And I think we should up the ante by trying our hand at a favorite of mine, pho. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese soup usually consisting of rice noodles, fresh herbs, and either chicken or beef. I love this dish for its amazingly aromatic broth; it's like an Asian version of chicken noodle soup.
Since we are trying to incorporate more of a plant based diet into our lives, I thought I would monkey around with a traditional recipe to find a more veggie friendly version. What we've got is a fabulous vegetarian broth (if you omit the optional fish sauce) that will warm your soul on a chilly end of winter's night.
Now, you're going to freak out.
Either by the list of ingredients or the phrase "char the onion over an open flame" or the word "cheesecloth." But don't! Yes, this appears to be a little more intricate than usual, and it does take some time. And, I believe that you can do it! So let's dive in!
|Big bowl of yummy.|
For the broth
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 3" piece ginger
1 turnip, cut into large chunks
1 lb carrots, cut into large chunks
2 leeks, white and light green parts
8 oz button mushrooms
2 stalks lemongrass
6 star anise
5 whole cloves
5 cardamom pods
1 2-3" cinnamon stick
1 tsp black peppercorns
12 cups water
1 tsp fish sauce (optional)
thinly sliced onion
fresh cilantro and basil
Using tongs, char the onion and ginger over an open flame. If you have an electric stove, blacken the onions and ginger in a dry non-stick skillet. Slice ginger in half lengthwise.
Trim the lemongrass, and bruise by whacking the stalks with the back of your knife. (Kind of like you are chopping with the dull side.) Cut into small chunks.
In a large stock pot, add onions, carrots, leeks, mushrooms, turnip, ginger, and lemongrass. Place star anise, cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, and cinnamon stick in a cheesecloth pouch and add to the pot. (Don't have cheesecloth, use a tea ball!) Cover with 12 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered for 2 hours. After an hour, season with salt (or fish sauce, if you are using).
After two hours, remove spice pouch and drain through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth (paper towels or coffee filters will work, too) discarding solids.
Voila! Pho broth.
Now it's kind of "build your own" from here. Traditional garnishes are rice noodles, herbs, onions, and chiles. I like adding edamame and snow peas in mine. But play around!
To cook rice noodles, soak them in cold water for about twenty minutes. Throw into boiling water for three minutes and drain. They are going to stick, but to lessen the stickiness invert a small bowl in the colander so the noodles can drape over it.