Fast & Fit Beef Pho with Zucchini Noodles

Spicy, comforting, nourishing, quick to make and ready to warm you up from the inside out! Doesn’t that sound like the perfect recipe for a for a winter meal?! A steaming bowl of brothy beef and vegetable soup, like my Fast & Fit Beef Pho with Zucchini Noodles, turns a dreary dinner forecast into a lively and delicious experience your family will love — and one you won’t spend hours preparing!

To keep with tradition, this Vietnamese soup recipe requires a substantial commitment of time in the kitchen. By some accounts, the broth alone should be simmered for hour upon hour with a mishmash of ingredients including oxtails, beef knuckles and leg bones filled with marrow, charred onions and ginger and a variety of aromatic Asian spices. Good thing, I’m not a traditionalist as I usually only have 30 minutes to make dinner!

So, I ditch the homemade broth-making and instead use a mixture of beef broth from a carton and bone broth from a bottle. However, I do stick with the spices as much as I can. It’s easy to throw in a quartered onion and slices of ginger (forget the charring) and bundle up whole star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves, peppercorns, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and a cardamom pod. In fact, my tea diffuser is the perfect vessel to hold these whole spices while they boil in the liquid for 30 minutes. But, in a pinch, I’ve also just substituted a “pinch” of these spices that come ground up in jars — plus they are easier to find at the market.

Let there be more rule-breaking. When it comes to the noodles, I don’t use the white rice noodle used in traditional pho. Since I’m not passing down an ancient family recipe (and am on a mission to get the family to eat more veggies), I can be more creative in my interpretation of a Pho noodle — zucchini! Yup, I use the spiralizer to cut up this low-carb, low-calorie squash into twisty pasta that quickly self-cooks in the hot broth. And, actually, if it means anything to you, it keeps the dish a-okay on the Paleo diet. To save time, you can usually find veggie noodles in the produce section at the grocery store.

And, for the protein, it’s always beef, naturally!  While my broth is simmering on the stove top, I salt and pepper a steak like flat iron, top sirloin, strip or whatever is reasonably tender and on sale and quickly sear a couple minutes on both sides. The steak is going to be significantly rare and red on the inside when pulled off the heat, that is okay — actually, it’s good! When serving, the hot broth poured over will continue to cook the meat right there in the bowl.

The fun thing about pho is that each person gets to top their bowl full as they see fit. I typically set out bowls of very thinly sliced mushrooms, bean sprouts, green onions, cilantro, jalapeno slices and chopped nuts. Also, a bottle of Sriracha or Sambal Oelek for those who like to turn up the heat.

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