Saturday, January 16, 2010
Pho with Tofu and Vegetables (E.A.T. World: Vietnam)
I'm jumping into the stove-top travel project E.A.T. World with a trip to Vietnam, for a steaming bowl of pho. If Vietnam has a national soup, this would be it. Pho typically features beef broth and fish sauce, but a rich broth of ginger, onions, star anise, cloves, and vegan "beef" broth powder (with a few more additions) packs more than enough great flavor.
A quick side note on the E.A.T. World format - I know I'm not sufficiently organized to do this alphabetically, so I'm using a random approach. Thus, starting with "V." My goal is to cover the alphabet in the next few months...at least I say that now :)
I've had pho (pronounced "fuh," by the way...you probably knew that, but I've said "fo" more than once), but never made it at home, so I scanned a few relevant cookbooks for ideas. My main source is Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table, by Mai Pham, another good library find. Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian has a nice faux pho recipe too. I'm used to soup being an easy and improvisational affair, but pho is nothing to mess around with. The key is the broth, so let's begin at the beginning.
Making Pho Broth
Pham's recipe for pho calls for toasting or charring the ginger, onions, and spices before adding to the soup broth. This makes sense, because roasting vegetables always brings out flavor that simple boiling does not. I charred the ginger and yellow onion over my gas stove burner, and peeled away the charred parts before adding to the broth. Here's the onion, which actually set off my smoke alarm.