MAKES: 4 appetizer or 2 lunch servings
TIME: About 1 hour, depending on garnishes
The Vietnamese meal-in-a-bowl soup known as pho is always tricky for vegetarians because fish and meat are normally included, and prominently. But there are vegetarian options, chief among them a broth made from soy sauce and spices like anise, cloves, coriander seeds, bay leaves, cinnamon, or nutmeg.
Rice vermicelli remains the noodle of choice here, and the raw garnishesвЂ”especially the traditional fresh herbs and bean sproutsвЂ”add the essential fresh-tasting finish. Beyond that the soupвЂ™s main ingredients can be whatever you have handy.
8 ounces thin dried rice vermicelli
2 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground anise or coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, cinnamon, or nutmeg
1/4 to 1/2 cup soy sauce
2 bay leaves (optional)
4 stems fresh cilantro for garnish
4 stems fresh basil, preferably Thai, or mint for garnish
1 fresh chile, preferably Thai, stemmed, seeded, and minced for garnish
2 scallions, chopped for garnish
2 limes, cut into wedges for garnish
1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts (see Sprouts to make your own), rinsed for garnish
1 pound (about 4 cups) sliced fresh vegetables, like bok choy, Napa cabbage, mustard greens, broccoli or broccoli raab, carrots, green beans, summer squash, or a combination
1 cup diced tofu or cooked, shelled edamame (see Edamame; optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
01 Cook the rice vermicelli in boiling salted water until just tender, 2 to 4 minutes; drain, rinse in cold water, and set aside.
02 Put the oil in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until soft, about a minute. Add the spices and stir until warm and fragrant, about 1 minute more. Stir in 6 cups of water, the soy sauce, and the bay leaves if youвЂ™re using them. Bring to a boil, lower the heat so that soup bubbles gently, and partially cover while you prepare the toppings and garnishes.
03 Arrange the garnishes in bowls or on platters. Add the vegetables and the tofu to the simmering soup if you like, turn the heat to medium-high, cover, and cook until the vegetables are just tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the rice vermicelli, taste, and sprinkle with salt and pepper if necessary. Serve in big bowls, passing the garnishes at the table.