Asian food is fascinating to me. I can only describe it as complex and mysterious. Dishes are flavorful and layered. Recipes have long ingredient lists and many steps resulting dishes that are sweet and savory, bitter and sour.
I am not trying to make generalizations. I know that there are a million different cuisines that can be categorized as Asian. Growing up I only knew of two: Chinese (oily broccoli chicken) and Japanese (bad sushi). Now, having had really good Japanese, Thai, Korean, and Vietnamese food I know how terrible the foods (no offence!) I enjoyed as a really were. Since, I have learned to appreciate the subtleties, and the differences that make these cuisines amazing. I only want to learn more.
I first experienced Pho while at college. With bitter winters and architecture school to deal with, our only escape was a handful of college town restaurants. Strangely enough, these were all Asian. One by one, I was introduced to an array of cuisines that were once non-existent. I ate Korean, and fell in love with bibimbap. I ate Thai, and fell in love with papaya salad. I ate Indian, and fell in love with curried vegetable soups. I ate Vietnamese, and fell in love with it all. From the pho, to the spring rolls, and don’t get me started on the salad.
This is my homemade attempt at making a very special dish. Pho has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, and for good reason. It is satisfying and tasty, full ingredients that make every bite special. This Vietnamese dish is typically made with beef or chicken broth, rice noodles, vegetables, and herbs. The most important part of Pho is its broth. Full of aromatic spices, such as anise and cinnamon, broth has to cook slowly. Variations on this dish as endless; here is mine.
This recipe is clean and flavorful. The broth is made using an array of vegetables and spices. It is aromatic and full of a satisfying umami flavor. Instead of using traditional vermicelli, I peeled parley root into slivers to resemble noodles, a brilliantly delicious substitution! Green vegetables add crunch and texture. Topped it off with crispy baked tofu, fresh cilantro, and scallions this soup is delicious, complex.
Cook time 60 minutes
- 1 onion cut into quarters
- 3 carrots
- 2 inch piece of fresh ginger
- 1 tsp. coriander seeds
- 1 tsp. mustard seeds
- ½ tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 tbsp. tamari (or soy sauce)
- ½ tbsp. sea salt
- 6 cups water
- 1 large parsley root (peeled into slivers)
*you can also use parsnip or carrots if parsley root not available
- 6 ounces extra firm Tofu
- Pinch of salt
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1 cup broccolini (alternatively, use cauliflower, or broccoli)
- 1 cup string beans (alternatively, use snap peas)
- Handful Cilantro chopped (basil or parsley could work too)
- 3 scallions
- ½ cup mung bean sprouts
- *Quantities of garnishes are flexible and can vary to your taste
- Lime wedges
To make broth, start by peeling and cutting onions and carrots. Cut unpeeled ginger into ¼” slices. Place all vegetables and spices, including soy sauce and salt into a large pot with 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for an hour. Strain broth through a sieve, and discard solids. Return broth to pot, and set aside over very low heat until ready to assemble.
If you are using baked tofu, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut tofu into ½” slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Place in a large baking sheet. Cook for 20 minutes. Tofu should be crispy on the edges. Remove from oven and set aside.
To prepare noodles, start by washing the parsley root. Cut both ends, and peel outer skin. Using a vegetable peeler, peel away noodle sized pieces. A large parsley root should yield approximately 1 cup of “noodles”.
Clean and slice remaining garnishes as necessary. If desired, you can quickly cook broccolini and string beans in a pot with boiling water for 2-3 minutes to reduce bite.
To assemble pour about 1 cup of broth into separate bowl. Add about ¼ cup of noodles into each bowl, then vegetables, herbs, and additional garnishes. Eat hot. Enjoy!