Faux Vegan Pho
Many of you may relate to an experience I had recently when an acquaintance invited me to join her for her ‘favourite meal ever’.
This turned out to be a very popular suburban Vietnamese restaurant specialising in Pho – a traditional soup of broth, rice noodles, herbs, fish sauce and meat – usually beef or chicken.
A much-loved street food in Vietnam, often a breakfast meal, this was apparently the place in Melbourne for Pho, judging by the amount of people lined up down the street and around the corner. I admired their commitment!
My acquaintance knew the owners so, with their lovely inclusion of us as ‘like family’, we were ushered in.
One of the first things I needed to learn was the pronunciation.
Pho is pronounced as Fuh (not like ‘faux’, or something else that you might imagine).
The name is believed to come from the French ‘feu’ meaning fire in the phrase ‘pot au feu’ describing a hot soup which the French brought to Vietnam when the country was under French colonial rule.
Though others say its source is the Chinese word for rice noodles ‘fen’ because, up until just before the first millennium, Vietnam was ruled by China.
Luckily for me, my hosts were not disappointed when I admitted that my diet didn’t include meat, and I was able to order the vegan rice paper rolls, which were delicious. Phew, dilemma averted, though my acquaintance told me I didn’t know what I was missing.
The next day, I was inspired to experiment with an entirely plant-based version; after all, this traditional dish has had many evolutions based on what livestock were available over millennia.
This is the latest version though it’s a dish that lends itself to countless variations depending on seasonal ingredients and your preferences.
- 2 litres water
- 1-1/2 t dried onion flakes
- 1/2 t chilli powder
- Rice noodles (I use 100 gm organic brown rice noodles but you can use white rice noodles if you choose)
- Beetroot – 1 medium
- Snow peas – large handful
- Fennel – 1/2 medium size
- Carrots – 2 medium size
- Asparagus – 1 bunch
- Mushrooms – 2 (I use Portobello)
- Red capsicum – 1 small size
- Kale – 5 large leaves
- Tempeh or Tofu – 1/2 block cut into cubes (I use tempeh as it has the fermented benefits)
- Ginger – 2 cm piece
- Miso – 3T
- Plum vinegar – 2T (this is available from health food shops that sell Spiral products)
- Coriander to garnish
- Place the water in a very large saucepan and bring the temperature to hot, but not boiling.
- Add the dried onion flakes and chilli powder. Let these flavours infuse for at least 15 minutes.
- During this time, use a mandoline (sometimes called a ‘V-slicer’) to finely slice the beetroot, fennel, carrots, capsicum and ginger.
- Trim the ends and string from the snow peas.
- Cut the fibrous ends off the asparagus and slice the green stalks into rounds up to the flower part of the spears – use both the rounds and the tips.
- Slice the mushrooms with a knife into chunks
- Remove the stalks from the kale and roughly chop
- Place the rice noodles into the saucepan, then add all the vegetables, tempeh or tofu, ginger, miso and plum vinegar.
- With the lid of the saucepan on, steep all the ingredients in the hot liquid using low heat, taking care not to let the liquid simmer or boil, nor to cool.
This may take half an hour or so but depends on how soft or crunchy you would like the vegetables.
The colours and flavours are delectable, and it feels so nourishing, not to mention smelling amazing.
Do experiment with different vegetables like daikon radish, pak choy, bok choy zucchini, broccolini.
Using a mandoline to slice most of the vegetables not only enhances the flavour of the broth but makes the preparation and cooking time very efficient.
So, ‘cam on’ (thanks) to my Vietnamese hosts for inspiring me and I hope in our multi-cultural world, there is room for a new twist on an old favourite.
The Gawler Cancer Foundation & Yarra Valley Living Centre
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Maia is a counsellor, meditation instructor, a practitioner of various forms of natural therapies who has worked in the area of energetic healing for over 20 years, and has worked at The Gawler Cancer Foundation since 2000. She has a Graduate Diploma in Clinical Nutrition as well as formal qualifications in plant-based nutrition, counselling and psychotherapy. Maia uses her various skills and the experience gained from her own healing to inspire and support others on their path to wholeness and has a particular interest in helping people to access their own inner wisdom.