I don’t know if you, my fellow blog readers, have noticed that I played it pretty safe with my recipes that I cook. Most things I make I have an idea of how it is going to taste and if it’s going to be a success. I don’t really like to cook things that could very possibly go wrong because I don’t like to waste food. Oh, and I don’t like to be a failure, of course!! The epic fail that were the original kale chips forced me to hide in a corner for 2 days while thinking about giving up cooking forever. Yeah-I don’t like to fail. Flavors I know will work together, predictable ingredients and stuff that I can buy in my local grocery store.
This past Sunday, however, I jumped waaay outside my comfort zone. Cause I’m crazy like that. Leng had posted a simple recipe for vegetarian Pho last week (or longer…my mind is going blank) that she has come up with. The second I saw her post, I thought “whoa-that’s a little crazy for me.” Yeah-I’ve had pho before. And I love it. It might be one of my favorite foods. That and Nutella of course. (Maybe my next experiment will be finding a way to combine pho and Nutella. Hmmm-maybe not). But, it’s such a complex dish with so many different flavors that I didn’t trust my self-taught culinary skills. Pho is fancy and crazy and not fail-proof!!! i.e. not Betsy’s ego boosting and possibly ego bruising. However, I took another look at her recipe, which was actually pretty basic, and decided to be fancy and crazy and adventerous (like the pho) and try it out. And yeah, I did.
Before I started, though, I needed to take a little field trip down to Chinatown, which is, thank god, quite close to my apartment so it wasn’t too out of the way. I needed to find my pho noodles, of course! Chinatown is such a fun neighborhood and one I really should explore a little more. There are soo many restaurants and stores and food shops and stalls full of different ingredients that could be sooo fun to experiment with. It took many trips into several stores to finally find my pho noodles which I stumbled upon at a store that sold only noodles in bins on the street. Works for me! And the whole package (which I really think could last me 5 years)-$1.00. !!!! I know!! Chinatown is definitely budget friendly.
After picking up the rest of my ingredients, I got cooking. Well, I headed home and then got cooking. It was actually quite simple to put together. I simmered the broth with lots of onions and ginger and anise (I basically ransacked the entire city for star anise but couldn’t find any. I think it’s a conspriacy) while I prepared my toppings-the best part of pho. I love going to a vietnamese restaurant and getting that little plate of toppings to make your bowl of pho however delicious you want it. One my cutting board I had little piles of herbs and onions and tofu and limes. It was so cute, I wish I had taken a picture of it. When the broth was almost done, I cooked my noodles, which were dried, not fresh like Leng had. But, they still cooked soooo fast, and cooked even more once they were in the soup. Once it was all done, I put the noodles and chunks of pressed and drained tofu in the bottom of my bowl, covered it with broth and piled on my toppings. Cilantro, mint, basil, bean sprouts, onion, scallions, lime, hoison, sriracha. All mixed together=pho deliciousness.
My first bite? Yeah-I was nervous. Was it going to taste as complex as I knew it should have? Had I used the right noodles? Had I cooked it enough? Would I end up back in the corner for days, my ego bruised? NO!!! It was fantastic. It warmed my belly and soul with every tasty bite. Salty and sweet and sour and bitter. All the flavors represented. Every bite was different as I got a different herb in my spoon or a piece of onion. Going back and forth between the spoon and chopstocks-broth and noodles, is always fun. It was not boring, to say the least. It was like a party in a bowl! And not a blah party that would leave me shy. It was a party that made me excited and kinda crazy. Cause that’s how this pho made me. Excited and kinda crazy. Leng-you’re amazing. Yeah.
makes about 4 servings
2 quarts veggie broth
1 teaspoon anise seeds
1 big chunk of ginger
1 yellow onion
Extra Firm Tofu, pressed and drained, cut into bite size chunks
Saute half of the onion (chopped into half moons) in a little bit of oil (not extra virgin olive oil) in a large pot for about 10 minutes until slightly charred and soft. Add the broth, anise seeds, and ginger that has been chopped into about 4 large chunks. Simmer for about 25-30 minutes on low. While that is cooking prepare your toppings: LOTS of chopped fresh herbs, thinly sliced onions, sliced scallions, lime wedges, bean sprouts. Cook the pho noodles according to the package (I boiled water and added some noodles and turned off the water when I added the noodles and let sit for about 5 minutes.)
Put the noodles and tofu chunks in the bottom of a bowl. Fill the bowl with the broth. Top the soup with whatever toppings your heart desires, including hoisin cause and sriracha, however spicy you want it. Eat it slowly with as your belly becomes warm and very very happy.
Your ego will thank you.