Friday, May 17, 2013

Homemade Vegan Pho

behold the curative powers of...
Homemade Pho

Pho broth, noodles and fried tofu with chopped chard and stems,
Thai basil leaves, sliced lime and sriracha.

Now, I'm no fancy-pants doctor, but in my book pho possesses truly remarkable healing powers. At the first sign of a cold, a big ol' bowl of pho is my go-to. There is something cleansing about sitting before a steaming bowl of aromatic soup, slurping up noodles with reckless abandon. By extension, these healing powers apply to allergy season as well. Believe me, I've been my own test subject many times this spring. And when you're not fighting off sickness, and just plain old hungry, pho will nourish you, body and soul.

This broth is prepared rather traditionally, but you don't have to think entirely within the box when it comes to toppings. The classic route is a bit of protein (tofu or seitan) with vegetables, sprouts, herbs and lime. I like to add some seasonal greens into the mix, currently arugula (adds a nice peppery touch to the broth) and chard, stems and all, for a little pop of color. Add the greens to a platter with your other garnishes and toss them in the soup at the last minute. They will wilt nicely in the broth while still keeping their color. Another favorite pho addition are these soy pickled shiitakes, the sweet/tart flavors of the pickled mushrooms really amps up the soup's flavor. The broth also freezes perfectly, so go ahead and make the full batch, freeze it in small containers and pull some out when you have a craving. Just reheat on the stove, add some noodles and garnish and there you have it:
(almost) instant pho gratification!

Gathering spices for dry roasting. Star anise, coriander, cloves
and cinnamon sticks.

Vegan Pho (serves 6-8)

3 quarts (12 cups) of water
1 large onion, peeled and quartered
4 shallots, peeled
1 head of garlic, cloves peeled and halved
Knob of fresh ginger (about 3"), peeled and halved
4 large carrots, peeled and each cut into thirds
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tsp coriander seeds
5 star anise pods
4 whole cloves
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 stalk of lemongrass*
2 tsp raw sugar
2-3 tbsp soy sauce
salt to taste

*to prepare the lemongrass
Remove the upper green stem from the lower yellow stalk and bulb.
Use the side of your knife to slightly smash the bulb, then cut it into three pieces.
This will help the lemongrass release its full flavor.
Toss both the lower bulb and the upper green stem into the stock.

noodles/ toppings/ garnish suggestions for the soup:

you will need about 1/4 lb of rice noodles per serving, any thickness,
round or flat will work
fried or baked tofu and/or seitan
mushrooms, pickled or raw.
greens, chopped or shredded, such as arugula, mustard greens,
chard (stems included), kale etc.
other vegetables such as bok choy, nappa cabbage, carrots, broccoli
Thai basil and/or mint
thinly sliced onion or scallion
fresh bean sprouts
limes, cut into wedges and served with the dish

hoisin sauce and/or sriracha

for the broth:
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat.
Add onion, shallots, garlic, ginger, carrots, cinnamon sticks, star anise, coriander,
cloves and peppercorns.
Dry roast, stirring ocassionally, until vegetables get a nice char
and the mix becomes aromatic.
Add water, soy sauce, sugar and lemongrass and salt.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.

Once cooking time is up, taste and adjust salt/sugar to your prefrence.
Pour broth through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth strainer
 into a large clean pot to remove all solids.

to prepare noodles:
Place noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water.
 Allow to sit for 20 minutes or until tender.
Drain and add to individual bowls, then cover with broth.
Or, if you find that soaking is not softening the noodles enough,
cook them quickly in a pot of boiling water.
Drain, then rinse well with cold water to prevent them from sticking together
before adding to your soup bowls.

to serve:
Once noodles have been placed in the bowls and covered with broth,
top off the pho with tofu or seitan and garnish with the vegetables of your choosing.

Serve with garnishes (herbs, sprouts, greens, sliced limes) and sauces on the side.


  1. yyyyyyuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmm pho is the food of the soul. I am going to try your recipe tonight! <3