Vietnamese Pho – Vegetarian Version
It has been snowing here all of the weekend. There’s almost 2 feet of snow!! It was the first heavy snow of this season and Milo’s (our puppy) first snow (he’s just 4 months old). So we took him out to see how he reacts to the snow…and he loved it!!! He went crazy running around in the soft snow, chasing all the children that were playing in the snow and eating some snow!! We had a wonderful time playing with him yesterday Here’s a picture..
So if you are wondering how all this is related to the title of my post, you should have guessed it by now…it was cold and I needed a warm comforting bowl of soup of course!!! I had been eying the Vietnamese Pho recipe for a long time now. I never got to taste it as the vegetarian version is a little difficult to find in a restaurant.
Pho (pronounced fuh) is a traditional Vietnamese soup, a clear broth served with meat, veggies and rice noodles. This much I knew, so I googled for the recipe and came across many many versions, but the base ingredients/spices remained the same. I had a few and didn’t have a few..so I came up with my own version, maybe not the most authentic pho, but supremely aromatic and delicious!! The combination of spices used in this soup, perfumes the whole house, trust me on this one :). You can make this spicy if you like it. The veggie version usually comes with tofu, but we are not great fans of tofu, so I skipped it. And best part, this is like zero fat soup, you won’t find oil as a part of the ingredients at all!! Also you could make a pot of this broth and store it the fridge. Whenever you feel like soup, just gather the veggies that you have on hand, some noodles and pour this broth on the top. That’s all, you will have a meal ready in no time. But making the basic broth takes some time, so make lots of it and store it in the refrigerator.
For the Broth:
Onion – 1 medium onion
Ginger – 1 inch piece
Garlic – 8-10 cloves
Cinnamon – 1 inch stick
Clove – 6-8 no.
Bay Leaf – 1 small(dry)
Fennel seeds – 1/4 tsp
Star Anise – 2-3 no.(I didn’t have any, so did not use it)
Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp(slightly crushed)
Red Chili flakes/powder – 2 tsp(optional, we like spicy food!)
Vegetable stock – 8 cups(I used 8 cups water plus 2 knorr vegetable bouillon cubes)
Sugar(White/Brown) – 1 tbsp
Salt – to taste
Soy Sauce – 2 tbsp
Rice Vinegar – 1 tbsp(optional)
Carrots – 2 large(thinly sliced)
Cabbage – 1 cup(thinly sliced)
Potato – 2 medium(thinly sliced)
Green Onions/Scallions – 5-6(chopped, greens and whites separated)
Mushrooms – 3-4 dries shitake mushrooms or 2 portabella or about 8-10 button mushrooms or a combination of any kind of mushrooms or none
Spinach(or any other kind of greens) – as required
Cilantro/Coriander leaves- 1 bunch
Basil – a handful(optional, I didn’t use this)
Rice Noodles – as required(I used Chinese Bean String noodles, you could use any kind you like, I guess the most authentic are the Rice noodles)
Additional toppings and seasonings:
Slices of hot chili peppers
- Roughly chop the onions, and cut the ginger into a few round slices. Char these for about 5 mins each, under the broiler, or on a grill if you have one.
- Now combine the first 13 ingredients mentioned for the broth in a big pot and simmer, covered for about 45 mins.
- Pour the broth through a sieve and save the filtered broth. Return the clear broth to the pot and add all the vegetables, white portion of the green onions, soy sauce and vinegar and simmer until the vegetables are tender.
- Prepare the rice noodles as per package instructions. If you are using bean strings like me, do not cook them ahead, wait till the next step :).
- When you are ready to serve, Place the noodles in the serving bowl (you could add any other toppings or seasonings you like at this point.)and pour the steaming hot broth over it. Top the bowl with the greens(spinach or what ever you are using), cilantro, mint and greens portion of the scallions. Add a slice or two of lemon/lime and whoa, you are ready for the most comforting bowl of soup!!
Note: If you are using Chinese bean strings, please note that they cook very fast, and you just need to soak them in hot water for 3 mins. So instead of cooking it ahead in hot water, I like to prepare the soup exactly like in step 5 above, but with steaming hot soup poured over uncooked noodles placed on the bottom of the bowl; then cover the bowl for about 3 mins before serving. This way the noodles are more flavorful!!!