My ﬁrst date with my partner was at a Vietnamese restaurant. I had never tasted pho, and he insisted that I try it. I became hooked immediately. Nearly ﬁve years later, we found ourselves crouched on tiny plastic stools in the alleyways of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, devouring bowls of steaming broth and noodles that were remarkably light yet complex in ﬂavor. The richness of the broth was perfectly balanced by the endless array of toppings— fresh herbs, spicy chile peppers, tangy lime wedges, and crunchy bean sprouts.
To achieve this depth of ﬂavor, pho broth is traditionally simmered for hours. However, with pressure cooking, you can achieve a richly ﬂavored broth in a fraction of the time. Begin by charring onions and ginger for smokiness and sweetness. And some tips about this step: Don’t skimp on the oil, or you’ll have a mess to scrape up; and you may want to wear long sleeves or gloves, as the hot oil can splatter.
When topping the pho, tear up the fresh herbs, as it releases their essential oils and perfumes the soup with an intoxicating aroma.
12ouncesdried rice noodlesdried rice sticks, or banh pho (see Tips)
2tablespoonsgrapeseed oil or other neutralhigh- heat cooking oil
2medium yellow onionspeeled and halved
4inchpiece fresh gingerthinly sliced
3cardamom podslightly smashed with the back of a knife
3whole star anise pods
1/2teaspoonwhole black peppercorns
1Fuji applepeeled and cut into large chunks
1/2cupfresh cilantroroughly chopped
2tablespoonsreduced- sodium tamari or soy sauce
2cupssliced shiitake mushroom caps(5- 6 ounces) 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (you can substitute water for up to 4 cups)
1teaspoonkosher saltplus more to taste
1block baked tofucut into cubes, 6-8 ounce, see Tips
3scallionssliced on the diagonal
1cupThai basil leavestorn up
1cupCilantro leavestorn up
2limescut into wedges
Thinly sliced hot chile peppers or Sriracha
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Place the dried rice noodles in a large bowl, cover with warm water, and soak until the noodles are pliable and opaque, 30 to 45 minutes. Drain the noodles and rinse them to remove excess starch. (Alternatively, cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package.)
Meanwhile, prepare the broth: Select the Sauté setting on the Instant Pot and, after a few minutes, add the oil. Once the display reads “HOT,” add the onions and ginger slices, cut side down. Do not toss and allow to cook until charred and deeply browned, about 4 minutes .
Add the whole spices (cardamom pods through black peppercorns) and cook for 1 minute , stirring the mixture frequently. Add the apple, cilantro, tamari, coconut sugar, and shiitakes. Pour the vegetable broth and/or water on top and stir to combine. Select the Cancel setting.
Secure the lid and set the Pressure Release to Sealing . Select the Pressure Cook setting at high pressure and set the cook time to 15 minutes .
Once the 15- minute timer has completed and beeps, allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes and then switch the Pressure Release knob from Sealing to Venting to release any remaining steam.
Open the pot and, using oven mitts, remove the inner pot. Carefully strain the broth into a ﬁne- mesh sieve set over a large bowl (discard the solids). Season the broth with 1 teaspoon salt, stir, and taste. Add more salt as needed. Select the Cancel setting.
Place the cooked rice noodles in individual bowls. Pour over the strained broth and add the baked tofu cubes. Top the pho with the scallions, basil, cilantro, lime wedges, bean sprouts, and chiles or Sriracha.
TIP: You can ﬁnd pho noodles in well- stocked grocery stores or any Asian market, and they come in various thickness, ranging from 1/16 inch (narrow) to 1/4 inch (wide). For the baked tofu, I recommend a ﬁve-spice ﬂavor.