Phabulous Pho

Since starting GAPS we have long struggled to get enough bone broth. For one, it is tough to make with our busy work and activity schedule. Neither of us loves the task, especially the post-processing: it is messy and smelly and adds to an already heavy cleanup load (we cook three meals a day pretty much every day). Secondly, we just do not love the taste of bone broth – especially beef broth (though we know it is one of the most nourishing foods).

In an effort to bring some variety to our diet, we gave rice noodles a try. We experimented a few times with rice noodles in place of Italian pasta (yes we do zucchini fettuccini and spaghetti squash), but it just wasn’t that great. Rice noodles clumped up and just weren’t the same as traditional pasta (this was before we discovered there are rice pastas). Not long ago I remembered way back when we lived and worked in the city, I used to go for Pho with my co-workers. Broth, noodles, meat and vegetables…how GAPS (well, other than the noodles).

Soup night can be a bit of a downer with my kids. A little bit of Pinterest and blog surfing and I cobbled together a recipe that my family (kids included) loved! Sorry, no photos now but i will update this post with photos next time I make it.

One of the keys to this recipe is to do a good mise-en-place (prep everything before you start cooking). There are lots of thin strips that make this dish easier to eat with a spoon or chop sticks.


  • 2-1/2 lbs beef, thinly sliced. I have used flank steak, London broil, eye of round, and sirloin.
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T lard
  • 2 t salt
  • 2 t black pepper
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 medium onion, sliced into strips
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 T fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 C shiitake mushrooms, sliced into strips
  • 1/c water, separate
  • 1/2 gallon beef bone broth (recipes here, here and here or a video)
  • 4 C water
  • 4 bell peppers (a mix of colors), seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 1 jalepeno or other hot pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced into ribbons (I use a vegetable peeler and  whittle the carrot into strips)
  • 2 t fresh turmeric, grated
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 t cumin, whole seed
  • 1 t fennel, whole seed
  • 1 t star anise, whole seed
  • 1/2 t cardamom, whole seed
  • 2 branch thyme
  • 1 C bean sprouts
  • 1/4 C cilantro, chopped
  • 16 oz packaged rice noodles

Recommended Equipment

  • Sharp chef’s knife, microplane hand grater, pasta scoop, Le Cruezet enameled dutch oven, wooden spatula, soup ladle, stainless steel mixing bowls, lots of ramekins


  • In a non-reactive bowl, combine beef, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat the beef. Cover bowl and set aside.
  • In a large dutch oven, melt lard over medium high heat. Sauté the diced carrots and onions. I like to really sauté them darker than usual. Set aside in a separate bowl.
  • In batches in the same dutch oven, sear the thin strips of beef in single layers. Do not crowd the pan or the meat will steam and not sear. Set aside in a clean, heat safe bowl.
  • Sauté celery, ginger, garlic and mushrooms for 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with 1/4 C water.
  • Add broth, 4 C water, the set aside onions and carrots. Bring to boil.
  • In a 4×4″ piece of cheesecloth make a seasoning bundle using 1 bay leaf, cumin, fennel, star anise, cardamom and thyme. Secure tightly and add to broth.
  • Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.
  • Add beef, spinach, peppers, jalepeno, fish sauce and turmeric. Simmer 5 minutes then keep warm until ready to serve.
  • Prepare the noodles
    • While broth is simmering, soak rice noodles in hot tap water for about 5 minutes.
    • Boil 8 cups water in a separate pot. Then remove from heat.
    • Drain the soaked noodles and add to the boiled water. Soak three minutes and stir with a pasta scoop to release the noodles.

To Serve

In a soup bowl (we prefer deeper cereal type bowls instead of the flat type of bowl), place a loose handful of bean sprouts. Using a pasta scoop, add a scoop of noodles on top of the bean sprouts. Ladle in two ladlefuls of the broth  (be sure to stir up the beef which tends to settle to the bottom of the pot). Top with chopped cilantro.


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