On a recent and very quick visit back to San Diego, I was welcomed with rain and fog just like most days in Bridge City. A few Diegans chastised me for having “brought the gray,” while others were delighted with the wintery days. For me, it made visits to the coastline even more magical and the Phở at Kim’s Vietnamese in Encinitas, a body warming treat. I slurped the brothy noodle soup not once, but twice in the two days I was there.
If you have not had Phở, prepare to say, “mmm.” This popular Vietnamese noodle soup traditionally consists of robust bone broth, beef or chicken, fresh herbs, and rice noodles. It is iconic to Vietnamese culture and Viet restaurants often receive a thumbs up or down by the reputation and deliciousness of their Phở recipe.
Kim’s signature soup is balanced and soothing, and on those colder than usual beach days, took the edge off my chill and left me grinning from ear to ear.
Upon my return to Portland, I wove Phở requests into conversation, journeyed out to a couple of recommended joints, but was ultimately dissatisfied with the dine-around. That is when I decided to develop my own recipe and one with a vegan twist.
To gather all the necessary ingredients, I embarked on an adventure to a nearby Asian market. I say ‘adventure’ because inevitably what should be a 15-minute stop almost always stretches into an hour due to so many interesting foods interrupting my focus. Though I browsed for a while, I managed to make it out with only those items I intended on buying: bok choy, purple sweet potato, daikon radish, lotus root, carrots, Phở enhancements of cilantro, Thai basil, shallots, bean sprouts, and lime, and soba (buckwheat noodles). I opted for soba instead of rice noodles since they are more nutrient dense and I am taking in as much healthy goodness as I can right now.
When I arrived home, I converted the kitchen to a soup lab and immediately went to work on developing the broth, the main attraction of this soup. While adding a little of this and a little of that, I thought about how essential a full-flavored broth is for any soup and considered another two pertinent tips for soup success.
Three Tips for Sensational Soup:
1. Begin with a rich homemade broth or be sure to add aromatics and spices to an organic store-bought variation to make it your own and to complement the other ingredients being used. In order to get the robustness of a traditional meat stock while using only vegetables, I played with spices and salt and the recipe below is the result of my soup sweat equity.
2. Keep it simple. You do not need a ton of ingredients to achieve rich flavor, especially when you adhere to tip #1 and begin with a rich broth base. And to achieve smooth texture, there is no need to add cream. Instead, purée beans or starchy vegetables like parsnip, peas, carrots, and cauliflower for density and creaminess.
3. Don’t rush. This does not mean you need to commit a day to slaving over the stove; rather throw all of your soup goodies in a large pot, turn the heat to low for a gentle simmer, and walk away. This is precisely one of the reasons I love making soup! I am busy and know you are too, and for the most part soup cooks itself!
Hands-on Prep: 30 min | Passive Time: 2 hours
2 medium yellow onions, peeled, and quartered
1 (3-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled, and cut into thirds
1 tablespoon coconut oil
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 star anise pods (optional)
8 whole cloves or 1 teaspoon ground
2 bay leaves
10 cups organic vegetable stock
2 tablespoons coconut aminos or tamari
6 medium carrots, peeled, and chopped
Sea salt, to taste
1 pound dried rice vermicelli or buckwheat noodles
4 large bok choy leaves, rough chopped
1 sweet potato, scrubbed, and cut into discs
1 (4-inch) cut of daikon radish, cut into discs
Any other vegetables, tofu or tempeh you wish to use in addition to, or instead of what is listed
Accompaniments (use as many or few as you like):
1 lime, cut into 6 segments
1 small handful cilantro leaves
1 small handful Thai basil leaves
1 jalapeno, sliced into thin discs
2 cups bean sprouts
1 shallot, peeled, cut into thin strips, and fried in coconut oil for about 2 minutes in a small pan
1. Turn oven to broil and place rack on the top rung.
2. Toss onions and ginger with coconut oil and turn out onto a baking sheet. Broil for 5-8 minutes, or until lightly charred.
3. In a large soup pot, dry toast fennel, coriander, anise, and cloves until fragrant. Add bay leaves, vegetable stock, onion quarters and ginger, coconut aminos or tamari, and carrots.
4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for at least one and ideally two hours.
5. While broth is simmering, blanch vegetables and roots of choice until vibrant in color and prepare any tofu or tempeh if using. Set aside until broth is ready.
6. Prepare rice or buckwheat noodles as instructed on package and set aside.
7. Uncover broth and strain into another pot, discarding all solids. Taste and season until you achieve balance between the warmth of spice and saltiness.
8. To serve, divide noodles between bowls and add desired toppings. Ladle broth over top and serve with accompaniments on a side plate.
Enjoy a warm and toasty week!