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.
This pho does not cleverly fake beef or chicken pho, but it echoes the seasonings and satisfying spirit of a good bowl of pho noodle soup. The mushrooms add meatiness, the tofu lends protein, and the quickly cooked green vegetables inject color and flavor. To make things easier for yourself at pho assembly time, make the seared tofu in advance." –Andrea Nguyen, The Pho Cookbook (Ten Speed Press, 2017)
Reprinted with permission from The Pho Cookbook: Easy to Adventurous Recipes for Vietnam’s Favorite Soup and Noodles by Andrea Nguyen, copyright © 2017. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.
- 3/4-inch section ginger
- 2 medium-large green onions
- 1 1/2 inches cinnamon stick
- 1 or 2 whole cloves
- 1 star anise (8 robust points total)
- 3 1/2 to 4 cups low-sodium or regular vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- About 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 5 ounces dried narrow flat rice 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 cilantro, leafy tops only
- Ground black pepper (optional)
- Hoisin (optional)
- Chile sauce (optional)
- Saté or peanut sauce (optional)
- Garlic vinegar (optional)
Peel then slice the ginger into 4 or 5 coins. Smack the coins with the flat side of a knife or meat mallet; 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.
In a 3- to 4-quart pot, toast the cinnamon, cloves, and star anise 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 the heat, wait 15 seconds to slightly cool, then pour in the vegetable broth. Return the pot to the burner, then add the water and salt. Bring the broth to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to gently simmer for 30 minutes.
While the broth simmers, soak the rice noodles in hot water until pliable and opaque. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
Prepare 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 2 large triangles. Set aside.
Cut the snap peas in half lengthwise; or cut the green beans into short lengths. Slice the mushrooms about 1/4-inch thick. Set aside to poach later.
When the broth is done, pour it through a fine-mesh strainer positioned over a 2-quart pot; line the strainer with muslin for a super-clear broth. Discard the solids. You should have about 4 cups. Season with soy sauce for a strong salty flavor; if needed, add sugar (or maple syrup) to refine the edges.
Bring the strained broth to a boil over medium-high heat. Put the noodles in a noodle strainer or mesh sieve and dunk them in the hot broth to heat and soften, 5 to 60 seconds. Lift the noodles from the pot and divide them 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.
Lower 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.
Taste and adjust the broth’s saltiness to your liking one last time. Return the broth to a boil and ladle into the bowls. Enjoy with any extras, if you like.