FOODS WE LOVE: Pho
Pho is a traditional Vietnamese dish that began in the early 20th century as xáo trâu, a dish made of vermicelli noodles, onions and stir-fry buffalo meat. This dish became popular due to its being inexpensive and having easy-to-find ingredients. When the French colonized Vietnam, they altered the recipe to suit their taste, using beef instead. Beef and vermicelli did not taste so great together, so the dish came to be made with white rice noodles.
Varying ideas exist about where the word "ph?" comes from. One story suggests that when the French saw purveyors of coals (for the stove) they called them "feu" for fire, which is pronounced "pho" in Vietnamese. It is also believed that the word comes from the French dish "pot-au-feu," which means pot on the fire. And a third tale states that the word comes from the Chinese rice noodles Ho Fan, which eventually came to be the word "ph?" in Vietnamese.
This recipe for vegan pho with carrots, noodles and edamame comes to us via Martha Rose Shulman for the New York Times.
Vegan Pho With Carrots, Noodles and Edamame
-2 1/2 quarts pho broth (recipe below)
-3/4 pound rice noodles, preferably wide ones
-2 medium or 1 large carrot (about 5 ounces) peeled and cut in 1 1/2-inch julienne
-2 cups edamame (can use frozen, thawed)
-6 ounces tofu, cut in matchsticks
-1/2 cup Asian or purple basil leaves, or Italian basil, slivered
-4 scallions, chopped, or 1/4 cup chopped chives
-1 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
-Several sprigs fresh mint
-2 cups bean sprouts (mung are traditional) or slivered romaine leaves (chiffonade)
-2 to 4 bird or serrano chiles, finely chopped (to taste) or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (more or
less to taste)
-2 to 3 limes, cut in wedges
1. Have the broth at a simmer in a soup pot. Season to taste with cayenne if you are not using fresh chiles.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the noodles. Cook until just al dente, firm to the bite, following the timing instructions on the package (my wide noodles take about 5 minutes). Drain and divide among 6 large soup bowls.
3. Add the carrots and edamame to the simmering broth and simmer until just tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Ladle a generous amount of hot broth with the carrots and edamame into the bowls. Divide the tofu among the bowls. Sprinkle on half the cilantro, half the basil leaves and the scallions or chives. Pass the bean sprouts or lettuce, chopped chiles if using, the remaining basil and cilantro (if using), mint sprigs, and the lime wedges.
Serve with chopsticks for the noodles and soupspoons for the broth.
Yield: Serves 6
-1 large onion (about 1/2 pound), peeled and quartered
-1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger
-3 quarts water
-1 pound leeks (1 1/2 large), tough ends cut away, halved lengthwise, cleaned and cut in
-2 medium turnips (about 10 ounces), peeled and cut in wedges
-1 pound carrots (3 large), peeled and sliced thick
-2 ounces mushroom stems (from about 8 ounces mushrooms), or 4 dried shiitakes
-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 to 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (to taste), preferably raw brown sugar
-6 star anise pods
-5 whole cloves
-1 tablespoon black peppercorns
-One 2- to 3-inch cinnamon stick
-1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce (nuoc mam), to taste (optional)
1. Scorch the onion and ginger by holding the pieces above a flame with tongs, or in a dry frying pan if using an electric stove. Turn the pieces until they are scorched black in places on all sides. Slice the ginger lengthwise.
2. Combine the scorched onion and ginger with the water, leeks, turnips, carrots, mushroom stems or dried shiitakes, garlic, lemon grass, salt to taste and 1 tablespoon sugar in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Tie the spices in a cheesecloth bag and add to the soup. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add the fish sauce if using, and simmer for another hour (2 hours total, with or without the fish sauce). Strain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Taste and adjust salt and sugar.
Yield: 2 1/2 quarts, serving 6.
Advance preparation: The broth will keep for a few days in the refrigerator and can be frozen. The noodles can be cooked several hours ahead. Rinse them after draining and keep in a bowl. They will stick together after they cool but will loosen up when you reheat them in the broth. Just before serving reheat by dunking briefly into a pot of simmering water and draining (it helps to place them in a strainer or pasta pot insert).