Quick Vegetarian Pho
The Pho Cookbook
One of the secrets to making good and fast vegetarian pho is selecting the right broth at the store. Purchase an amber brown and robust broth, such as those made by Whole Foods or Swanson, which tends to be on the clear side and seasoned with spices that are more in line with pho; use two cans or one large carton. Avoid golden-hued vegetarian broths that are often celery forward and mute pho spices. Stocked at many supermarkets, La Baleine sea salt, Annie Chun pad Thai rice noodles, and Kikkoman soy sauce work well for this recipe.
- 3⁄4-inch (2 cm) section ginger
- 2 medium-large green onions
- 1 star anise (8 robust points total)
- 1 1⁄2 inches (3.75 cm) cinnamon stick
- 1 or 2 whole cloves
- 3 1⁄2 to 4 cups (840 ml to 1 l) low-sodium or regular vegetable broth
- 2 cups (480 ml) water
- About 1⁄2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 5 ounces (150 g) dried narrow flat rice noodles (sometimes labeled “Pad Thai” noodles)
- 4 pieces pan-seared tofu
- 8 snap peas or slender green beans
- 2 or 3 fresh shiitake, king trumpet, or similar kind of meaty mushroom
- 2 to 3 teaspoons regular soy sauce
- About 1⁄2 teaspoon organic sugar, or 1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, leafy tops only
- Pepper (optional)
- Optional extras: Bean sprouts, chile slices, mint sprigs, Thai basil, hoisin, sriracha
1Peel then slice the ginger into 4 or 5 coins. Smack with the flat side of a knife or meat tenderizer; set aside. Thinly slice the green parts of the green onion to yield 2 to 3 tablespoons; set aside for garnish. Cut the leftover sections into pinkie-finger lengths, bruise, then add to the ginger.
2In a 3- to 4-quart (3 to 4 l) pot, toast the star anise, cinnamon, and cloves over medium heat until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the ginger and green onion sections. Stir for about 30 seconds, until aromatic. Slide the pot off heat, wait 15 seconds to slightly cool, then pour in the vegetable broth.
3Return the pot to the burner, then add the water and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to gently simmer for 30 minutes.
4While the broth simmers, soak the rice noodles in hot water until pliable and opaque. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
5Prepare the tofu. (If you made the tofu in advance, let it warm up to room temperature.) Cut each finished tofu slab into thin slices or two large triangles. Set aside.
6Cut the snap peas in half lengthwise; or cut the green beans into short lengths. Slice the mushrooms about 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) thick. Set aside to later poach.
7When the broth is done, pour it through a fine-mesh strainer positioned over a 2-quart (2 l) pot; line the strainer with muslin for superclear broth. Discard the solids. You should have about 4 cups (1 l). Season with soy sauce for a strong salty flavor; if needed, add sugar (or maple syrup) to refine edges.
8Bring the strained broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Put the noodles in a noodle strainer or mesh sieve and dunk in the hot broth to heat and soften, 5 to 60 seconds.
9Lift the noodles from the pot and divide between the 2 bowls. Repeat the dunking with the peas (or beans) and mushrooms to lightly poach in the broth, 30 to 60 seconds, depending on the vegetable; divide between the bowls.
10Lower the heat on the broth to keep it hot while you add the tofu (if needed, warm it in the broth first), chopped green onion, cilantro, and sprinkling of pepper to the bowls.
11Taste and adjust the broth’s saltiness to your liking one last time. Return the broth to a boil, ladle into the bowls, and serve. Enjoy with any extras, if you like.
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