Vegetarian Phở ( pronounced as Fuh) may be a better title for this post but I guess Phở purists would roll their eyes just like Biryani lovers don’t think anything but mutton Biryani is the real deal.
Introduced to me one cold winter evening by the Seattle gang, as we huddled in a small restaurant that specialized in this Vietnamese noodle soup, I have missed Phở in India. Piping hot bowls of lemony broth served over rice noodles, topped with a generous heap of bean sprouts, sliced onions, Thai basil and huge wedges of lemons. We almost always asked for Sriracha and more lemons.
This was my staple whenever I visited Vipul’s campus for lunch or on Thursdays when I turn into a vegetarian. The Phở vendor on our campus used to add broccoli, carrots and Tofu to their vegetarian broth. So, last night for dinner, I decided to make us some Phở. Recreate taste that I remember from almost over a year ago in a relatively short time. I didn’t have hours to simmer the broth. Nor did I have all the ingredients on hand. So I improvised with what we had. Tofu, broccoli, beans and carrots. Simple lemony vegetable broth. Dash of fish sauce and soy sauce. Generous helping of mint. Simultaneously I cooked whole wheat spaghetti. Once everything was ready, we layered the veggies over the noodles and topped it with broth.
Served with mint, spring onions, lemons and a side of Asian grilled chicken, this was a nourishing, meal. Warming yet light. Lemony and minty. The little bowls of toppings added to a festive fair on a mundane Monday.
It wasn’t a ‘true-blue’ broth flavored by marrow from the beef bones, Thai basil or crunch added by mung bean sprouts. But the ‘on hand’ alternatives proved just as good. Crunch of beans and broccoli, color from carrots, fragrance by mint and lemons and a bit of heat by Siracha. Topped with tofu and grilled chicken it was a complete meal. So delicious that we even had second helpings. Luckily its all veggies so it was all good. And so warming that we have to wait for another cold spell before we can make it again.
Note: The pictures in this post are all from my brand new Windows Phone 8. Had to try it. I am not so thrilled with the results but I will blame the poor lighting in my kitchen. Hopefully day time photos will be better. Else I will stick to my usual camera.
Faux Phở Recipe
Vegetables and Noodles
- 1/2 cup broccoli florets
- 1 /2 cup carrots julienned
- 1/2 cup French beans julienned
- 1/2 cup mushrooms sliced
- 1/2 cup extra firm tofu diced
- 2 servings Rice noodles cooked to package directions and set aside.
For the broth
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 black cardamom
- 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
- 3 inch cinnamon stick
- 3 star anise
- 1/4 cup spring onions (white parts) diced
- 3 inch ginger root – crushed
- 2 teaspoons coriander powder
- Handful of mint leaves
- 1/4 cup diced mushrooms
- Salt to taste
- Fresh ground pepper to taste
- 4 cups water or chicken broth
- Mint leaves, coarsely chopped
- Spring onions
- Lemon wedges
- Mung bean sprouts (optional)
1. Prepare the rice noodles and set aside. If using spaghetti, set a pot of water to boil to cook the spaghetti. Scoop out the cooked noodles and set aside.
2. In the hot water pot used for cooking noodles, cook the veggies one by one till al-dente. Set aside.
3. In a small saucepan, heat oil. Reduce the heat to low, add the raw spices ( bay leaves, black cardamom, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick and star anise) and let the spices flavor the oil without burning them.
4. After about 30 seconds, add spring onions and sauté till they are cooked through. Then add the crushed ginger and mushrooms and sauté. Add salt, pepper and mint and let this cook for about a minute. Then add water or broth and let this simmer while you focus on the vegetables.
5. Take the serving bowls and start layering the vegetables over the noodles. Ladle the broth over the noodles and vegetables.
6. Garnish and serve hot.