I usually post recipes made from scratch, but it occurred to me that readers might have the impression that we never ever EVER used packaged products. We don’t use many, but come on, we’re human. So I thought I’d post one of my favorite starts-with-a-package meals. It works for lunch or dinner, and it uses as a base something we’ve all eaten, mostly likely in college or when money is tight. Or last week, in my case.
I call this Cheater’s Pho because it bears a resemblance to the pho we make from scratch (homemade broth, our own spices, etc.), but it starts with a noodle base. You can use un-fried noodles, or you can use ramen. The former is healthier, while the latter is fatty but unfairly delicious (as fried foods so often are). We usually use Trader Joe’s noodle soups as a base and share one package for lunch, or we mix a TJ bowl with a ramen bowl for dinner and divide the combination into two servings. I’ll start with the TJ version.
1 bowl Trader Joe’s Rice Noodle Soup Bowl (whatever flavor you like)
Boiling water to fill bowl
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup diced fresh cucumber
2 scallions, thickly sliced
5-6 mushrooms, sliced
6-7 fresh basil, Thai basil, or mint leaves, torn into small pieces
1/2 cup diced cooked chicken, beef, pork or tofu
Sriracha sauce to taste
Sesame oil to taste
Open the bowl and pour boiling water to the prescribed fill mark. Add half the contents of the powder packet (the silver packet) and the entire contents of the other two packets. Let stand 4 minutes. Assemble the vegetables and protein while you wait.
Put the vegetables and protein into a bowl big enough to hold the TJ’s soup and the extra stuff you’re adding. When the 4 minutes have elapsed, add the TJ’s soup and an extra half-cup of hot water to the vegetables and stir to combine.
Microwave for 2 minutes on high. Remove the bowl and divide the soup into two serving bowls. Add Sriracha and sesame oil to taste.
Makes 2 not-huge servings.
For a dinner version, use two TJ soups and 50 percent more of the vegetables and proteins. You can also use zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots, or whatever other vegetables (raw or cooked) you have lying around. We usually use leftover protein (steak, baked chicken, and roasted pork are all wonderful). It doesn’t take much of any one thing, so you can usually assemble a good soup with whatever you have around.
For variety (and fried-noodle goodness) we often use a noodle soup like Nongshim instead of the second TJ bowl. I’m partial to the Spicy Kimchee flavor, but there are a number of different ones to try. Just follow the directions for each and then combine them with the vegetables as above. I only use half the contents of the spice packet in the Nongshim soup as well; that’s more than enough sodium and you still get the flavor.
It’s not real pho, but it takes about 15 minutes to put together and it tastes awfully good. Enjoy!