Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What's Pho Dinner?

My husband always asks me 'What's for dinner?' For once this time, I answered PHO which is pronounced FOR? (you have to sing it like asking a question 'fuh?' according to my Vietnamese friend).
Vietnamese Pho noodle soup is traditionally made with beef. I veganized it and made it with TVP slices, beefy style. The most important aspect in making noodle soups is the broth. It has to be a tasty broth. I have been searching for good vegan Pho recipes and googled it but finally created the recipe myself by veganizing a traditional recipe I found in the Internet:  Recipe Source for non-vegetarian pho. We can order Vegetarian Pho from nearby Vietnamese Vegetarian restaurants(living in Southern California, we are blessed with many ethnic veg restaurants) but I always wonder if I can make it at home and found out that it was not hard at all. In fact, I didn't have to boil beef bones with marrow for hours like the original recipes. The vegetarian version can be made in a flash (especially if you have a good pressure cooker)!
The aroma of boiled parsnips and star anise is another story. I usually do not cook with parsnips and star anise. My husband said that it smelled "Pho-ooey!" and I was getting worried of how it will turn out. However, the final result was GREAT! The combination of parsnips, mushrooms, onions, gingers, shallots, cinnamon, cloves, and star anise in the broth is surprisingly delicious and the smell was not that bad after it was done cooking. I thought the broth was better than the restaurant version myself but I am bias since it is my own cooking. My husband as a critical judge claimed that it was GOOOOD and forgot about the pho-ooey smell.

Vegan Pho Noodle Soup

2 large onions
6 cloves shallots
4 oz whole ginger (about 2 large)
16 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
8 whole star anise
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
4 medium parsnips (about 1.5 lb total)
Better than Bouillon No Beef Base for 8 cups water
4-6 oz TVP slices, Japanese beefy style (1 pkg) or beefy seitan strips
6 oz oyster mushrooms, optional
1/4 cup vegetarian fish sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos or soy sauce or Toyomansi
12 cups water

1 lb rice noodles for pho (1/4 inch wide)   1/2 medium onions   1/2 cup cilantro sprigs   1 1/2 cups bean sprouts   1 bunch fresh mint leaves   1 bunch fresh Thai basil leaves

Chili Garlic sauce or Sriracha hot sauce   Vegetarian Hoisin sauce   Freshly ground black pepper   Lime wedges from 1 lime

Charring the vegetables:
  1. Peel the outer layer of the onions but not all the way, leave the last layer of the onion skin. Then, cut them in halves. Take each half and stud it with 4 whole cloves. There will be 4 halves studded with 16 whole cloves.
  2. Pound the whole ginger (unpeeled) with something heavy like a pestle or the back of a cleaver, two or three times. Leave the skins on the shallots but rub them with paper towels to clean the outer parts.
  3.  I use my oven broiler on high to bake the onion halves studded with cloves, smashed ginger roots, whole shallots on oiled baking pan. Turn them over after 10 minutes. Keep turning until most of the surface are charred. This process takes about 30 minutes depending on how hot your oven is. They don't have to be all blackened and charred but the onions and shallots should become soft. Let them cool and set aside. At this point, they can be refrigerated in a container.
Preparing Pho Broth: 
  1. Dissolve the bouillon paste in 12 cups hot water in a large soup pot or a 7-quarts pressure cooker pot.
  2. Take out some of the blackened skins of the onions, ginger, and shallots. Put them into the prepared broth.
  3. Wrap the star anise, cinnamon stick, and black peppercorns in a cheesecloth and then tie it tight with a string. Put this spice bag in the broth pot too.
  4. Peel the parsnips and cut them into 1-inch chunks. Put them into the broth pot. Boil this mixture for at least 1 hour. The faster method is to pressure cook them on high pressure for 30 minutes (this is what I did). Then use the quick release method when it is done.
  5.  Get another large pot ready and strain the ingredients that were boiled in the broth by using a colander or cloth. I throw away all the parsnips, onions, ginger, shallots, and the spices.
  6. At this time, add the 1/4 cup vegetarian fish sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos or soy sauce. I found that I didn't have to add salt since the bouillon paste is salty enough.
Preparing ‘meaty’ and topping ingredients: 
  1. While the broth is cooking, reconstitute the TVP slices in warm water (don't need to do this if using beefy seitan). Soak the rice noodles in warm water. Wash oyster mushrooms and tear them apart in large pieces. Slice the 1/2 medium onion very thin and soak them in warm water (to remove their strong juices). 
Drain the TVPs. Put them in the prepared Pho broth and simmer until they are soft, about 20-30 minutes. If using oyster mushrooms, put them in the last 5 minutes since they cook quickly. Preparing the raw vegetables and herbs:  
Wash the bean sprouts thoroughly and then drain them in colander. Wash the mint and basil leaves thoroughly and then drain in a colander. Cut the mint and basil leaves from the stalks. Serve them raw on top of a serving plate (see picture above).

Assembling the noodle bowl: 
  1. Boil 8 cups of water and throw in the soaked rice noodles and let it boil again, then drain quickly. Do not overcook the rice noodles which is done quickly in 2 to 3 minutes. It is not like pasta.
  2. Divide the drained noodles among large bowls. Drain the thinly sliced onions and divide them and put them on top of the noodles.
  3. Ladle the hot and boiling Pho broth with the TVP slices/beefy seitan strips and mushrooms on top of the noodles and serve them immediately with cilantro sprigs on top and the raw vegetables and condiments on the side. Tips: the broth needs to be boiling hot before you laddle it on the noodles.


Bryanna Clark Grogan said...

Wow! This is AMAZING! I have to get some "beefy slices" from West best Vegetarian in Vancouver pronto!

Dori said...

Love the title of your post. What's "pho" dinner tonight?

Anonymous said...

Love these pho dinner..Nice presentation too..Gr8 work!!

Unknown said...

Thank you all for your nice words!

Hopefully, you will have a chance to eat veg pho in a vegetarian restaurant.

Actually, I didn't learn to eat pho until I became a vegetarian.


Anonymous said...

Any chance you can post the location of the Vegetarian Vietnamese Restaurant? I would like to try the place out.

Unknown said...

The best I can think of is Au Lac Vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant. Check out this site: www.aulac.com

Unknown said...

I just had pho at Au Lac today!
Too bad it couldn't be better though, I grew up eating regular pho but since going Veg it's been hard finding good pho. Bodhi Tree Cafe in Huntington Beach has Pho also, but it's about the same as Au Lac.