It’s throw back thursday with a Vietnamese pho soup my friend and I would cook up after our long days of school in the Art Institute. Pho soup is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup typically cooked with spices, beef broth and topped with sprouts, fresh cilantro and Thai basil, but this beef-less version of it is so good, it will surely be a staple in your recipes for asian dishes. I was very lucky to have my vietnamese friend teach me this vegetarian version of it, because her family actually owned a vegetarian restaurant in Vietnam. where they made mouthwatering dishes with fake mock meats made out of tofu, seitan and soy. This soup is super versatile and if you don’t have all the ingredients, play around with different vegetables to create the vegetable broth, I’m always reinventing it and it’s still so delicious, gluten free and vegan! Oh yeah baby, let’s rock and roll in the kitchen!
2 tbsp sesame oil
3 star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp whole coriander seeds
8 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 tsp ginger powder or 2-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
1/2 onion, cut in half
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 cup cilantro stalks, minced
3 garlic cloves
2 grated carrots
1/2 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, minced
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp Braggs or soy sauce (you might need more or less depending if you use a mushroom seasoning)
8 cups water
Optional: 1/3 cup mushroom seasoning (commonly used for asian soups)
8 oz dried rice noodles (bahn pho)
1/2 tofu block, cubed, grilled or pan fried
1 or 2 limes or lemons cut into wedges
1/2 carrot, julienned
1/2 zucchini, julienned
1 cup fresh herb mix (cilantro, mint, Thai or lemon basil)
1 cup bean sprouts
2 scallions or 1 small onion, sliced
Sriracha or some type of hot sauce
Optional: toasted black sesame seeds and bean sprouts for toppings
Submerge noodles in a large pan with warm water for 30 minutes.
Heat a large pot at medium high and add 2 tbsp of sesame oil. Add star anise, cloves, cinnamon sticks, cumin, fennel, and coriander seeds, peppercorns, bay leaf, ginger, onion, paprika and cilantro stalks. Stir for 30 seconds and add garlic, grated carrots, bell pepper, celery and sugar. Continue to stir for approximately 1 minute and then add 8 cups of water. If you have mushroom seasoning, add after you pour the water into the pot. Stir all the ingredients in the broth and simmer for 25 minutes. Strain broth into a clean pot and taste, add salt if necessary and keep warm over low heat.
Rinse noodles and fill pan with hot water and boil for 2 minutes or until firm. Usually 1 minute for very thin noodles and up to 4 minutes for wider noodles. Strain noodles and run under cold water to stop them from cooking. Sometimes the noodles stick to each other after cooking, so separate them immediately into the serving bowls.
Top your noodles with tofu, julienned zucchini and carrots. Tear the cilantro, mint, and basil with your hands and add steaming broth to each bowl and let sit for a few minutes to cook the zucchini and carrots. Finally garnish with onions or scallions and why not a dash more of the fresh herbs, a pinch of black sesame seeds and a wedge of lime or lemon.
Note: you can also use tofu without it being fried and let it cook by the broth as well. If you have access to bean sprouts, they add quite the crunch and are also very common in Pho Soups, but I never have any in my fridge and it spoils very quickly. Other favorite vegetables you can use in the soup are mushrooms, broccoli, and bok choy. Also if you don’t have sesame oil heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil and add 2 tbsp of sesame seeds in the beginning of making the broth, followed by the rest of the remaining spices in the recipe.
Rice noodles come in different width, so you can choose which you and your family like more. The Mushroom seasoning on the right is a typical vietnamese seasoning used for soups, broths, stir-fries, and curry dishes.