faux pho

soup, post-garnishesI haven’t eaten true pho before, since it involves a whole lot of meat.  We had JN over for a vegan dinner the other night, however, and I was excited to make Faux Pho, both the recipe and the pun created by Bittman in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Honestly, it reminds me of a far better version of those instant rice noodle soups that got me soup, pre-garnishesthrough my first year of teaching – but far better.  It’s very flexible in terms of what goes in it, which makes this an easy soup to make as long as you have some basics around (as rice noodles will now be a staple here). I really like the serve-yourself aspect of having the basic soup served to each person, with little bowls of garnish (not just for decoration – it’s a bulky part of the soup) to add individually.

Nick and I made this once before as a meal in and of itself. Even better, this time we served it with seitan, homemade by JN, that we made into coconut-lemongrass roasted seitan (to be posted next).  It was a pretty amazing meal.

Serves 4.garnishes

8 oz thin dried rice vermicelli
2 tb peanut or vegetable oil
2 tb minced garlic
1 tb peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground anise or coriander seeds
1/2 tsp ground cloves, cinnamon, or nutmeg
1/4 to 1/2 cup soy sauce
2 bay leaves, optional
4 stems cilantro or more for garnish
4 stems fresh basil or mint for garnish
1 fresh chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced for garnish
2 scallions, chopped, for garnish
2 limes, cut into wedges, for garnish
1 cp fresh mung bean sprouts, rinsed, for garnish
1 lb/4 cps sliced fresh vegetables, like bok choy, cabbage, mustard greens, broccoli, carrots, green beans, summer squash, or a combination (we had carrots, sorrel, asparagus, and mushrooms – I think the sorrel was a little too delicate for this meal)
1 cp diced tofu or cooked, shelled edamame, optional (we cut the tofu into small cubes, tossed with a tsp of soy sauce and a tsp of sesame oil, and baked for an hour at 400 degrees)
salt and fresh pepper

1. Cook the vermicelli in boiling salted water until almost tender, 2-4 minutes. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
2. Put the oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, for about a minute. Add the spices and stir until warm and fragrant – about a minute more.
3. Stir in 6 cups of water, the soy sauce, and optional bay leaves. Bring to a boil and then down to a simmer – let it bubble gently, covered while you get all the garnishes ready.
4. Arrange the garnishes on platters or bowls. Add the vegetables and optional tofu to the soup, turn the heat to medium high, cover, and cook until the veggies are just tender, 3-5 minutes more. Stir in the rice vermicelli and heat until the noodles are ready. Taste, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in big bowls, passing the garnishes at the table.

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