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click to enlarge Vegan bún bò huế from Z Asian Vietnamese Kitchen

Photo by Faiyaz Kara

Vegan bún bò huế from Z Asian Vietnamese Kitchen

A soup kit from Mills 50’s Z Asian Vietnamese Kitchen and an Instant Pot are all you need for home pho nirvana 

The Dining-In Diaries

Pho, like sushi, better burgers, omelets or fried anything, isn't very conducive to the takeout experience – the at-home slurp is never quite as pleasurable as it is at a restaurant. Hien Pham and Huong Nguyen, the husband-and-wife team behind Z Asian Vietnamese Kitchen on East Colonial Drive, seem to agree, and they're doing something about it. The pair is selling meal kits with detailed instructions so that you, too, can enjoy restaurant-quality pho in the comfort of your own home. The caveat: You need an Instant Pot to replicate the soupy sorcery.

I brought home a kit containing vacuum-sealed packages of oxtails, aromatics and rice noodles, along with garnishes (bean sprouts, Thai basil, jalapeños and the like) of the freshest quality. A container holding a concentrated form of their secret stock went into the Instant Pot along with the meat, aromatics and 18 cups of water. It took 38 minutes for the water in the pot to boil; 35 minutes for the ingredients to cook; 40 minutes for the concoction to depressurize; and three minutes to boil the noodles. That's a quarter of the time it would normally take to make pho. The result? Absolute bloody magic. Damn if this wasn't one the best bowls of pho I've ever had.

A few days later, I busted out the Instant Pot for a kit of vegan bún bò hue (spicy beef noodle soup) I picked up from Z. The stock, fashioned from jicama, daikon, carrots, lemongrass, onions and spices, was shockingly good, its flavors thoroughly permeating the strips of "beef" during the pressure cooking. The thick, round rice noodles required a quick one-minute zap in the microwave prior to assembly, and instead of hoisin and sriracha, Nguyen included her house-made chili oil. It's a knockout soup with a broth that punches well above its weight. The greatest vegan soup of all time? I'd say it's the reigning champ in this town. Visit eatzasian.com/mealkits to order.

(Z Asian Vietnamese Kitchen, 1830 E. Colonial Drive, 407-601-6024, eatzasian.com)

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