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Winter Warmers from Vietnam

By Guest Blogger Abby Reider

After the holidays have passed and the excitement of that first snowfall dissipates, even the most winter-loving among us can become restless as the cold months roll on. If you’re lucky, you may have the opportunity to travel toward the equator to chase long days and warm nights. For the rest of us, we'll have to take a gustatory vacation in our kitchens instead. We're busting the winter blahs and heading to southeast Asia with this warm and spicy Pho soup that celebrates the exotic flavors, vibrant cities, and dramatic landscapes of Vietnam. YUMZA!

Vegetarian Vietnamese Pho  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large onion (about 1/2 pound), peeled and quartered
  • 1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger (no need to peel)
  • 3 quarts (12 cups) water
  • 1 pound leeks (about 2 large), tough ends cut away, halved lengthwise, cleaned and cut in thick slices
  • 2-3 medium turnips (about 10 ounces), peeled and cut in wedges
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced thick
  • 8 ounces Shitake mushrooms, stems separated from caps
  • 1 head of garlic, cut in half (no need to peel)
  • 2 stalks lemon grass, trimmed, smashed with a pestle or side of a large knife, and sliced
  • Salt to taste
  • Soy sauce, wheat-free tamari, or Bragg’s Amino Acid to taste
  • 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons raw brown sugar (to taste)
  • 6 star anise pods
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • A 2- to 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 12 ounces flat brown rice noodles (often advertised as made for pho or Pad Thai, in Asian section of grocery store. I use brown rice noodles because they have fiber, whereas white rice noodles usually do not.)
  • 1 bunch dark leafy greens (preferably red kale, but can substitute your favorite), leaves removed from tough stalks and torn into bite-sized pieces.
  • 4-5 green onions, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil (preferably Asian, Thai, or purple basil if available)
  • 1 bunch fresh mint sprigs
  • 3-4 limes, cut in wedges
  • 3-4 serrano or Thai chiles (or chiles of your choice), finely diced
  • 2 cups fresh bean sprouts
  • Optional condiments: hoison sauce, fish sauce and/or siracha.

PREPARATION

BROTH:

  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 onion and ginger with the water, leeks, turnips, carrots, mushroom stems, 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 or disposable loose-leaf tea bag and add to the soup. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 2 hours. Strain through a strainer, using a cheesecloth if available.  Discard vegetables and seasonings.  Taste and adjust salt and sugar, and carefully add soy sauce or alternative to taste.

PHO:

  1. Return broth to very light simmer and add shitake mushroom caps.
  2. For rice noodles: Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the noodles and cook until just al dente, following the instructions on the package.  Rice noodles cook very quickly, often within 3-5 minutes, so keep a close eye on them and drain as soon as they are just al dente.  Drain and divide among 6 soup bowls.
  3. Add the leafy greens to the broth and remove from stove as soon as the leaves wilt, approximately 20-30 seconds.  Ladle the broth, mushrooms, and greens into the bowls over the rice noodles.  Sprinkle on half the cilantro, half the basil leaves, and all the green onions.  Pass the chopped chiles, mint sprigs, remaining basil, remaining cilantro, bean sprouts, and lime wedges.  Optionally, serve with hoison sauce, fish sauce, and siracha for guests to add as desired.  The broth should be very flavorful as is, so often these extra condiments are not necessary and may cover up the delicate flavors of the broth.  Serve with chopsticks and soup spoons.

NOTES

  • The broth can be made ahead of time.  It will keep in the refrigerator for a few days and can be frozen.
  • I encourage using organic and local produce whenever possible, to support your health and our planet’s.
  • This recipe is low-calorie and low-fat.  It can easily be made gluten-free by using a soy sauce alternative.

Abigail Reider, MSW is a mental health clinician and wellness coach.  She helps her clients optimize their overall wellness through a holistic, science-backed approach that supports the intersection of mental, physical, and spiritual health.  Abigail loves to share her knowledge from years of studying psychology and wellness, practicing yoga and mindfulness, and eating a mostly organic, plant-based diet.  Follow her on Twitter at @AbbyRd and on Facebook [www.facebook.com/abigail.reider] for inspiration, education, recipes, and tips.


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