MEAT FREE MONDAY | Vietnamese Pho

14.1.13

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times
Every winter I always end up craving the same things. One of those is a beautful bowl of soup--spiced lentil soup or a creole soup with eddoes and dumplings (and meat)--that blankets me in warmth. So it was a pleasant surprise to have been confronted by tons of new eateries specifically geared to soups upon my return to the US. These soups were not just any soup, but Asia inspired soups from various countries. It was a difficult choice as they have all been delicious, but for this post, I decided to go with a new type of soup (came about in the 20th century) that is taking over Washington DC by storm--PHO.

Pho is a Vietnamese soup that comprises of three elements: the broth, the rice noodles and the toppings (meat, garnishes, etc.). Usually, the broth is made from chicken or beef, but as this is a Meat Free Monday Challenge, I did some investigating and found a recipe (similar to the Pho I tried) but without the meaty bits. What follows is a recipe for a simple Vegetarian Pho, enjoy! Is it bad that I am salivating just thinking about this?
INGREDIENTS

For the Broth

1 small unpeeled onion, quartered
2 unpeeled shallots, halved
8 garlic cloves, halved
ginger, coarsely sliced
2 (3 inch) cinnamon sticks
2 star anise pods
4 cloves
8 cups clear vegetable stock
3 tablespoons soy sauce
salt (to taste)

For the Soup

1 lb rice noodles
8 ounces seitan or 8 ounces fried tofu, sliced
6 scallions, thinly sliced (both green and white parts)
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts (approx)
basil or mint (a big handful, to taste) or cilantro leaf, left whole (a big handful, to taste)
1 lime, cut into wedges (for serving)
hoisin sauce (to taste)
sriracha chili paste (to taste)

Preparations
  1. To make the broth, heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, shallots, garlic, ginger, cinnamon sticks, star anise, and cloves and dry-roast, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to char. Add the stock and soy sauce and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 25 minutes. Strain into a clean pot and discard the solids. Taste the broth and add salt if necessary. Keep warm over low heat. 
  2. While the broth is simmering, prepare the rice noodles. Place the noodles in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over the noodles to cover and soak for 20 minutes.
  3. When you are ready to assemble the soup, add the seitan or tofu to the warm broth and allow to heat through. Drain the soaked rice noodles and divide evenly among 4 to 6 large bowls. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the seitan or tofu out of the broth and distribute among the bowls. Ladle the hot broth over the noodles. Serve the bowls of pho with the scallions, bean sprouts, herbs, lime wedges, hoisin sauce and chili sauce on a separate platter so that everyone can season their own soup as they wish.

Recipe taken from HERE

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