A culinary adventure as therapeutic meditation in a new place.
Approaching the first month living in the mountains of Peru, I quickly recognize how easy it could be to fall victim to certain nutritional eating patterns.
For instance, it’s too easy to walk to the corner store and pick up a box of mac n’cheese, or another heavily processed item packaged in plastic—hence one of the reasons why those unhealthy pounds creep up on your backside.
Pho, Vietnamese Noodle Soup, can be an incredibly healthy option—especially when you’ve grown tired of sitting down to a bowl of spaghetti or another plate of sautéed veggies.
You know what they say, who ever they are, that roughly 75% of your plate should be covered in vegetables.
Here’s to that—bring on the veggies!
I’m not a true vegetarian or vegan—I do fancy organic ingredients and I believe we do not need to consume meat on a daily basis. What I can say, without hesitation, is that I can’t recall the last time I purchased or ordered meat. I try to maintain a healthy diet primarily comprised mostly of vegetables.
I’ve been know to lick the hummus bowl clean…I digress.
Pairing the desire to be healthy with efforts of exploring the depths of my new home, I ventured to the local market in hopes to procure a variety of ingredients to make Pho, wrinkled recipe in hand!
Ohhhh, the market of Huaraz—a destination worth experiencing. Once you adjust to the aroma of immeasurable fleshy meat being sliced and diced all around you, the beauty of the market begins to unfold.
I’m talking fresh vegetables, fruits and grains—I discovered produce heaven within walking distance from my front door. However, I immediately realized that a variety of substitutions were necessary—this is where creativity and imagination step in.
Back in the kitchen, I stage all my ingredients on the counter and map out a plan. Snapping a few photos during the process because fresh produce has quite an aesthetic appeal—this brings me so much joy in a therapeutic sort of sense.
What a gift it is to create art with food!
If you haven’t made Pho, don’t be intimidated by the ingredients; my tongue was tied at star anise. Everything comes together quickly and easily, but there is a bit of preparation involved, especially if you need to sanitize your leafy garnishes—which is the case here in Huaraz.
Here’s what you’ll need:
(I’m more of an estimator when it comes to proportions and I love onions! You should definitely experiment!)
For the Broth:
2-3 onions (I used yellow and red), unpeeled and quartered
2-3 shallots, unpeeled and quartered
1-2 healthy ginger roots, halved lengthwise
Several 3-inch cinnamon sticks
star anise (about 3-5 pods…I tend to go overboard)
unsalted vegetable stock (I mix the stock with water)
For the Noodles:
Rice noodles of your choice (depending on availability and preference; follow instructions on the package)
For the soup (lightly sautéed separately per your heart’s desire):
a handful of scallions, thinly sliced (both green and white parts)
a few slices of ginger from the original root (optional)
garlic powder to taste
any additional vegetables like carrot, broccoli or watercress—I also added sliced celery.
*Protein options: sliced tofu (optional)
Garnishes: (the best part!)
1-3 chile peppers, sliced (Typically jalapeño, but I used aji peppers)
3-5 limes, cut into wedges 1/2 (YUM!)
Large handful of herbs: cilantro, basil leaves, bean sprouts
hoisin sauce (to taste)
sriracha sauce (to taste)
To prepare the broth:
In a large pot, char the onions, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, star anise and cloves over medium-low heat until slightly blackened, stirring to prevent burning.
When spices are aromatic, add water or vegetable stock or a combination of the two. Bring broth to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer, for 30 minutes. (This is the perfect time to cook the noodles and chop the garnishes!) Use a colander to strain the broth and keep hot until ready to serve.
To prepare the noodles:
Depending on your choice of rice noodles, tailor your process accordingly. Typically, while broth is simmering, place noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water and let stand until tender. Drain or cook in a pot of boiling water.
To prepare the soup: (veggies that go in the broth post-draining)
While broth is simmering, prepare veggies seperately as desired; I prefer to lightly sauté the veggies to avoid interference with the flavor of the broth.
Toppings include: onions, garlic, a few slices of ginger from the original root, green onions and any additional vegetables like carrot, broccoli or watercress—I also added sliced celery.
Pho-ya, it’s ready!
Scoop a handful of noodles into a bowl. Ladle broth atop noodles, but remember to leave room for the garnishes!
I love this dish—mostly because it’s perfectly acceptable to garnish your serving in a decorative fashion that’s tailored to your palate.
Lacy Rae Ramunno is a gal who chases many butterflies. An artist at heart, Interior Designer by trade, a lover of nature and all things snow capped. Passionate about healthy living and balance, she recently relocated to Huaraz, Peru in search of a soul-enriching experience. Thankfully, she’s maintained remote employment with a fantastic firm, the Ellipse Group and participating in an apprenticeship with elephant journal. Lacy is currently rediscovering her talent for visual communication through different mediums – while learning to pair that love with the written word as a component of her journey. Perhaps she’ll pick up some Spanish along the way.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise