Vietnamese pho (pronounced fuuurrr)

Of course the best thing about making pho is how you pronounce it. It’s also absolutely delicious, healthy, warming, cheap and good to make for a couple of friends on a week night, particularly when they’re on January health kicks. It’s incredibly easy – the method may look long below but that’s only because I’ve over-explained it. The second time you do it, it’ll be ready in  20 mins max.

Serves 2, very generously (scales up easily, just double the recipe for 4)


100g tofu

Handful of coriander, taken off the stalks

1 red chilli, sliced

A small handful of peanuts  or cashew nuts (unsalted, unroasted – just plain)

2 jelly pots of chicken stock  (these things:

2 courgettes, sliced with a peeler or done with a spiraliser if you have one

1 two-inch thumb of ginger, peeled and halved

1 star anise

2 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed as you wish

5 spring onions, sliced into tiny rounds (not the tough green bit at the end – only do 2/3 of the onion)

100g bean sprouts

100g tenderstem broccoli, sliced in half if they have fat trunks

100g mushrooms – chestnut (sliced lengthways), or oyster (also sliced lengthways) if you can find them, or a mix of both

2-3 tsp tamari or dark soy sauce

Olive, groundnut or coconut oil

1 lime, cut into wedges to serve

  1. Prepare everything into tiny little dishes, like on Ready Steady Cook. The actual cooking of this is very quick, so you need to be ready.
  2. Toast the cashews or peanuts in a dry frying pan for 5-8 mins on a high heat, tossing/stirring all the time so that they go brown but don’t burn. Then take them out, and chop them with as big a knife as you have, until they’re quartered or more – a mix of size is good, texture-wise.
  3. Put the sliced chilli into one ramekin, the nuts into another, the lime into another, half the spring onions in one and the coriander (very roughly chopped) into another.
  4. Cut the tofu into 2cm x 2cm pieces and set aside.
  5. Heat the stock – 2 jelly pots with about 750ml boiling water, then set aside.
  6. In a large pan, add a big splash of olive oil, half the spring onions and the two garlic chunks (more if you’re feeling under the weather – it’s very good for the immune system). Soften them a bit on a medium heat for a couple of minutes, then add one of the garlic cloves, and the mushrooms. You could mix a couple of different types of mushrooms. Then add the broccoli straight away. Toss it all together and cook for a couple of mins on a medium-high heat, stirring all the time so that it doesn’t catch.
  7. Add the star anise to that pan. Set aside if needs be while you do this next bit.
  8. In a frying pan, put the other chopped/crushed clove of garlic with a large splash (about 1 tbsp) olive oil or coconut oil. Fry it up for about 30 seconds then add the tofu and fry it in the garlic for 5 mins, tossing it regularly and making sure that every surface of the tofu square gets browned – that’s the only way to make sure tofu tastes good. If the garlic doesn’t attach itself to the tofu but instead begins to burn, just chuck it – it will have already done its job by flavouring the oil and tofu and burnt garlic tastes bitter and horrid.
  9. Then add the tamari or soy sauce to the pan with the tofu and toss it around loads so that it all soaks it up like a sponge.
  10. When you’ve given the tofu its first five minutes and added the soy/tamari, add the stock to the pan with all the veggies in it and put it back on the heat, add the courgetti/peeled courgette and simmer for five minutes, then take off the heat and take the star anise out.
  11. Once the tamari/soy has been added, the tofu needs to cook for another 5 minutes on medium-high. Again, toss it and make sure that every tofu side gets nice and crispy in the tamari/soy – it really will make all the difference. Tofu’s rubbish when it’s not fried in lovely salty soy flavours.
  12. Assemble! Ladle the stock and veggies into each bowl, then the tofu, then let the guests dig in and sprinkle over the chilli flakes, nuts, coriander, spring onions etc, as they munch through the bowl.





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