Happy Monday, my fellow Springdellians! Today we’ll attempt to travel to Vietnam using our taste buds, (and why not as the temperature is 82 degrees today!) I think we could all use some warming up and one yummy way to do so is with a warm pho.
For those of us that may be new to pho, it is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of a complex flavorful clear broth, rice noodles, meat and/or veggies as well as a lovely array of herbs and sprouts. The word pho is traditionally pronounced “fuh” though you often hear the “faux” pronunciation (check out this cute video that breaks down the subject).
You often see beef pho crafted with the assistance of oxtails. If you are fortunate enough to get your hands on grass-fed beef oxtails from Springdell and have some time and culinary curiosity, might I suggest this link to an authentic pho broth. I’ve recently picked up a beef oxtail from Springdell and look forward to sharing a recipe with it soon. Today, however, is Meatless Monday, so let’s keep it veggie, shall we?
The key ingredient of pho is the base of the soup, the broth. The best pho broths are slowly crafted, allowing the many ingredients a full opportunity to make their mark on the scrumptious liquid. I’ll be cheating a little bit by starting with a pre-made Springdell veggie broth and infusing it with some pho flavors.
This is what I put in the slow cooker last night before going to bed. It consisted of a bag of choice Springdell veggie scraps that I collect over time in a gallon freezer bag and freeze until the time is right. Some of the star scraps include tougher outer onion layers, parsnip and carrot nubs and peels, apple cores, leek greens, and the one ingredient that made it ready to roll, shiitake mushroom stems. I also tossed in some garlic, ginger, and bay leaves for good measure.
After straining it in the morning, I had a golden veggie broth to work with in making my pho broth. The veggie broth I didn’t need today was freezer-bound in 1 cup measurements, and the strained veggie scraps were finally laid to rest in the compost bag.
I then mixed the broth with some sautéed ingredients that bring on the pho. I simmered for about 40 minutes or so before draining it (I didn’t really pay attention to the time, as I was swept up with the kids.) At the same time, I sautéed the shiitake caps in some hoisin and sesame oil, fried up some tofu cubes, and assembled some herbs, sprouts and sauces. If the meal had more of my direct attention I would have cooked the mushrooms and tofu simultaneously, also coating the tofu in the hoisin-sesame sauce.
It was delicious. Glen and I totally devoured it. The broth is something special, and made me forget all about the snow and cold for just a spell. The shiitake’s were Glen’s favorite part, which was exciting because he wouldn’t touch mushrooms when we first met. The hoisin and sesame oil made them sweet and meaty in all the right places, and meat was not missed on the table this evening.
- 1 "block" (about 8 oz) rice noodles (found in oriental markets and most supermarkets)
- About 1/2 package of bean sprouts (see picture)
- Thai basil or mint
- 1 jalapeño with seeds sliced into circles (I used one frozen from the Springdell Summer CSA- perfect for pho!)
- 1 lime cut into wedges
- Sambal Oelek and Hoisin Sauce for the side
- Shiitake mushroom caps (the more, the merrier!)
- 1 package of firm tofu, well-drained and cut into 1/2 inch wide "sticks" (I accidentally opened a package of pre-cubed tofu, but I would have preferred the sticks)
- Oil for sautéeing (I used coconut oil)
- Sesame oil for flavoring (about a tsp, just to add a light coating to tofu an mushrooms)
- 1/2 medium onion
- 2 shallots, cut in half
- 6 giant garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
- about 1 inch piece of ginger, cut into quarters (or shaved if using a piece from the freezer)
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 star anise pods
- soy sauce to taste (I used braggs liquid aminos, about 3 tbsp)
- Toss the "broth" ingredients (except soy sauce and broth) into your pot and dry roast for several minutes while stirring, until starting to blacken a little.
- Add the broth and minimal soy sauce (you can add more later as needed) and bring to a simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste the broth and add more soy sauce as needed.
- Drain the broth after about 40 minutes of simmering and keep it warm until ready to serve.
- Meanwhile, while the broth simmers/warms, boil enough water to cover the rice noodles.
- When the water starts boiling, add the rice noodles and cook about 6 minutes, then drain and place in handfuls in serving bowls.
- Heat a large frying pan to medium heat and add oil.
- Toss shiitake caps and then tofu in a mix of 1 part sesame oil, 1 part hoisin sauce until lightly coated.
- Sautée both separately but in the same pan for 7ish minutes, until tofu is browned.
- Pour the broth (which should be finished when your sautée and noodles are ready to go) through a strainer (compost the solids) and then onto the rice noodles.
- Top the noodles with mushrooms, tofu and sprouts
- Place herbs, sprouts, lime and jalapeño slices on the side with a small helping of Sambal Oelek and hoisin sauce.