A fresh plate of herbs comes with many Vietnamese main dishes, including pho, the national soup of Vietnam. This version, from Andrea Nguyen, author of The Pho Cookbook (Ten Speed Press; $20), gives you options. You can go super-simple and stick to just mint and slices of chile, or add more herbs if you like. If there's a Vietnamese market near you, it's worth heading there for spicy Thai mint (hung cay); culantro (ngo gai), an herb with a strong, slightly sweet cilantro flavor; and rice-paddy herb (ngo om), which tastes of citrus and cumin. Thai basil is available at farmers' markets, Asian grocers, and well-stocked grocery stores.
This recipe goes with: Pressure Cooker Chicken Pho
4 to 6 sprigs mint or spicy Thai mint, plus the same amount of any of these if you like: Thai basil or lemon basil, culantro or cilantro, and rice-paddy herb
4 handfuls bean sprouts
1 or 2 limes, cut into wedges
2 green or red Thai, jalapeño, Fresno, or serrano chiles, thinly sliced (on diagonal if small, so they don't get lost in the pho)
How to Make It
At least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours before serving, refresh herbs: Trim stems. Set mint (and cilantro and regular basil, if using), stem side down in a large bowl of water. Submerge Thai basil, culantro, and rice-paddy herb (if using) fully in bowls of water. Pat herbs dry.
Leave bean sprouts raw, or soften them a little so they add just a gentle crunch to pho: When water is boiling for pho noodles (step 10 of master recipe), add bean sprouts, stir around for a minute or so, and lift out with a strainer; set on a paper towel to drain.
Put chiles in a small dish and set on a large plate or a platter. Arrange everything else on plate and serve immediately.
The Pho Cookbook (Ten Speed Press; $20).
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