or bone broth along with the spice sachet to the pressure cooker. If using water, then add 5 teaspoons powdered chicken bouillon and 1 teaspoon beef bouillon.

Set your pressure cooker to cook on high for 60 minutes. After 60 minutes, release the pressure and open the pressure cooker. Remove the onion, ginger and spice sachet and discard.

Chef's Note: I like to cook the broth in my pressure cooker for 60 minutes to allow all of the flavors and essential oils to escape the whole spices so that they infuse the broth with all their goodness. This allows me to skip the toasting of whole spices. You could of course just boil the spices in your broth on the stovetop or cook it overnight in a slow cooker.

Check the seasoning of the Pho broth and adjust as necessary before serving. If you are not ready to serve, place the pressure cooker in warm mode. When you are ready to serve the Pho, hit the saute button on your Instapot and bring the Pho to a simmer.

Chef's Note: Because we are eating keto, I strain the chunks of onion as as they are used here primarily as a flavor enhancer. We like to add vegetables at the table that will count for our carbohydrates. However if you want to leave the onions in your both, you might want to slice them into thin slices rather than large chunks.

Your Choices of Meat

You have a couple of choices here. If you want to use beef, the most common cut is eye of round cut very thinly and added to the bowl raw just before the simmering broth is added, but any beef will do. If you go this route it is important that the broth be hot enough to cook the beef. To make it easy to cut the beef into thin slices you can place it in the freezer for about 30 minutes to allow it stiffen somewhat before slicing.

We like to use chicken in our Pho. You can use and type of poultry (chicken, turkey, or duck) you desire, you need to make sure it is thoroughly cooked before adding it to your Pho. Sliced, chunked or diced, it doesn't matter, they choice is up to you. We can a lot of chicken as we raise free range chickens here on the homestead so we have pre-cooked chicken in pint and quart jars in abundance. Btw, rabbit is quite delicious in Pho as well although it is not a typical meat seen in Pho.

Seafood is another option, shrimp, crawfish and small cuts of fish fillets can add a nice flavor and texture to any Pho broth. Like poultry, just make sure that your seafood is pre-cooked to ensure that it is safe for you and your family. This is an especially good way to serve leftover fish that can sometimes get dry when reheated. Personally, I think leftover Salmon makes for a good bowl of Pho.

The last meat option that I am just going to mention is slightly different and that is sliced deli meats. I know this sounds kinda of weird, but I have had Pho made with thinly sliced roast beef and ham from the deli and it was surprisingly good. Not what you would call a traditional Pho meat selection, but do not knock it till you try it.

So there you have it. Any type of leftover meat (beef, pork, poultry) and seafood can be added to your Pho or your can omit the meat altogether and go vegetarian, the choice is up to you. That's the great thing about Pho it is blank canvas that allows you to be your own Picasso.

Assemble the Pho Bowls Ingredients:

One of the great things about Pho is that is an individual dish. That is each person can put any vegetables, condiments or whatever they want in their bowl at the table and then cover it with hot broth to make their own unique meal. While Pho is a traditional Vietnamese dish, here in the states, many of the condiments used seem to be of Thai origin, but as the United States is a melting pot of cultures, this only seems appropriate to me.

We generally keep our Pho pretty simple. For this article I made it with shredded cooked chicken, thinly sliced cabbage as a substitute for the rice noodles (you could of course use zoodles as well), mung bean sprouts, and my homemade green sriracha hot sauce. Place the simmering Pho broth on the table or leave on the counter with all the condiments in separate bowls so that each person can add the ingredients they want to their serving bowl before ladling in the hot soup. To learn how to make your own sriracha hot sauce check out my article 'LCHF SrirachaSauce' on our blog.

Chef's Note: it is important for the broth to be served simmering as it will help to cook any raw vegetables or meat that may be added to the bowl. For the Instapot, I place it on sauté mode until the broth begins to boil. This is especially important if you are using thinly sliced pieces of beef.

Some common Pho condiments include:

Limes, sliced or cut into wedges
Jalapeño or Fresno peppers, sliced
Fresh Thai basil, cilantro, and mint
Mung bean sprouts
Sriracha style hot sauce
Thai garlic chile sauce
Korean red pepper paste

Nutritional Information

Because Pho is so individual, it is difficult to create any valid nutritional information for the dish as a whole. I have included the nutritional information for the broth as made per the recipe in this article, but you will have to account for any vegetables or meat that you add to the broth yourself. This is not my preference as I like to list all the nutritional information for the recipes that I post on the blog, but when it comes to Pho, you are on your own.

Broth Total Recipe (8 cups, or 5– 12 ounce servings)
Calories – 277, protein 2.72 grams, fat 27.2 grams, carbohydrates 7.44 grams

Broth (12 ounce serving)
Calories – 55, protein 0.54 grams fat 5.44 grams, carbohydrates 1.48 grams

The actual protein, fat, and carbohydrate values for the Pho broth is probably lower than what I have listed, as many of the spice values are for ground spices and I use whole spices in this recipe which are then removed before serving. In addition, the nutritional values include the use of powdered broth in place of ready made or home made bone broth as most people have this in their pantry and may want to go this route. Needless to say, if you use homemade bone broth, you will have a much better nutritious and delicious Pho broth.


Quick, simple and easy soup, Pho actually gets it's name from the rice noodles used in the dish which are called 'banh pho' in Vietnamese. I guess since we are not eating the noodles are we really eating a faux Pho? Sorry I just couldn't help the bad pun there. One of the great things about Pho is that the broth is essentially meat free, so we often use our pressure canner to can any leftover broth making it shelf stable to sit on our shelf in the pantry until the next time we want a hot bowl of Pho.

The infusion of flavors in this broth is quite amazing and I am sure your family will love this Pho as much as mine does. If you want to learn how to can your own broth, check out the related articles on our blog about canning meats, stocks, and vegetables. As always, I hope that you have found this article informative and beneficial for you and your family, if so please take the time to share it with your friends so that they can benefit as well. Don't forget to follow our blog, or check us out on our Facebook page 'CulinaryYouLCHF' or add us to your circle on 'Google+' to continue to receive our latest LCHF and Keto recipes.

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