There are likely folks who will say you cannot have a real Pho with no meat involved at all. And, when those folks make me Pho, I eat it as they made it :) Even when they lie to me and tell me that their balls in their Pho are not testicles when they so obviously are (remember that trip to Rock and Bowl in Springfield, Reneé?). Van Lang's beef ball Pho is at least a bit less frightening, as the balls are sliced.
I'm guessing you understand that I don't have a problem with Pho that has no meat. Here in town, Lulu's Noodle Shop is good, as is Vietnam Cafe over on Rainbow (I am pretty sure their broth is meaty). So, if you don't want to make your own, head to a local joint and see what you get. But don't be surprised if you wind up with a surprise or two in the bowl.
One of the things I love about Vietnamese food (and Thai and Korean food, really) is the way that each bowl or plate is a marriage of contradictions: sweet, savory, hot, cooked, raw, smoky, salty, tart--it's all in there.
Angel's Vegan Pho
Adapted from Cooking Light's Turkey Pho
Serves 4-6 people (how brothy your bowls are is key).
8 cups vegetable stock
3 Tablespoons low sodium soy (Tamari if you're gluten free)
2 Tablespoons of brown sugar
1 3 inch piece of cinnamon stick
Several slices of ginger root (I use a good amount of ginger)
In a tea ball or a muslin tea bag put:
5-6 whole cloves
4 star anise (I have used anise seed and even fennel seed here. The licorice notes are what you want).
Simmer all of that together for about 30 minutes. Taste the broth and adjust seasoning if necessary. Take out the chunky bits (the cinnamon stick, ginger, and tea ball).
Rice noodles are customary. I usually buy wider Pho noodles, but this is what they had where I shopped last. My preferred brand is Three Ladies, but these were good. I don't follow instructions here. Instead, I boil them for about 7 minutes, rather than doing the hot water soak method. I cook 2 ounces per person, and I cook the noodles right before serving. In other words, if there are only two people having a bowl, I cook four ounces, regardless of the fact I have enough broth for more than two folks. Then, noodles are cooked for leftovers. Rice noodles tend to get too soft if you cook, chill and reheat. But, you just do what's best for you.
In addition to the broth and noodles, one other non-negotiable thing for me is charred onions in my Pho. You can grill the char on, but I like to slice the onions in slices and leave them intact, putting them into a scorching hot iron skillet until they are charred on both sides. Once that's done, I move them to my cutting board and slice the rounds in half, separating the strands. I throw them in the mix of whatever stir fried vegetables I'm using in my bowl. The version above has some red, yellow, and green bell pepper strips stir fried with some chopped Napa cabbage with ginger and garlic. In addition, when I reheated my broth and veggies today, I threw in a couple of handfuls of mustard greens.
Anything you like could go in here, including proteins like tofu, seitan, soy curls, or even edamame. Mushrooms are great.
I also like to put my chili paste in the bottom of my bowl, so when I pour the broth in, I get a good mix. I put a little extra soy here, as well.
As important as the heat, though, are the garnishes. Here, we've got thinly sliced cucumber, torn mint and cilantro, and julienned carrot up top. This gets "dressed" liberally with fresh lime juice. You're going to want both chopsticks and spoon here, unless you're with family and can just pick up the bowl.
Every time I make Pho, it's a little different from the last version. Have fun with it by swapping out the vegetables you use.
The above bowl of sunshine above is one of our favorite soups around here. In fact, we recently both said that we may even, if we had to, choose this soup over gumbo (gasp!). Thankfully, we don't have to choose.
Harira recipes are all of the internet, of course, and in many cookbooks (there's a vegetarian version in Crescent Dragonwagon's Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread book, for instance, which I recently picked up in Lawrence when Beck and I went shopping there. Some recipes use noodles, others use rice, some have lamb, some have chicken. My version here is based on Emeril Lagasse's found here. All of the recipes that I've found, though, have some similarities--chickpeas and lentils in a gorgeous tomato and ginger laced broth. Want to learn more? Check out About.com's Moroccan Food page or Wikipedia's entry.
My goals here were to make this faster and less processed than my usual. I started making this with seitan chunks (the Seitanic Log O'greatness worked well, as it has cinnamon in it and the flavors worked well here), then progressed to Butler's Soy Curls. One of my food goals this year, though, is to use fewer analogues and we'd been saying forever that we thought just upping the bean levels would do the trick--and it did.
If you read some of the history, you'll find that there are a multitude of variations here. For instance, I've swapped out different types of lentils. Any lentils in your cupboard will do. I used green ones in this version as they hold up better and I wanted there to be plenty of variation in the textures. If you have meat or a meat substitute in here and the texture is more varied already, plain old brown ones work, as would yellow and red lentils.
If you don't have a pressure cooker (thanks, Joe!), you want to plan a bit ahead and watch the salt level in the beans as they cook (salty liquids make it hard to get your beans tender, but the pressure cooker helps counteract that). I'd follow Emeril's soaking instructions if you don't have the pressure cooker or hot soak the chickpeas first by bringing them to a boil for 2 minutes, turning off the heat and covering them and letting them sit for an hour. Drain and proceed as if you had soaked overnight.
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse's recipe.
Toss the following in your pressure cooker:
1 cup diced onion
1 clove minced garlic
3 ribs of celery diced
5 ounces chickpeas
5 ounces lentils
28 ounces diced tomatoes with their juice (canned)
2 teaspoons ground ginger root
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground pepper
6 cups of water or vegetable stock (I used my non-chicken broth from this magic recipe)
1/2 cup brown jasmine rice
I set my cooker for 40 minutes, which was just about perfect. I did a quick release on the pressure, as we were hungry! When you are ready to serve, taste it, adding any spices you need, and the juice of 1/2 a lemon to the pot.
Fresh parsley (I had some gremolata in the freezer that I used) Dried parsley stirred in works, too, in a pinch.
Approximately 6 servings.
Today's dish is really simple: Cauliflower Ceviche. We enjoyed this last night, but are having the remains for lunch today as part of a salad. Here's how to do this one:
1 pound bag of cauliflower, thawed and chopped up (yes, you can start with fresh and blanch it, but I like the no waste, no fuss of frozen).
1-2 seeded chopped jalapeño peppers (or whatever pepper you prefer)
2 cloves minced garlic
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 finely minced onion (red is great but yellow is what's in the picture above)
2 limes, juiced
1 bunch of cilantro or parsley minced
salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder to taste. I use a lot of cumin. I also put in a bit of hot smoked paprika
Stir it all together, taste it and add more spices if you want. This is also great with avocado thrown in or sweet bell pepper added. Serve with your chip of choice. Also great on a saltine.
Below is a picture of salad made with the leftovers. On our New Years Day menu is Crescent Dragonwagon's New South Falafel made with cornbread crumbs, black eyed peas, greens, and rice. It's in the Passionate Vegetarian, and the recipe doesn't seem to be available online, so I'm not going to share the recipe, but will share pictures tomorrow. I'll be doing one day a week where I cook someone else's recipe and do some book review type post, and that'll be the first one!
Angel lives in Camden, Arkansas where she writes stuff and sometimes sends it out to other people to read. She used to grade papers, but not anymore. Check out her main site to see what she's up to lately.