I took my boyfriend to Hakone this weekend and was inspired by all the greenery to try to make vegetarian pho. For those of you who took a moment to follow the link you have astutely noted that Hakone is not a Vietnamese Garden; nevertheless, one must draw inspiration as it comes.
I looked at many an online blog Vegetarian Times, Gastronomyblog, , etc etc etc… the one that struck my inner foodie is Steamy Kitchen . What I appreciate the most from her recipe is the depth of detail she emphasizes in making the broth. While I did not exactly follow her overall recipe, I did follow 90% of her recipe when it came to making the broth. If you are a Vegan this recipe is not for you. I used a left over chicken carcass to make my broth. I get grossed out by meat in solid form; however, I love love love chicken broth based soup. Go figure.
My biggest beef (get it beef. I don’t eat beef hehe) with my of the vegetarian pho recipes out there is that they skimp on the veggies. I like big chunks of tofu and a variety of vegetables in mine. Who cares about carrots! I can put carrots in anything. Go a little crazy this the vegetables time to shine.
Go to your local Asian market for spices, anywhere else is way to expensive for the quantities you will need.
Now for the stuff you want.
1 Onion Halved
Nub of Ginger (about 4″)
6 quarts of vegetable broth
Pho spices (1 cinnamon stick, 1 tbl coriander seeds [powder works in a pinch], tbl fennel seeds, 5 whole star anise, 6 whole cloves) Wrap all these guys in a mesh/ cheesecloth bag.
1.5 tbl kosher salt (Steamy Kitchen recommends to halve if you use regular salt)
1/8 c. fish sauce
Carrots (yes yes I know)
Tofu (I used teriyaki flavored)
Basil, bean sprouts and lime wedges for garnish
Steamy Kitchen recommends charring your vegetables. I employed a 50-50 compromise. I charred my ginger and just let my onion boil in the broth.
1. Turn your broiler on to the highest point and move the rack to the top. Cut your ginger in half. Brush some cooking oil on to your sheet and on each side of the ginger. Broil on high under the ginger begins to get dark brown, almost black around the edges. Turn over and repeat on the other side. In my oven this only took about 10 minutes.
2. Add ginger, onion, spice packet, sugar, fish sauce, salt, vegetable broth (and if you have a chicken carcass through that in as well.) Simmer this concoction for about an hour and a half. Taste your broth: if it doesn’t taste right then add fish sauce, a pinch of salt and sugar. I had to adjust my salt by a few pinches until it tasted right. Allow your broth to boil for another hour or so. Remove the chicken carcass and strain the broth to remove any unwanted bits. Return the broth to the stove. You can choose to make the broth up to two days in advance.
3. I opted to slightly, saute my veggies prior to assembling my soup bowls. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a pan, heat pan and oil until warm. Add carrots and half a ladle of broth let heat then add mushrooms, let those cook half way then add baby broccoli and bok choy. Let the vegetables simmer and steam together for about 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Or you can do what I did the first time and cook the mushrooms separately. Do not let your vegetables cook all the way through or else you will have mushy pho. You can add the green onion directly to the soup in step 5.
4. Prepare the noodles. All packages are different so follow the instructions yours come with. I cut cooking time on mine by 2 minutes and there were the perfect consistency.
5. Bowls. Please note that while all of this is happening your broth is happily simmering away. Bring the broth back to a boil. Fill each bowl with rice noodles, veggies, and tofu. Once the broth has reached a boil, ladle the broth into the bowls. The hot soup will cook your vegetables to al dente perfection. Serve immediately.
6. You’re willing friends or family members can garnish the soup with cilantro, lime, sriracha and hoisin sauce as they see fit. Yay! And you’ve just accomplished vegetable pho!