Saturday, January 26, 2008

Vegetarian times: Veggie Pho

Every since I've become a vegetarian again, I have missed some of those foods that were vaguely 'meaty'. For instance, the amazing Vietnamese dish "Pho", the heal-all beef broth based soup with so much good antiseptic, pro-digestive, nausea relieving power it's sort of like a cross between beef stew and a medicinal herbal brew. I was psyched to see that Vegetarian Times had a recipe (again, condoned by Andrew Weil) for veggie Pho in it's January issue. It was that particular issue that made me fall in love with this magazine all over again (I used to read it in high school but didn't quite 'get' it).
Thanks to My Recipe Box for writing this out already, because the truth is, I am a lazy, lazy girl. (The proof is in the fact that I have about 10 blog posts lined up and none of them are posted).
Again, my notes are marked with a (*) asterisk. Good luck, this one is a bit of a time consuming adventure.

Vegetarian Times' Vegetarian Pho Soup.


  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth *I suggest bouillon cubes. Usually one cube makes about 2 cups of broth.

  • 3 large shallots, sliced (1 cup) *Shallots are like tiny, sweet onions. They look like this:
  • 1/2 c. dried shiitake mushrooms *I actually found frozen shiitakes for this purpose. Don't use regular white mushrooms, shiitakes' have a particular 'meaty' and smoky flavor that is important for this dish.

  • 10 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed *Remove the skins of your garlic by crushing them gently with the flat part of your knife. Don't bash them or you'll end up with a bloody hand. And a blood knife. Example:

  • 3 Tbs. low-sodium soy sauce *I use Bragg's liquid aminos. It tastes the same, and gives you a nutritional kick.

  • 12 thin coins of fresh ginger (about 1/4 inch thick)

  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. rice wine vinegar

  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper *Please please PLEASE invest in a pepper grinder and do this fresh. Ground pepper in a can is wicked old, because it doesn't really 'expire'. Add how long you've had yours and about 3 years (how long it's been on a supermarket shelf) and prepare to be grossed out. Old pepper has no flavor.

  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise *A spice that smells like licorice, looks like a little wood star.
  • 5-6 fresh basil stems, leaves reserved for the soup
  • 5-6 cilantro stems, leaves reserved soup
  • 8oz. pkg. rice noodles

  • 8 oz. pkg Asian-flavor baked tofu, thinly sliced (maybe more) *Asian baked tofu is half as much as a regular package of tofu and twice the price. Make your own: Mix a little brown sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce (or Braggs), garlic and ginger together, slice your tofu into thin patties, and soak for about an hour. Bake at 400 degrees or until chewy but not crispy. Or pan fry in a little peanut oil. You can change up the marinade to flavors of your liking.

  • 2 cups soybean sprouts *These are large, white sprouts about the thickness of a dandy lion stem. Not the thin hair like sprouts you put in salads or sandwiches.

  • 2 cups watercress *I'd call this optional. Veg times just kind of stuck this in there for extra calcium, or something, it's not traditional Vietnamese.

  • 4 green onions, sliced *Up east we call these scallions.
  • 1/4 c. chopped cilantro
  • 1 c. fresh basil leaves
  • 1 lime
To make Broth: Place all ingredients in large pot with 8 cups of water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, 1 hour. *Yeah, well, an hour is good if you are rushed. If you have an afternoon, let it simmer on very low heat for as long as you can. The flavor will be much better.

This is what your pho looks like before 'discard solids'
Did I mention your house is going to smell amazing for days?

Strain broth and return to pot. Discard solids.

It's been hours. You've discarded your solids.
Look how sassy your broth is now!

To make Pho: Cook rice noodles according to package directions. Drain, and rinse under cold water. Divide among 6 large soup bowls. Ladle broth over noodles, and top with tofu, sprouts, watercress, and green onions. Serve cilantro, basil and lime wedges on the side to be stirred into the soup. *I like to have all my garnishes ready to rock so people can make their own decisions. I am no Pho Nazi, except for what goes in the bottom of the bowl.

Plate O' Garnish

Scallions, cilantro and asian tofu ready to be broth-ed.
Brothed? Brothotized? Have broth poured upon them?
Oh, whatever...

*The traditional way to eat Pho is as follows:
Load up your hot broth with basil, more scallion, cilantro, and a lime wedge. Mix around and wait for a few minutes to eat so that the flavors can mesh. Chopsticks in your best hand, use to load solids into the spoon in your other hand. To add sauce, make a little puddle on the plate and dip your chopsticks in it. That flavors your next spoonful of noodles. In the case of Pho, the 'sauce' is lime juice (squeezed from your garnish wedge) mixed with a little black pepper to make a paste. You could also use Nuoc Cham, but it wouldn't be completely veggie considering that it is a fish based sauce. You can also garnish with a little Sriracha chili sauce, hot peppers, or hoisin sauce.



Anonymous said...

I'll be making this sometime :)

Emily (the one you see very rarely)

Amanda said...

i've made vegetarian PHO without a recipe before, and right now I'm making the Vegetarian Times recipe on it.. YUMMY that star anise smells good! I'm going to add julienned carrots & some bok choy-instead of watercress.. :D

Jil: said...

Emily: Do it, it's really worth the time

Amanda:Yeah the star anise really adds an amazing undercurrent. I'm not a fan of bok choy myself...but carrots sound like a great addition!