I’m watching the sun go up as I tap away at my keyboard. It’s my favorite time of the day, when only a few are awake and the light slowly creeps up the buildings. The sky is streaked with pink, orange, and blue — it is pretty and perfect. The air outside is crisp and fragrant. I’m at peace with the world. The sun continues to rise, but so does the count in my inbox.
I lose balance in my life when I completely prioritize things I need to do over things that bring me joy. Fortunately, cleaning the apartment is a chore that brings me joy, as well as, waking up early in the morning to greet the sunrise. But jumping out of bed and straight into a meeting is something that does not — a bad habit I picked up at the start of shelter-in-place.
In the early days of 2021 (can you believe it’s already Feb 2021?), I joined a Women’s Circle, led by a friend who I admire so deeply. For three sessions, I hopped on a Zoom call with a group of outstanding women and set the intention to find more zen and balance in my life. We wrote, reflected, and shared ideas. It was pure magic and helped me hit the reset button.
Now I start the mornings with some yoga and meditation. I don’t look at my email or messages. I make a cup of tea and turn on the heater. I sit in silence for a moment, stare out the window, and take note of the cloud formations — it was cirrus this morning, I think. I feel immense joy and am ready to start the day.
Though I love cooking, there are plenty of days I would rather not. Usually Mondays through Thursdays. Easy meals that are rich in flavor and great when reheated are the theme of our weekly menus.
Instant Pot oxtail pho fits that bill perfectly. Just thinking of the dark brown and clear broth served with silky noodles is enough to make my mouth water. The broth is a “throw everything in the pot and hit the button” recipe, so in other words, a guaranteed success.
And here’s a little tip for removing the fat from the broth (though this calls for patience): chill the broth in the fridge for a couple of hours, until the fat congeals at the top, then scoop it out.
Instant Pot Oxtail Pho
- 6-quart Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker
For the broth:
- 2 oz ginger peeled & sliced
- 2 large yellow onions quartered
- 3 star anise
- 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 3 whole cloves
- 5 lbs oxtail
- 2 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
- 14 oz rice stick (dried noodles)
- 1/2 cup cilantro (with stems) chopped
- 4 green onions thinly sliced
- 2 Serrano or jalapeno peppers sliced
- 2 limes quartered
- hoisin sauce
- fish sauce
- Soak the rice sticks in warm water for 15 minutes. Drain, rinse, and soak in warm water for at least another 45 minutes. You can continue to soak the noodles for up to 4 hours — just replace the water every hour.
- Saute the star anise, ginger, onion, star anise, cinnamon stick, and cloves in the pressure cooker over medium heat for 5 – 7 minutes.
- Add the oxtail, salt, and sugar. Fill the pot with water up to the max line. Pressure cook on high for 40 minutes. Allow pressure to naturally decrease, about 20 minutes.
- Strain the broth. Place the oxtail in a bowl, and discard the remaining solids. Skim the fat from the broth. Add fish sauce and more sugar to taste.
- Fill a medium pot with water and bring to boil. Add the noodles and cook for 30 to 60 seconds, or until soft. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent them from sticking. Place noodles and a piece of oxtail in a large bowl, and top with herbs and peppers. Cover with broth. Add lime juice, fish sauce, sriracha, and hoisin to taste.