I've been on a Pho kick since my visit to Pho restaurant in Brighton, and this is the basic recipe on which I've settled for my own recipe. Call it what you will (it's more like "fuh" in Vietnamese, but in English I think "delicious" as as adequate a name as any), there are as many versions of this soup as your imagination can fabricate (and then some). This staple Vietnamese dish , often a breakfast soup, can be prepared in a number of different ways dependant on its diner's preference. There are regional variations to take into consideration, as well as personal choice in ingredients.
This vegetarian version, phở chay in the local tongue, plays by the same rules as all other variations of this popular noodle soup: consumers add condiments to suit their own tastes, hence making each bowl of phở unique to the person consuming it.
Like with most soups, the broth is the most important part of the recipe for this vegan friendly pho, so make sure you don't skimp on brewing time. A minimum of one hour is recommended.
It may seem odd to skip the peeling of the vegetables, but you're going to strain the broth before serving anyway, and the shallot skins do add some colour to the stock. Plus it's just less a pain in the arse to have to worry about peeling stuff, right?
When the soup is served, tear leaves of the spices to add to your bowl, along with some bean sprouts and whatever other condiments strike your fancy. I'd start with only a couple leaves of each- after all, you can always add more!
Absolutely Pho-bulous Vegetarian Pho (Phở Chay)
- Pound the cinnamon, anise, coriander and cumin seeds in a pestle and mortar for a minute until the seeds are crushed. Add the ginger and garlic and pound into a vague paste. Don't worry about perfection- a few chunks aren't going to be an issue (and don't worry about peeling the garlic either, unless you particularly want to do so). Heat the oil in a large stock pot and fry the spice mix for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant.
- Add the celery, carrot, shallots, and fresh coriander to the pot and continue to fry for another 4-5 minutes. When the vegetables are soft and beginning to char a little, tip in the water.
- Throw all of the remaining broth ingredients in the pot: salt, soy sauce, palm sugar, and dried shiitake mushrooms. Cover and leave to simmer over a low heat for about an hour.
- Meanwhile, get the condiments and other phở ingredients ready. Heat an inch or two of oil in a wok or other vessel worthy of deep frying and fry the tofu pieces to a light brown outer appearance. Remove with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on kitchen roll.
- Close to serving time, prepare the rice noodles per the packet's instructions (around 50g per person is a good starting point) and divide between bowls. Sprinkle some chopped spring onion over the noodles and add the tofu pieces.
- When the broth is ready, strain to remove the spices and vegetables. If you're using mushrooms, place the stock back on the hob and add the mushrooms, leaving to cook just until the mushrooms are ready. Ladle some broth (including the mushrooms) into the bowls and serve hot.
- Pile fresh leaves of basil, mint, and coriander (cilantro) on a plate, alongside a couple handfuls of bean sprouts and some sliced chilies to serve. Oh, and don't forget some lime wedges! Some of my other favourite condiments for noodle soup include sri racha, extra soy sauce, toasted sesame seeds.