In these hipster days of ours, you can stick just about anything in a Mason jar and call it cool. But where most of the packages border on kitsch, every once in a while an offering stands out. Fresh Thymes Eatery‘s pho in a jar falls squarely into that category.

Christine Ruch, owner of the Boulder cafe, packs 24-ounce jars with pho fixings like knobs of miso paste, fresh garlic, hefty slices of ginger, scallions, shredded radishes and carrots, spinach, citrus wheels, and lots of cilantro and mint. To that she adds a tangle of tender kelp noodles. The nutrient-dense strands, which are made from seaweed and are naturally gluten-free, closely mimic the texture of glass noodles.

From there, customers purchase a jar of broth, heat it up, and pour it over the ingredients. A few minutes of steeping and several good shakes later and you’re slurping warm healthy soup.

Ruch’s inspiration came as much from ramen as it did pho. She aimed to make a portable meal along the lines of the ramen noodles she ate in college out of Styrofoam cups. But it had to be healthy—Ruch, who has both celiac disease and multiple sclerosis—serves only gluten-free, nourishing dishes at Fresh Thymes. “When I first started doing broth, so many people said I should do rice noodles. But no, you have to cook them and they get sticky,” she says. “I wondered if I could do a healthy pho.” The result of her tinkering is a healthy instant noodle jar that sells for $8, plus a $5 cup of hot broth from the eatery’s tap, or a $10 jar to go.

The difference in broths is important: Where the on-tap version is seasoned with turmeric and/or ginger and garlic, the jarred variety is unseasoned. I poured the latter over my pho ingredients and, although comforting, I craved more miso paste and the addition of tamari, Sriracha, and freshly squeezed lime juice to punch up the flavor. Had I poured the seasoned liquid over the top, the soup would have tasted more complete from the start.

As for the concept itself, it’s a smart one. Even as we seek healthier foods, we’re also looking for convenience. Fresh Thymes’ pho in a jar meets that criteria—and it looks cool.

2500 30th St. No. 101, Boulder, 303-955-7988

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Amanda M. Faison
Amanda M. Faison
Freelance writer Amanda M. Faison spent 20 years at 5280 Magazine, 12 of those as Food Editor.