I know it’s probably the 50481293627th time I’ve told you guys that it’s cold outside, but it is. Weather has got to be THE #1 conversation starter, don’t you think? At least in Canada it has to be. Intercept conversations in Tim Horton’s lineups across the country and I’m willing to bet at least 6 out of 10 will be about the weather. The other 4 will likely be about Roll Up the Rim, because it’s that time of year, and by the way, did you know that this year there are more prizes than there are Canadians? That’s a lot of free coffees and donuts.
In exactly one week I will be heading down to Vegas for a 4-day training camp with my coach, and I can’t. freaking. wait. My eye has been on the Vegas weather reports all month long, and they’ve been mostly sunny in the high teens/low 20s (Celsius). This is tropical in comparison to home and I’m so excited that my packing has begun early. 1 week. 7 sleeps. But who’s counting?
On one particularly snowy day recently, there was a 2.5 hour ride on my half Ironman training schedule. Off to the gym I went with my fully-charged iPod (full of podcasts like these), bottle of sports drink, cycling shoes and everything else that gets hauled along with me on a daily basis. I adjusted the bike, clipped my shoes in, started my Polar V800, and got down to business.
Being on the bike for 2 and a half hours leaves plenty of time for thinking. Sometimes I play games (like the ones I described here) to keep my mind occupied, sometimes I watch TV, sometimes I listen to podcasts, and sometimes I do a mental triathlon of all 3 at once. After playing a game of “think of a fruit or veggie for every letter of the alphabet” (which I won), my mind drifted into recipe ideas for the blog.
At the time I was hot and sweaty and a smoothie sounded most appealing, but I figured those of you who also live in snowy regions of the world would probably appreciate something that doesn’t need to be consumed from under a blanket.
My recipe-creating brain shifted over to soups and stews. So far this winter, I’ve made curried sweet potato soup, harvest vegetable and bean soup, spicy chicken and okra gumbo, smoky 3-bean chili, and Thai carrot and sweet potato soup – and a whole bunch of variations of these that weren’t unique enough to be blog-worthy. Because I will never be able to consume enough Asian food, my brain cycled through a number of Asian soup ideas while my legs cycled along to the tunes on my iPod.
Then it hit me: Pho! I’ll make pho!! For those of you that are wondering what this is, it’s a Vietnamese noodle soup dish that goes waaaaaay back in history and is now popular in North America. Thank goodness for that, because it’s flippin’ delicious. But before I give you my recipe, understand that it is a far cry from traditional pho. (I guess that makes it faux pho? I’m sure that one hasn’t been used before. Pun 110% intended.)
Real, traditional pho is made with beef broth, prepared by simmering bones with a crazypants number of spices and aromatics for something like 12 hours. Most people don’t have time for this (although my roomie Jess and I have been making our own turkey bone broth which is absolutely delicious), so you don’t have to worry about it if you’d like to make this version. Use whatever broth you like – it’ll be our little secret.
In addition to the broth that takes forever to make, traditional pho normally contains chicken or beef. Mine contains shrimp because I like to be different. And zucchini noodles. The Vietnamese and pho purists of the world are probably cursing me right now for having the gall to even put pho in the title of this post.
I think the main reason why I love this soup so much is because it’s kind of like a big salad in disguise. A whole bunch of veggies, juicy shrimp, fresh herbs and some peppers for a hit of heat. When I finally hit the “stop” button on my watch at the end of my workout, I pretty much leapt off the bike (you would too if your butt had been glued to a saddle for 2 and a half hours) – but not for water, not for sports drink, and not for a towel to wipe down my bike.
I snatched my workout journal up off the floor and scribbled all the ingredients for my faux pho down on a page. (This is not unusual for my little notebook – it’s sort of like a journal and a recipe book in one, only the recipes are barely legible because they’re typically jotted down in a very glycogen-depleted state.)
And this, my friends, is how the recipe goes:
Zucchini Noodle Shrimp Pho
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Ingredients (3-4 servings)
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 3 green onions, sliced thinly
- 2” piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp low sodium tamari or soy sauce
- juice of ½ lime, plus more wedges to garnish
- 6 cups broth of choice – if you have homemade bone broth, this is perrrrrfect
- 3 cups water
- 3 kaffir lime leaves (optional)
- 275g raw shrimp, defrosted
- 2 medium zucchini (or actual pho noodles – you can find these in the Asian section of most grocery stores)
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- 2 cups sliced mushrooms
- 1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced (remove seeds to bring the heat level down)
- fresh cilantro, mint, or Thai basil (or all 3)
Place a large pot on the stove over high heat. Add the garlic, onions (just the white parts for now – set the green bits aside), ginger, fish sauce, tamari and lime juice. Stir for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
Pour in the broth, water, and kaffir lime leaves, if using. Cover the pot with a lid, turn the heat to medium, and let the flavours develop for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, take the tails off of the shrimp and set them aside. Prepare all remaining ingredients (zucchini through fresh herbs) and place them in a large bowl or on a plate.
Pour the shrimp into the broth mixture and remove from the heat. The shrimp should be cooked in about 4 minutes if you leave the lid on, and should turn completely opaque.
Distribute the zucchini noodles, bean sprouts and mushrooms evenly between 3-4 bowls.
Remove the kaffir lime leaves from the pot. Ladle the shrimp and broth mixture into the bowls.
Arrange the remaining ingredients (light green parts of the onions, lime wedges, jalapeno pepper slices and fresh herbs on top and serve immediately.
So tell me…
- Do you have your own unique version of pho?
- What do you think about when you’re in the middle of a long workout?