Whenever I tell someone that I am Vietnamese, they would often say to me “Oh I love Pho”. It is funny and endearing at the same time how the conversation of food always ties in with the conversation of my nationality. I don’t take any offence in this. I don’t see people going around saying “You’re British? I love fish and chips”. So I take pride in the way Vietnamese food could leave such a positive impression in people's hearts.
(I do love fish and chips though, but that is a whole different blog post)
To many people, Pho is the national dish of Vietnam. It is only fitting that vegan pho is our first recipe on the Eat Chay Blog.
The Pho Story
Many believe that Pho was first created under the influence of French cuisine in Vietnam in the 18th century. The French brought into the country different cooking techniques and the heavy use of meat, especially beef. The richness of pho broth is traditionally achieved by simmering beef bones overnight. Now every family has their own recipe. Here at Eat Chay, we took a step back to before the heavy use of meat was introduced, and create a recipe that celebrates the fragrant spices and the sweetness of vegetables, without the unnecessary impurities.
4 liter of water
1 knob of ginger
3-4 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
2 black cardamom
3 tbsp of coriander seeds
Tofu and mushroom for toppings
Flat rice noodles
Fresh basil, beansprouts, coriander and limes or lemons
STEP 1: MAKE THE BROTH
Peel, wash and cut vegetables into small chunks.
Add to a big pot and fill with about 4 liter of water. Allow pot to boil for 1-2 minutes before lowering heat to a simmer.
Tip: If you do not have all the vegetables in the ingredient list, do not worry! The more types of vegetables you have, the better depth of flavour the broth will achieve. Just use whatever you have on hand.
STEP 2: PREPARE THE SPICES
Preheat your oven to 180C.
Peel and wash the knob of ginger. Leave the ginger whole and slightly pierce both sides using a knife.
Peel and cut the onion in half.
Place coriander seeds in a small ramekin.
Place coriander seeds, onion and ginger in the pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes.
Dry roast cinnamon, cardamom and star anise on a pan for 5-7 minutes on medium heat, or until fragrant.
Add all of these spices into tea bags and place them in the broth pot. Allow broth to boil for 5 minutes before lowering heat to a simmer. Allow broth to simmer for at least 30 minutes.
Tip: You can dry roast all of the spices or roast all of the spices in the oven. I found that the above method works out the best in terms of achieving the best fragrance without the risk of burning the spices. If you do not have tea bags, just add all spices into the broth and strain them out before serving.
STEP 3: PREPARE YOUR TOPPINGS
Cook your noodles according to the package’s instruction.
You can add whichever toppings you want. Mushroom, tofu, tempeh, stir fried vegetables, you name it! Go ahead and prepare those now.
Prepare your fresh herbs and cut your lime or lemon into wedges. Which herbs you use is completely up to your preferences.
Tip: You might want to add a tablespoon of oil while cooking the noodles to prevent sticking and rinse the cooked noodles with cold water to stop the cooking process.
STEP 4: SEASON THE BROTH
Add 2-3 tablespoons of vegan fish sauce. Omit the vegan fish sauce if you do not have it on hand. However I do believe that it makes a world of a difference!
Season to taste with salt and pepper. I am not recommending the exact amount, because depending on different types of vegetables you used, the sweetness of the broth will vary.
To mimic the fat that tradition pho gets from the beef bones, you could add 1-2 tablespoons of any type of vegetable oil into the broth. This is not necessary if you want to cut down your fat intake.
Bring broth to a boil. Then serve and enjoy!
Tip: To serve, lay the noodles at the bottom, your toppings and chopped spring onions on top then pour in the hot broth so that all the flavours from the broth are infused with everything in your bowl.
I’m from Hanoi, so I like to eat mine with lots of coriander, a touch of lime and Sriracha sauce. Southerners eat theirs with lots of beansprouts and hoisin sauce! Enjoy this recipe however you like.