Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Vegetarian Pho

We served this at our rehearsal dinner, and this was my first attempt to make it on my own.  The recipe is based off of several recipes, including my mom's but the basis is from the New York Times. This is one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes. My aunts are so good at making it since they have had years of perfecting their recipes! The important thing for this recipe is to have the highest quality ingredients from the freshest vegetables and herbs (from the garden or the farmer's market) you can find to the most fragrant spices (we hit up Penzy's in the strip).

For the broth:
1 large white onion, unpeeled and quartered
1 5-inch piece of fresh ginger, unpeeled
3 quarts water
1 large leek, cleaned and cut in thick slices
5 small turnips, cut in half
3 large carrots
8 shiitake mushroom stems
1 head of garlic, cut in half
2 stalks lemon grass, trimmed, smashed with the side of a knife, and sliced
Salt to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons raw brown sugar (rock sugar is ideal) 
7 star anise pods
6 whole cloves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons fish sauce

Scorch the onion and ginger on all sides by holding the pieces above a flame with tongs. This is the fun part! There will be noticeable black spots.

Slice the ginger into coin slices once cool enough to handle.
Cook the spices in the empty soup pot until fragrant, just a couple minutes. Tie the spices in a cheesecloth bag. Combine the scorched onion and ginger with the water, leeks, turnips, carrots, mushroom stems, garlic, lemon grass, salt to taste and sugar in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Add the spice bag. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add the fish sauce if using, and simmer for another hour. Pull out the spice bag if the spices are strong enough. I like to keep the vegetables in the pot and just ladle out the broth to serve. Taste and adjust salt and sugar.

Pho toppings and add-ins:
pho rice noodles (you can get fresh noodles in the strip- so good) 
1 small onion, sliced paper thin
thai basil 
chopped cilantro
fresh mint
mung bean sprouts
thai chilies, finely chopped 
3 to 4 limes, cut in wedges
plenty of fresh ground pepper
sriracha sauce
hoisin sauce

To make individual bowls, just cook the rice noodles until al dente. Then place the noodles into each bowl. Ladle hot broth over the noodles. Add in sriracha, hoisin sauce, and lime to taste. Then add in the onion and fresh herbs to taste. I like plenty of onions, thai basil, and mung beans.

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