Tuesday, September 1, 2009

phee phi pho phum....

So this whole saga started when I saw an innocent looking cube of "pho" bouillon at H-mart (my local asian grocery). I had no idea what pho was but my curiosity was peaked! It turns out that pho is basically the national dish of Vietnam and apparently totally tasty and totally not vegan....

Well I can't seem to walk away from a challenge to save my life so I decided to give it my best shot. I read all I could about Vietnamese Pho, including articles about how it should never be vegetarian and articles describing how it could be made vegetarian occasionally... I finally came up with this one.

At first I was afraid to even take a bite because the broth was a mysterious blackish color... but I was brave. Boy was I glad I was because it was was great. The flavors were rich and warming. Not only did I enjoy it but my husband (remember... the non-vegan) and my neighbor loved it too!!

I cannot attest to its authenticity, so if I made some critical misstep (besides the obvious ones... i.e. no fish sauce) feel free to let me know but please understand that this is pho-inspired more than actually pho. I have never had real pho and probably never will since it seems impossible to find a vegan version in a restaurant. Regardless I encourage you to be brave and wade into the murky blackness because the taste was exotic and delightful. It wasn't too difficult either!!

By the way if you want a lighter broth, strain it through cheesecloth or find whole components of all of the spices in the chinese 5 spice (ie whole cinnamon sticks, whole star aniseed etc..)

Vietnamese Pho, sort of

4 shallots
3 inches of ginger
25 basil leaves
12 cloves of garlic (DO NOT BE AFRAID... THEY WILL MELLOW OUT!!)
1 cup asian cooking wine
1/2 cup dried shitakes
2 heaping tsp chinese 5 spice blend
1 tsp dried cilantro
a lot of fresh ground black pepper (I used 30 cranks on my mill)
6 cups vegetable broth or water

1 block baked marinated tofu (I used a store bought "asian" flavor), cubed
1-2 cups napa cabbage chopped
2 green scallions chopped
1/2 cup basil leaves chopped

4 ounces rice pasta (the medium size that looks like linguine), soaked/cooked according to package directions

Optional garnishes:
chopped peanuts
hoisin sauce
Siracha sauce
Chopped fresh cilantro
lime wedges


  • Place all ingredients for broth in a large pot and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for an hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Strain out solids, reserving liquid.
  • Return the liquid to stove and add napa & tofu cooking 2-3 minutes.
  • Stir in basil and rice pasta and heat through
  • Toss in scallions and serve with various garnishes on side

Like I said... be brave and try it!! It wasn't even difficult!

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