Soup Saturday: Fast & Simple Veggie-Packed Vegan Pho
We’re in what feels like the fifth month of 2019 and January is only just officially over. For real though, was that not the longest 31 days of everyone’s life? Maybe it was the post-holiday exhaustion, or the ramp up to a new year that is incredibly exhilarating (all those possibilities of the promises you make to yourself that you absolutely won’t break this year, again). Some of you might say it was all the souping, but don’t blame my skewed perception of time on this glorious brothy friend, okay?
And though #JanStewary is now in the rearview mirror—#FebStewary has a nice ring to it, still…thoughts?—we wanted to wrap things up with one final soup recipe because we just can’t quit you, soup.
For all of you in a straight up polar vortex who might want something warm and soothing in your bellies, we bring to you today a recipe that Sara cooked up (literally and figuratively). It’s a take on pho, but totally vegan, jam-packed with veggies and an insanely flavorful broth. Here, we went with seared tofu because frankly, it looked really pretty, but I’d probably veer left from “vegan” the next time I eat this and add chicken meatballs (like the ones from last week’s recipe) or very thinly sliced rare beef like you find in Vietnamese restaurants for variety.
Instead of the typical rice noodles, we upped the fiber quotient with zoodles (just zucchini put through a spiralizer, though Sara said ribbons made with a standard potato peeler would probably work just as well if you don’t have one of those fancy contraptions…or just get them pre-made at Trader Joes or Whole Foods). Rainbow carrots are just darn pretty, though regular orange carrots are also perfectly fine. And heck, if you want to swap the zoodles entirely for rice noodles, that would also be great. This is SUPER versatile and so easy.
Pho broth gets its deep yummy flavor from cooking for like 9 hours or DAYS, but man…that’s a lot of time, so we took a few shortcuts and while it’s not by any means authentic, it does the trick for sure.
[Recipe adapted from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken]
WHAT YOU NEED
For the Broth:
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
Herbs, Spices & Pantry Goods
- 3 whole star anise
- 3 whole cloves
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced into coins
- 2 sticks of lemon grass, chopped into two-inch pieces
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tablespoons coconut aminos (or soy sauce)
- 1 tablespoon fermented red chili paste
- 2 L vegetable broth (8 cups)
For the Toppings (use whatever combo you like):
- Fresh basil (thai basil if you can find it)
- Fresh cilantro
- Fresh mint
- Fresh green onions
- Mung bean sprouts
- Hot peppers
- Unsalted peanuts, lightly ground or finely chopped
- Sautéed mushrooms
- Sautéed tofu (or meat of choice)
- Hot sauce
- Lime wedges
- 1 package zucchini noodles (or 3 zucchinis, spiralized)
- 1/2 bag shredded rainbow carrots (or 3 carrots, shredded)
- Hoisin sauce
HOW TO COOK IT
- In a pan on medium heat, toast your cinnamon stick, star anise and cloves until fragrant to bring out the flavors, careful not to burn them. Pho broth is usually cooked over several hours (or even days) so to achieve it in a shorter amount of time, we want to get as much flavor out of our ingredients as possible.
- In a large stockpot, add your broth, onion, garlic, lemongrass, garlic, toasted star anise, toasted whole cloves, and toasted cinnamon, to a large pot and bring to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for 20-30 minutes.
- While the soup simmers, prepare your tofu and mushrooms (if that’s your topping of choice). Remove your tofu from its packaging and using a towel, gently press as much liquid as possible from it.
- Slice your tofu into 1-inch squares OR 1/2 thick slices (as pictured). In a pan, add two tablespoons oil of your choice, along with one tablespoon chili paste. Heat over medium heat and add your tofu. Fry on all sides until golden brown all over. Remove and set aside to be used as toppings. Wipe out pan with a paper towel and put back on the stove for mushrooms.
- Slice your mushrooms into coin-thick slices (or use pre-sliced mushrooms). In the same pan, add 1 tablespoon oil and heat. Add sliced mushrooms and 1 teaspoon chili paste, and sauté until mushrooms are tender. Set aside to be used as toppings.
- To the simmered broth, add coconut aminos/soy sauce and chili paste, and taste. You can add more or less of aminos/soy sauce and chili paste depending on how salty or spicy you like your soup. Allow to simmer for 10 more minutes.
- If you’re going to be serving all your soup at once, you can strain it now using a mesh spoon or cheesecloth to remove all the solid ingredients. If you’re going to eat only a little at a time, we prefer to leave the solid ingredients in the soup to continue adding flavor every time the soup is heated. Add a handful of zucchini noodles and shredded carrots to a bowl and ladle hot broth over top. Allow to sit for a minute to soften the fresh veggies just a touch, then load up with toppings and enjoy!
A few of you asked last week about the bowls we were using for these photos, and while some of them were no longer available, we did round up six favorite bowl and spoon favorites below. Quick note on soup bowls: The elusive perfect soup bowl can be tricky. It should be deep enough that things aren’t dangerously sloshing out of the bowl (2.5 inches is GREAT), but wide enough that you have room for varied toppings (7-8 inches is ideal). Plus, those dimensions hold a good helping of soup so you’re nice and full. These are not “soup course” sizes. These are “entree” sized bowls, just how we like it.