Sunday, September 9, 2012

Faux Pho {Vegan + Vegetarian + Gluten Free + Low(er)-Carb}

Kate's Faux Pho

{Vegan + Vegetarian + Gluten Free + Low(er)-Carb}


I've been hearing a lot about faux Pho, a vegetarian version of the popular Vietnamese soup, practically since I moved to Texas. Specifically, I heard that I should get myself to Jenni's Noodle House to try it.

Recently, I did just that with a friend and absolutely loved the faux Pho. I love the spicy broth, the tofu, the noodles, but most of all, I love all of the toppings--cilantro, bean sprouts, sliced jalapeno, basil, and limes--that you get to add to the dish yourself. 

 There's something supremely interesting about this. It's interactive food! Food that you can spice and flavor using the toppings to suit your own palate. Maybe the most satisfying part of this interactive portion of Pho is the way you get to blend fresh and cooked food, as well as the way you can create layers of texture and flavor. Bottom line is that I was sold on it the first time I had it and have been craving it since.


Faux Pho, it's a piece of cake ... if you shop at Whole Foods

Which brings me to last weekend. I was home for my Dad's birthday and already had the glimmer of future faux Pho glimmering in my brain--I'd found a recipe already and pasted the link squarely in the center of my computer screen. While with my parents I stole (with permission) some of their dried Shittake mushrooms and got very excited that I was one ingredient closer to my Pho. Then, there came a trip to that magical, over-priced store Whole Foods. Cruising the asiles I found more ingredients for my Pho--what excitement.

First, I found Gluten Free Soba/ Buckwheat style nodles. The noodles seemed like a healthier alternative to traditional rice or other carb-heavy, low-nutrition noodles, and I liked that they were made from non GMO plants and were organic (for whatever the organic label is worth). 


 Whatever excitement I felt over these noodles paled in comparison, however, to my excitement at discovering the faux Pho motherload: Pacific Natural's Vegetarian Pho broth (gluten free; vegan, vegetarian).

This broth makes creating Faux Pho at home incredibly simple and much less time consuming.  Making stock bases can be expensive--you have to buy all of the spices and other ingredients that flavor the stock--and it requires a good deal of time on the stove.  In other words, making stock requires planning in advance and some free time.  Pacific Natural Vegetarian Pho base makes it a much simpler affair.

I had some misgivings that the broth wouldn't be up to my standards--that it just wouldn't taste how the broth at Jenni's Noodle House did. But, I was wrong. The broth is a bit mellower--especially on the mushroom and anise flavor-- than Jenni's (a good thing in my mind).  

I found that by adding 3 cloves of smashed garlic, about 5 green onion blulbs, 2 key limes sliced in half, sliced jalapeno peppers, and a small hunk of ginger that the broth was more than suitably tasty. When the flavors of these items had infused the broth, I removed all but the garlic and jalapenos and discarded them.

To the pepped-up broth I added tofu which I marinated for a couple of hours and then grilled on my teeny tiny new George Foreman Grill (I marinated the tofu in a combination of GF Tamari brand soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, hot pepper flakes, and garlic and chili "sauce"). I then added my GF Buckwheat noodles and let the soup simmer for a while while I chopped up and otherwise prepared my toppings, which included: Mung Bean Sprouts, Limes, sliced Jalapenos, Green Onion, Cilantro, and Basil. 

The end result was delicious. My faux Pho was spicy, flavorful, and just absolutely satisfying.



[Recipe] Faux Pho

Ingredients--

  • 2 cartons Pacific Naturals Vegetarian Pho Broth (gluten free)
  • GF Soba/Buckwheat Noodles or GF Rice Noodles
  • 1 Cup Dried Shittake Mushrooms (added to broth)
  • 1 Package Firm Tofu (marinated, sliced, and grilled if you so desire--otherwise you can just plop it in the soup)
  • Sliced Jalapenos (for seasoning the broth and for serving on top of the soup)Mung Bean Sprouts (healthier than soybean sprouts, for serving on top of the soup)
  • Chopped Basil (for serving on top of the soup)
  • Cilantro (chopped for serving on top of the soup)
  • Limes (halved or quartered for seasoning the broth and for serving on top of the soup)
  • 1 Small bundle of Green Onions (bulbs removed and used to season broth, tops chopped and served on top of soup)
  • 3 Cloves Garlic, smashed and added to broth
  • Fresh Ginger, small chunk peeled and added to broth

Instructions--

  1. Pour the Pacific Naturals Vegetarian Pho Broth into a large pot on the stove.
  2. Season with limes, garlic, green onion bulbs, ginger, and jalapenos and let simmer for 15-20 minutes or until flavors are infused. Remove limes, green onion bulbs, and ginger.
  3. Prepare and add Tofu.  Marinate and grill tofu if desired or merely drain and press to release water.
  4. Add GF noodles.
  5. Simmer for 3-5 minutes while preparing ingredients to go on top of soup (bean sprouts, cilantro, basil, jalapeno, green onion).
  6. Pour faux Pho soup base into a large bowl and put "toppings" in a separate dish to add immediately before you consume soup.  Eat with a combination of spoon and chop sticks!

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