After a few beautiful, warm days last week, good old rain came back to pay us a visit on Tuesday with cold, howling winds. I decided to make pho for dinner as nothing can be more comforting than a highly flavorful veggie broth ladled over bowls of rice noodles, veggies, tofu and herbs on a chilly night. Pho pronounced as “fuh” is a Vietnamese noodle soup made with chicken or beef broth. While many pho lovers may laugh at the idea of vegetarian pho, this recipe is proof that you can really make a delicious vegetarian pho. Ginger, garlic and onions are slightly charred and cooked with other spices to make this delicious veggie broth. Star anise is the real star in this recipe which gives pho its distinct flavor. Steamed veggies in the noodle soup is optional. I usually make a large batch to carry forward for lunch the following day and I feel they longer they sit, the flavors meld better.
To make the broth, dry roast onion, shallots, ginger, garlic and dry spices over medium heat until they begin to char. Add water or low sodium veggie broth, carrots and broccoli and bring it to a boil.
Pan fry tofu with just a tablespoon of oil until golden brown on both sides, cut into cubes and set aside.
Cook rice noodles/stick according to package instructions. I used Dynasty Maifun rice sticks from Target.
Ingredients for the broth
1 small onion, quartered
2 shallots, halved ( I used pearl onions)
8 cloves of garlic, halved
1 one inch piece of ginger, sliced
2 three inch cinnamon sticks
2 pods of star anise
8 cups clear low sodium vegetable broth/water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 carrots, roughly chopped
handful of broccoli florets
Ingredients for the soup
1 pound rice noodles ( I used rice sticks)
8 ounces seitan or fried tofu, sliced ( I pan-fried the tofu)
6 scallions/green onions, thinly sliced (both green and white parts) ( I didn’t use)
4 cups steamed vegetables (optional, I used carrots and broccoli)
1 cup bean sprouts ( I did not use)
handful of basil, mint or cilantro leaves, left whole ( I used mint and cilantro)
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 tablespoon oil
chili paste (optional)
1. Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, shallots, ginger, and whole spices. Dry roast them, stirring occasionally until the vegetables begin to char.
2. Add carrots, broccoli, veggie broth or water, soy sauce and bring to a boil over high heat.
3. Turn the heat down to low and cover the pot. Let it simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Strain into another pot and discard the solids.
5. Add salt and keep the broth warm over low heat.
6. To pan-fry the tofu, drain the water from tofu, sprinkle some salt on both sides of tofu and set it aside for 15minutes. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan and when its hot, pat dry tofu with a paper towel and place the block of tofu on the pan and cook it till turns golden brown. Flip it over and cook till the other side turns golden brown. Each side takes about 3-4 minutes to cook on medium heat.
7. You could add tofu to the broth and warm it up or serve them on the side. If you decide to add tofu to the broth, add at this stage and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Scoop it out of the broth and divide among bowls.
8. Cook rice noodles according to package instructions. Divide them among 4 bowls.
9. Add steamed veggies to the bowl and ladle hot broth over the noodles and veggies.
10. Serve hot with garnished with scallions/spring onions and bean sprouts, herbs, lime wedge and chili paste on the side.