Happy Pho Gluten Free Brown Rice Pho Noodles and Giveaway!

happy pho
Have you noticed that with close to 100 recipes, we haven’t posted a single recipe for pho?  We adore pho and love the fragrance that wakes us up in the morning from an overnight marriage of beef bones, charred ginger and onions, fennel, coriander, star anise, and cinnamon infused broth. But yet, we haven’t posted our recipe.  While pho may be almost synonymous with Vietnamese food and considered the national dish, we started this blog with the intent of showcasing the awesome variety and deliciousness of Vietnamese food beyond pho. For the casual or even food savvy American that reads our blog, most know of pho and banh mi but likely not many more dishes beyond that.  So our pho recipe will still have to wait as we have so many other great Vietnamese dishes to share. Here we present Happy Pho, a gluten free, brown rice instant noodle created by pho lovers Thao Nguyen and Karen Cheng from the San Francisco bay area and co-founders of Star Anise Foods. We received a package of shiitake mushroom pho to sample and recently made it for dinner. 
happy pho
We typically eschew anything “instant,” when shopping for groceries, but Thao and Karen’s story intrigued us. Pho runs in the veins of Thao’s family since the days of her grandparents peddling pho on the streets of Nam Dinh, a city 1 hour south of Hanoi. Growing up eating this pho, Thao along with friend Karen, a life long lover of pho, began their mission to start a business based on their mutual love of pho and desire to create a quick yet nutritious instant version. In 2009, they packed their bags and left for Vietnam, eating, sleeping, and dreaming about pho and how they could recreate a version with wholesome ingredients. They encountered resistance and even outright rejection when they ask traditional pho noodle makers about making brown rice pho. But through their persistence, they developed Happy Pho. You can read more about it here

happy pho

So what’s in this box made of recycled paper and soy ink? Brown rice noodles and a spice packet. On the surface, this is just like any other instant noodle found in the Asian markets. But in reality the rice noodles are from whole grain brown (more fiber and nutrients) and organic green tea. Who would have thought that goes in pho noodles?

happy pho
The spice packet is loaded with bits of dried green onions and shiitake mushrooms and is quite fragrant with star anise and cinnamon–clearly no white crystalline MSG in this product.  Made just of organic star anise, organic Saigon cinnamon, spring onion, shiitake mushroom, black cardamon and ginger.

Shall well compare this to a bag of Vifon instant pho we bought for the purposes of this post? Spice ingredients: Salt, sugar, refined palm oil, MSG, disodium 5-guanylate, disodium 5-inosinate, textured wheat gluten, green onion, eryngiym, pho spices, artificial beef flavor, nature color, caramel. For a rundown on several varieties of instant pho, check out Loving pho site.

happy pho

Unlike other brands of instant noodles where you just pour in hot water and eat, Happy Pho does require and encourages you to “cook,” by seasoning the broth to your tastes and adding different ingredients such as tofu, mushroom, spinach, etc. 

Each box is a healthy serving for 2 adults. We made this according to instructions bringing 4 cups of water and spice to boil, then adding additional shiitake mushrooms, noodles, and simmering it till just soft. The instructions call for adding salt to taste–we added about 2 ts of salt and also about 1/2 ts of sugar. We had the usual accompaniments of bean sprouts, basil, thinly sliced beef for bo tai, and Sriracha and hoisin sauce. 

happy pho

So the verdict? It was good! Something you can keep in the cupboard for a quick and easy meal. The size and texture of the brown rice noodles was good and spot on. Clearly healthier and better than the instant noodles/ramen that we used to eat in college. The spice packet is simply just the whole ground spices so you have the freedom to season to your taste.  Does this broth have the beefy flavors of the restaurant or home made pho with overnight simmering of beef bones? Of course not–but it’s not meant to. The clean familiar fragrances of star anise and cinnamon is pronounced and makes for a satisfying bowl of noodles dressed with your favorite vegetables and/or meats. You can also use different canned chicken, beef, or vegetal broths as a base or an organic bouillion such as Rapunzels bouillon.

This is not a paid endorsement and we only post about products we like and think our readers might be interested in.  Happy Pho is sold on Amazon and in many markets in Northern California. Thao and Karen are generous to do a give away of all of their flavors including shiittake, garlic goodness, and zesty ginger for one lucky reader to try!

You can enter  multiple ways or do all 4. Contest ends in 1 week, August 6 at midnight pacific time and a winner will be chosen by random.org:

1. Like Star Anise Foods on Facebook and leave a seperate comment here saying you did so.
2. Like Ravenous Couple on Facebook and leave a seperate comment here saying you did so.
3. Subscribe to our blog either by email or RSS reader and leave a seperate comment saying you did so.
4. Tweet about this givaway with this statement: [ Win some Happy Pho, a healthy gluten free brown rice noodles http://bit.ly/dekXcR @staranisefoods @ravenouscouple ] and leave a seperate comment here saying you’ve done so

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