|Vietnamese Vegetarian Pho|
I was first introduced to Vietnamese Pho, a popular Vietnamese dish, six years ago, when I met a Vietnamese woman, Thuy, at the local Asian grocery store. She had an amazing story of how she came to the United States, having fled the war-torn city of Saigon, Vietnam, as a young girl.
She went on to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, got married, and dedicated her life to raising her three beautiful girls. I saw her a few times after that first chance meeting, but then didn’t run into her for almost two years.
Three and a half years ago, I heard through a friend that Thuy had Stage IV stomach cancer. I called her immediately, and over the course of that year, spent a lot of time with her, talking, eating, cooking for her, and just being by her side. I learned that she loved to eat and to cook. How ironic I thought, to love to eat and cook, but not be able to do either, with stomach cancer.
Thuy taught me about Vietnamese food, sharing Vietnamese spring rolls her friends from California sent her (she had lived in California before moving to the East Coast), and introducing me to a cuisine I knew nothing about. We took a couple of trips to a Vietnamese market where she insisted we had to arrive no later than 2PM on Fridays to get Bahn Mi, the Vietnamese sandwiches that were brought in fresh, weekly from Chinatown. After eating my first Bahn Mi, I was hooked, and understood why we had to get to the market early.
I became curious about Vietnamese cooking, and bought my first Vietnamese cookbook, anxious to learn more about this new cuisine. We flipped through the cookbook together,Thuy pointing out her favorites as a young child in Vietnam. I attempted to make some of her favorite comfort foods…chicken rice porridge, boiled peanuts (she immigrated to North Carolina), and pho.
Here’s a Vietnamese Vegetarian Pho recipe I came up with in memory of my friend Thuy. I apologize for the lengthy, detailed recipe, but Thuy was very particular about her food, so I wanted to make sure my recipe would meet her high standards. Thuy, I want you to know that I have spent the most time on this post so far, and I know you wouldn’t want it any other way!
Vietnamese Vegetarian Pho
Inspired by my friend Thuy who introduced me to Vietnamese food
1 unpeeled onion, halved
To make Vegetarian Pho broth:
|Rehydrated Shitake Mushrooms|
Rehydrate dried shitake mushrooms by placing them in a bowl of hot water for about 30 minutes, until softened. Cut stems off.
|Charred Onion and Ginger|
|Tender Part of Lemongrass Bulb, Crushed|
To prepare lemongrass, cut off stalky top part, leaving bottom 1/3. Trim about 1/2″ off bottom, and remove outer leaves until tender bulb is exposed. Crush bulb with flat side of a large knife.
Lightly toast star anise and cloves in a small skillet. Combine broth, water (note: if using homemade vegetable broth, use 2 cups more broth instead of water; boxed vegetable broth tends to be too strong), rehydrated shitake mushrooms, onion, ginger, lemongrass, star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, palm sugar and soy sauce in a saucepan. Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer 30 minutes. Strain broth, reserving shitake mushrooms. Slice shitake mushrooms and save for topping.
|Baby Bok Choy|
Add fresh shitake mushrooms and cook 3 minutes until just tender. Remove.
|Enoki Mushrooms, With Root Removed|
Cut 1″ off root end of enoki mushrooms. Separate into strands. Cook enoki mushrooms in broth for 1-2 minutes until just tender. Remove.
|Rice Noodles (Banh Pho) – Buy “Size S”|
|Cooked Rice Noodles
Garnish noodle bowls with bean sprouts, fresh mint, basil, cilantro, chilies and lime wedges. Serves 4-6.
|Pho Spices and Garnishes|
Note: This recipe has been entered in the Everyday Chef Challenge sponsored by Pacific Foods. Please vote for this recipe in memory of my friend Thuy. Votes can be made every 24 hours until October 5, 2010. Thank you for your support!
My Favorite Vietnamese Cookbooks:
Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors by Andrea Nguyen
Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table by Pham Mai
Authentic Vietnamese Cooking: Food from a Family Table by Corinne Trang
More Information on Stomach Cancer:
MedicineNet.com: Stomach Cancer Prevention
National Cancer Institute: Stomach Cancer Prevention
Anticancer Ingredients: Mushrooms, Onion, Leafy Green Vegetables, Scallions