I love a pho any day. It’s always bursting with unique flavours from the spices, fresh herbs and seasonal ingredients. In the middle of spring, I wanted to share a veggie version, as it is perfect for using the fresh produce coming into season right now. With still quite a few cold days around, a warming soup just hits the spot and on a hot day, this soup will help you cool down. The perfect Spring dish, if you ask me.
A veggie pho is prepared a lot quicker than the equally delicious chicken pho. To add protein to this plant based version I went for mushrooms, but tofu works fine too or go for both if you like. As for veggies to add, the world is your ‘pho oyster’. I love dark green calvo nero, carrots, spring onions, turnips, broccoli or asparagus . This is why this soup works so well all year round. Just chose from what mother nature has on offer at any given time. Rice noodles or for those of you, how are ‘carb-conscious’, courgetti, complete this dish.
From a nutritional perspective you can expect a fair share of antioxidants from all the fresh seasonal ingredients , as they are added towards the end, which means they keep more of their nutrients than their cooked counter parts. Served in a soothing and warming veggie broth, the perfect dish for a Spring day ! If you like it hot, you can add some chili to your liking.
Veggie broth Pho – serves 2-3
1 tbsp of coconut oil
4 small cloves of garlic- crushed or finely chopped
2 shallots sliced
1 medium hot chili – pierced or cut in half for more heat ( remove seeds to control the heat of the chili)
2 stalks of lemon grass sliced
2-3 inches of ginger finely chopped
Spices : 2 whole star anise; 1 cinnamon stick; (spice mix: 1 tsp of ground coriander , 1/2 tsp of ground fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp of dried ginger, 2-3 ground black pepper corns, 1 ground clove, 1 tsp of coconut sugar- alternatively mix in 1-2 tsp of 5 Chinese spice )
1-2 tbsp tamari sauce
1.5 -2 litres of organic vegetable stock
1-2 tsp of lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste
Garnish per person
1/2 carrot finely sliced or shredded
2-3 dried (soaked) or fresh Shiitake mushrooms- per person
1 Carrot or Jerusalem artichoke finely sliced or shredded ( add some lemon juice to the Jerusalem artichoke, so it keeps its colour)
1 spring onion sliced
1 cup of Cavlo Nero, savoy cabbage or kale ( roughly chopped and blanched with boiling water)
1- 2 tbsp mung bean and alfafa sprouts
1/4 fresh lime per person
1 cup of rice noodles or courgetti (optional)
Extra chili sliced (optional)
A handful of fresh mint, coriander, Thai basil
First heat the oil in a large pot and gently fry the garlic, ginger and shallots at medium to low heat until golden brown, then add spice mix and cook for a minute or two to enhance the flavour of the spices. Keep stirring to mix spices and other ingredients well. Careful not to burn the spices, take the pot off the hob if needed. Next add hot vegetable stock, lemongrass, star anise and cinnamon stick – cover with a lid and simmer at a low heat for 45minutes to 1 hour.
In the meantime, prepare the garnish. Cook the noodles according to the packaging until ‘al dente’, drain, rinse with cold water and set aside. If using dried mushrooms, it’s best to soak them in cold water for a few hours. Hot water speeds up the process. Adding the soaking water to the broth gives it some extra delicious flavour. Wash the vegetables. Shred the carrots and/or jerusalem artichokes. Slice the spring onions. Roughly chop the calvo nero.
Once the broth is ready, remove the spices by straining the broth through a sift, return the clear broth to the pot and add tamari, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, simmer for another few minutes before serving. I like to keep the spices in the soup for further infusion, but this is optional.
For extra freshness I usually prepare the other vegetables 10 minutes before serving. They also look super nice served on a big plate for guests or yourself to choose from.
Serve the piping hot broth in a nice deep soup bowl with fresh ingredients and rice noodles with a side of kimchi salad.