We're having some unseasonably cold weather here in Austin. It even rained yesterday, which is pretty unusual. To combat the chill, I decided to make the hot, spicy Vietnamese soup known as pho.
When Tony and I were first married, Tony worked near the Little Saigon neighborhood in Oklahoma City. At lunch, he would frequent the various pho cafes. Pho became one of his favorite foods. But because traditional pho is made with beef broth and contains chunks of beef, or sometimes tripe, I could never partake with him. He encouraged me to create a vegetarian version so that I could enjoy it, too. This is the recipe I've been making for years; he says it's pretty close to the real deal.
Rainy Day Pho (serves 4)
First, make the broth.
6 cups vegetable stock
4 cups water
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
8 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1-inch piece of ginger, chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
1/8 tsp. anise seed
In a soup pot, bring broth ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially uncovered, for 20 minutes. Strain out the solids and return broth to soup pot.
While the broth is simmering, prepare the fixins. Keep each in a separate small bowl.
7 oz. rice noodles, uncooked
4 oz. firm tofu, cut in 1/4" cubes
4 heads of baby bok choy, chopped*
1 large carrot, grated
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
1/4 cup peanuts, crushed
2 limes, cut in wedges
2 jalapenos, minced
*Prepare baby bok choy as you would a bunch of celery: chop off the base and discard, then slice the stems and leaves.
Now bring it all together. Add the baby bok choy to the broth and cook for 5 minutes, covered, at a gentle simmer. Meanwhile, portion the rice noodles and tofu into four large soup bowls. Pour the baby bok choy and hot broth over the noodles and tofu and allow to sit for 5 minutes, in order to cook the noodles and heat the tofu. Top with carrot, basil, cilantro, scallions, peanuts, and jalapeno. Squirt fresh lime juice on top and serve.
Note -- I actually ladled more broth into my pho after taking this picture. It may seem like there is a lot of broth, but that's as it should be. Slurp the broth as you are eating the noodles. It's not rude -- you're supposed to slurp it!