24 November 2012

vietnamese vegan noodle soup

Thich Nhat Hanh has been a spiritual guide for me since the late 1990's when his book Teachings on Love was just the right medicine for my depleted soul.  I've had many opportunities to study with my teacher since then and even met my husband while on retreat at Deer Park Monastery, the ultimate teaching on love!

In 2008 I went on a pilgrimage to Vietnam with 450 people from 41 countries, invited by my dear friend Jane and accompanied by lovely Holiday from Portland.  We were honorary delegates to the United Nations in Hanoi and visited orphanages and temples all over Northern Vietnam as a Sangha (community) celebrating Thich Nhat Hanh's return to his home country after 40 years of exile.

Most of my time in Vietnam was centered in Hanoi, where Pho (pronounced "Fuh") noodle soup was on the menu every day for both breakfast and lunch.  I learned a process for making the fragrant broth and cooking the rice noodles just enough.

Vegan Broth

8 cups water
3 T soy sauce
8 medium garlic cloves, crushed
1 small onion, diced
1-inch piece ginger, charred and sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
2 pods star anise
2 large bay leaves

 I've never been asked to char my ginger before, but for this recipe, I gladly skewer a thumb of ginger and blacken it over an open gas flame, like roasting a marshmallow.  First, sweat down the garlic and onion in a large stockpot.  Add soy sauce and water and bring to boil over medium heat.  Char ginger, slice into pieces, and add to stock.  Break cinnamon sticks and add, along with star anise and bay leaves.  Reduce heat to low and simmer partially covered for 20-25 minutes.  Strain out solids.  Return clear broth to pot and keep hot until ready to use.

Veg Pho Bo

8 cups Vietnamese style broth (above)
1 pound rice noodles
1/2 cup Asian cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup tender greens, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn into pieces
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
3 scallions, sliced thin
3 T unsalted peanuts, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
chili-garlic sauce

Nice options to add:  tempeh/tofu cubes - bean sprouts -mushrooms

When the broth has been simmering for about 10 minutes, soak the noodles as follows.  Bring 4 cups of water to boil.  Remove from heat, add noodles and let soak around 15 minutes, stirring now and then so noodles are pliable and separate easily.  Drain noodles and divide among six bowls.  Simmer mushrooms and tofu or tempeh in broth until heated through, then remove with slotted spoon and add to noodles.

Place fresh greens on top of noodles and ladle in the hot broth.  With this technique, the greens will retain their freshness, and the rice noodles will not be overcooked.  Serve with lime wedges, chili sauce, basil and cilantro, plus maybe some salt and pepper on the side.

The greens can be whatever is available from your garden and the quantity of greens to noodles is purely subjective.  Once you have a broth that you like, and your rice noodles are soaked rather than cooked, everything else is open to artistic interpretation.

This recipe is for my sister and brother, Kim and Tom.  Happy Holidays!

Adapted from Sally Bernstein, Vegetarian Journal 2000