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Vietnamese food is at the top of my list of favorite types of cuisine. I love how traditional Vietnamese cooking combines umami flavor (fish sauce, shrimp paste, and more) with copious amounts of fresh herbs. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is greatly admired for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of dairy and oil, complementary textures, and reliance on herbs and vegetables. With the balance between fresh herbs and meats and the selective use of spices to reach a fine taste, Vietnamese food is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide. [source: wikipedia]
One of the most commonly admired Vietnamese dishes worldwide is Pho [pronounce FAH, not FOH]. There is no question as to why this dish is admired in so many countries– it’s hot, aromatic broth combined with noodles, fresh herbs, and a little bit of protein is just a combination sent straight from heaven itself. In my opinion, Pho is one of the best foods on the planet!
Traditionally, making a pho broth is an adventure that takes at least a day’s worth of work. The broth is a work of art filled with a beautiful combination of aromatics and simmered for hours upon hours. Perhaps, a few days if you’re really getting some good Pho. So let’s cut straight to the point. My Vietnamese-Inspired Whole30 Meatball Pho here is far from authentic. It’s a short cut, or faux pho if you will. It’s one that you can get on the dinner table in about an hour and the flavors are there, the depth of flavor is not near as deep as an authentic pho. It’s still really good. But I just want to be candid and say that, admittedly, it’s not the real deal.
We all sometimes just want a big bowl of Pho though, and here I’ve made an easy-to-make version that’s also Whole30/Paleo approved. Instead of using rice noodles, I opted for spiralized daikon radish (you can also use spiralized zucchini) to mimic the noodles in my Vietnamese-Inspired Whole30 Meatball Pho. The pork meatballs are absolutely delicious and packed with umami flavor and perfect for an easy protein choice in this faux pho. I think you’ll just love it.
- 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 star anise pod
- 1/2 tsp whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 8 cups beef broth (I prefer bone broth)
- 1 inch knob of ginger, peeled and sliced into thin sheets
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1/4 cup cilantro stems, loosely chopped
- 1 stalk lemongrass, bruised
- kosher salt, to taste
- 2 pounds ground pork (you can sub ground chicken or turkey thigh)
- 1/4 cup finely diced shallot (or 1 large shallot)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 birds eye chiles, very thinly sliced (optional)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (I use Redboat brand)
- 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
- 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 cups uncooked spiralized Diakon Radish, or 2 daikon radishes (you can also sub zucchini noodles)
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- 3 green onions, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 watermelon radish, thinly sliced (you can sub 4 regular radishes, thinly sliced)
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1 cup fresh thai basil leaves
- 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced
- Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. When warm, add the coriander seeds, star anise, cloves, and cinnamon stick and toast, stirring and being careful not to burn, until very fragrant, about 4 minutes.
- Add the Broth, ginger, fish sauce, cilantro stems, and lemongrass and increase the heat to bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to simmering and cook, covered and stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes (or until the meatballs are ready). When the cook time is complete, taste the broth and add kosher salt, to taste. you also will need to strain the broth to remove the spices, etc from the broth, so only the broth is remaining.
- Meanwhile, make your meatballs.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, combine the pork, shallot, garlic, chiles, fish sauce, coconut aminos, ginger, salt and pepper. Using hands, mix until well combined then roll into 1.5 inch sized balls. Place rolled meatballs on the prepared baking sheet. Place in the preheated oven and bake until the meatballs are cooked through, or no longer pink when you cut into the center, about 15 minutes.
- Divide the spiralized daikon radish amongst 4 bowls and ladle the broth over the 'noodles'. Add desired amount of meatballs to the soup and garnish as desired with the bean sprouts, green onions, radishes, fresh herbs, serrano peppers and serve with a wedge of lime.