February 22, 2022. Dear Kids– “What The Pho …”- not only a bit of a naughty Dad Joke, but a reminder that the wonderful Vietnamese soup that guides this recipe is pronounced “fuh”, not “foe” or “fah”, as is often the case with some in this family- not naming names.
This is a good time to also point out, as I hope you can tell from the title, that this recipe for a vegan pho is not an authentic pho; although I feel it’s still closer to a traditional pho than a recent vegetarian pho recipe shared by super chef, Eric Rupert. In spite of all that, I still hope you kids find this recipe to be a relatively quick, easy and tasty method to create a dynamic bowl of Asian influenced vegetable and noodle soup to liven up your plant based cooking and your ever evolving world palate.
I also hope you appreciate that I kept the Young Adult Kitchen budget in mind as I developed the recipe- making many of the multiple spices and herbs typically found in pho optional and selecting the more prominent, in my opinion, to place in the recipe. Feel free to add more of the optional spices and herbs as your mood and circumstances permit. For that matter, you should also have no problem in swapping out a variety of vegetables, depending on what you have on hand or in budget, and what you think makes sense with the broth, for the carrots, mushrooms and/or peas featured in this recipe.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 or more minutes
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 yellow onion, halved lengthwise
- 3” piece ginger, halved lengthwise
- 1/2 portion carrot ribbons (see “Fixin’s below)
- 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, or to taste
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons of white miso
- 1 star anise pod
- 1-2 teaspoon total of fennel, coriander, cumin, cardamom and/or coriander seeds
- mushroom stems from “Fixin’s” below
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 cloves, optional
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar or to taste
- kosher salt, to finish to taste
- 8 ounces rice noodles, the size of linguini or fettuccini, prepared to package directions and tossed with a bit of neutral oil
- 2-3 large carrots of any color(s), rinsed, scrubbed and shaved into ribbons with a vegetable peeler- half of carrot ribbons to be charred with onions and ginger
- 4-6 ounces cleaned shitaake or other mushrooms, stems snapped off for broth and caps very thinly sliced for fixin’s
- 15 ounce can white beans, strained and rinsed
More Than Just A Garnish
- 4 ounces (a big handful) snow peas- trimmed with tough, stringy “spine” pulled off and very thinly sliced- or bean sprouts, if you can find good ones
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced- optional
- 1-2 hot pepper(s), like Serrano, thinly slice- optional
- 2 cups, total, cilantro, mint, Thai basil and/or Italian basil, roughly chopped
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
- sriracha sauce, to taste- optional
- hoisin sauce, to taste- optional
COOK AND PLAY
1. It’s Not Burnt If You Meant To Do It. Set an oven rack about 5 inches from broiler- set broiler to high. Place onion, ginger and half the carrot ribbons on foil lined baking sheet(s) and toss with oil and kosher salt to taste. Broil, flipping once top sides char, until both sides of onion, ginger and carrot are nicely charred- about 5 minutes, or longer if your broiler stinks, but you will likely have to remove carrot ribbons sooner than onion and ginger, so keep an eye on everything to be safe.
2. Taste The Flavor. Add broth, charred onion and ginger (set charred carrots aside for serving), miso, star anise, fennel or other seeds/optional spices, cinnamon and salt and sugar to large pot. Set heat to high and then adjust to simmer and cook until broth is flavorful- 30 minutes or more- taste it after 30 minutes and if you like it move on- think it could use more time, take more time and taste as you go until you are happy. Set a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and strain solids out of broth into bowl- discard solids and return strained broth to pot. Taste strained broth and adjust seasoning as needed- I often stir in more miso and/or salt and sometimes even sugar- you never know until you taste it. Bring broth to boil, add peas for a quick minute and skim out into a bowl of ice water to set color and stop cooking.
3. The Super Bowl. To serve, add a portion of noodles and beans to a deep serving bowls, ladle in a portion of very hot broth and top with charred and raw carrot ribbons, peas and thinly sliced mushrooms to each bowl. Place herbs, limes, along with small bowls of sriracha and hoisin sauce if you have it, on a platter in the middle of the table for you and your guests to add as they wish.
At Least Pho Garnishes Are Vegan. Pho garnishes are a wonderful montage of fresh and vibrant vegan flavors so there was no need to vary you plant loving kids, although I often have trouble finding Thai basil and sub in Italian basil when I can’t. On the other hand, the traditional broth and fixin’s are rather meat forward.
The biggest challenge in carrying forward the spirit and taste of traditional pho is the flavor that comes from the hunks of beef and fish sauce used in authentic pho. Fortunately, there is a variety of bold vegan powerhouses, as detailed in the “Optional or Additional Vegan Flavor Power” Lecture section in DDD post for vegan gravy, that come to the rescue. I elected to go with a few tablespoons of miso in this recipe, although I plan to try about an ounce of dried mushrooms and/or a 4″ piece of kombu the next time I make this recipe, so use the miso in the recipe as a baseline and try whatever vegan flavor power in place of or in addition to the miso that appeals to your tastes.
Finally, when it came to the fixin’s, I was looking not only to select “meaty” vegan options, but also to mimic the textures of the types of meats- like brisket/chuck, sirloin, meatballs- often found in a more traditional pho. So it was slices of raw, meaty mushroom and raw carrots in place of the sirloin; earthy, charred carrots for the brisket, and the tenderness of the beans (think really tiny beanballs or make bigger beanballs from this recipe) for the meatballs.
What I Really Think About Bean Sprouts. I have had too many bad experiences with bean sprouts in my local grocery store- slimy or on the edge of extinction rushing to use them before they become compost. In fact, I had a batch of bean sprouts I bought to test this recipe go bad on me before I could use them and the disappointment lingers. On the other hand, if I have the time to make it to one of my local Asian markets, where bean sprouts are typically given the care and respect they deserve, I am very happy to buy and use them as needed. So, for those times you can’t find a good source for you bean sprouts, I offer you the much more colorful and sturdier thinly sliced snow pea option- PS- thinly sliced bok choy or Napa cabbage would work nicely in place of the sprouts as well.
Speaking of Peas. Did you kids know snow peas have a stringy and unpleasantly textured “spine” that you should remove before preparing? Well, they do, but the good news is they are very easy to remove with your bare hands. Just pinch the stem on one end of the pod and gently pull down, on the straighter side of the pod, to the other end of the pod and the stringy spine should come right off. I know you kids like videos- I don’t have one, but this person does. Also, for presentation, once you simmer the sliced peas in the broth the recipe asks you to remove them from the broth (a kitchen spider is great for this) and plunge then into iced water- this will set the peas to a vibrant green, so it’s definitely worth a little added effort if you ask me.
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