Friday, February 15, 2008

Interessante minestra vietnamita

When Sunita launched 'Star Anise' as the theme of her 'Think Spice' event, I was really happy. In fact, I bought a little bag with this wonderfully-looking spice, and still didn't get to try it. I had no exact idea about what to do with it. It seems like an anise-tasting spice would go well in a dessert, but it's Lent, and I decided I wouldn't eat desserts for this time of the year (ehm, I'm not that strict, but I didn't want to make one myself, at least, unless there was a really super special occasion). So, looking for savory recipes involving star anise online, I found out that the Vietnamese soup 'Pho' is intensively flavored with this spice. Traditionally, it is made with beef. Still, I managed to find a vegetarian version that I preferred to try. What inspired me a lot about this dish was the use of spices like star anise and cloves, and also, the fact that it's served with a lot of 'complementary items' such as bean sprouts, green onions, lots of herbs, sauces, which everyone can add at his/her own taste. I thought it was a really neat idea.. so here it is, if you want to give it a shot too!

Pho vegetariano / Vegetarian Pho
The original version is here. I didn't change much of it, but I'll report it here for easiness.

Prepare the broth: quarter a small onion (do not peel it), halve 2 shallots, unpeeled, mince 8 garlic cloves (I peeled this), and roast them in a pot together with 4 cloves and 2 star anise pods (I added a little more), one 1" piece of fresh ginger, finely cut, and 2 small sticks of cinnamon. Mix every once in a while and keep roasting till the onions start to brown. Then, add 3 tbsp soy sauce and 8 cups of vegetable broth (I used 2 bouillons and 8 cups of water). Simmer over low heat for ~25 min. Then, filter and discard the solids. I think the pieces of onions and shallots were still quite good, so I kept those. Taste the broth and add salt if you'd like to. In the meanwhile, boil ~3/4 lb rice noodles in a large amount of water. According to the recipe, one needs 20 minutes to cook them, but 10 were enough for me. Drain. Stir fry 8 oz of pieces of tofu in another pan.
When ready, place ~1/4 of noodles in a bowl, add 1/4 of the tofu, and ladle 1/4 of broth on top. Repeat for 3 other bowls. Serve together with finely cut scallions, bean sprouts, Hoisin sauce, chilli sauce, lime wedges, whole leaves of fresh mint, cilantro and/or basil leaves (mint is the best, in my opinion).

This soup is an absolute delight. The taste of the anise and cloves is wonderful in the broth. Pay attention not to add to much hoisin or chilli sauce, or you'll cover it. The mint, scallions and bean sprouts are so refreshing. It's a feast, and it's so pretty that it deserves to be shown again.
Of course this recipe goes to Suganya for her 'Think Spice' event, thanking her for pushing me to find a good use for such a wonderful spice.


Finla said...

Deliciou soup. I've bookmarked it for making them, when i've all the ingridients.
Seeing the pic just wanted to grab and slurp the whole bowl

Namratha said...

A very interesting dish Marta, looks hearty!

sunita said...

Thats a lovely looking soup Marta, thanks.

Mansi said...

Looks awesomr gal! I have a plum compote with oranges for your event, until I find somethiing better:)

Lisa said...

Your bowl of pho looks really beautiful. What a good idea—a vegetarian version.

zlamushka said...

wonderful pho. I have never tasted it, but always wanted to. I love your recipe. Will keep it.