I know, I know. I've been told many times that vegetarian pho is a contradiction in terms. Still, the fact remains that I don't eat meat, and I don't see why all the omnivores should always get all the pho fun. I mean, really.
For those not in the know, pho is this amazing Korean dish that involves a tasty beef or chicken broth, rice noodles, and oodles of yummy vegetables and fresh herbs. Throw in soy and hoisin sauce to your liking. If that description doesn't quite knock you off your chair, trust me, this stuff is freaking amazing. It's the crack of the soup world.
I've been trying to perfect vegetarian pho for months, often with really disturbing results. Some were sour, others were heavy, all were pretty awful. All, that is, until this batch. With this attempt I decided to simplify: focus on the main flavors. To my great joy, it worked!
3 medium heads of garlic
1.5 cups of rice noodles
bunches of fresh basil, mint, cilantro, chives, and/or lemongrass
about a lb. of fresh veggies: broccoli, snap peas, zucchini, onions, bean sprouts, and mushrooms all work well
1 tbs. olive oil
8 cups of water
salt and pepper to taste
Rooster hot sauce (optional)
soy sauce (optional)
hoisin sauce (optional)
Cut all three heads of garlic in half, and saute for about 15 minutes in the 1 tbsp. of olive oil. You want the garlic to be golden, but not brown.
Add the 8 cups of water and simmer for up to forty minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cook the rice noodles in a separate pot using the directions on the package. Most of the time this will call for cooking the noodles in boiling water for 6-8 minutes.
Just barely steam all the veggies. You want them to be soft, but with a bit of crisp left in them.
Putting it all together:
Put some of your rice noodles in the bottom of a good-sized pretty bowl. Put some broth on top, being careful not to get any huge chunks of garlic; you just want the brothy goodness. Add a handful of your steamed veggies. Throw some fresh herbs and a slice of lime on top. Add soy sauce, Rooster hot sauce, and hoisin sauce to your liking.
Eat with both chopsticks (or a fork, if so inclined) and a spoon. Enjoy!
Other things you might consider adding: steamed or fried tofu, star anise, cinnamon, Chinese 5 spice.