Spice in the Kitchen: Vegan Vietnamese Phở Noodle Soup

As a thank you to my husband for designing my logo, I decided to try my hand at making his favorite Vietnamese soup, Phở. It's got a cinnamony vegetable broth that I think is an acquired taste, but he loves it. I know not everyone has all these spices and ingredients, so just do the best you can, but cinnamon is an important component, so don't skimp on that. Onion/leeks also seems to be an important component, but since I don't cook with either, I substituted hing. If you do onions, then by all means, use those. It was pretty easy to make, after I got over the unfamiliar use of spices.

Vegan/Vegetarian Vietnamese Pho Noodle Soup (Vegan, Gluten-free)
Serves 4

Dry roast on medium heat until fragrant:
1 cinnamon stick (about 3" length)
1 tsp of hing (or add later with the ginger, a fire roasted onion and some cut up leeks/garlic)
1 or 2 star anise pods
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp cloves
(If these spices are not in your pantry, try using the powdered versions, or just substitute with Chinese Five Spice).

To that add:
2" length of ginger, blackened over an open fire (Don't ask me why, but many recipes call for this cruel treatment of the very innocent ginger!)
4 cups of a light, clear veggie broth
2-3 TB of tamari (gluten free if need be)

Bring broth to a boil and then let simmer for about 45 minutes. In the meantime, prepare your other ingredients. When the broth is done, drain it through a strainer and keep warm until you are ready to serve.

12-16 ounces of wide rice noodles.
There are specific wide noodles that are used in Pho, but most people don't have a Vietnamese grocer in the neighborhood, so it's OK to go with a pad thai noodle.
Cook noodles according to package instructions, or you could let them sit in hot water for about 30 minutes or until they are tender.

Toppings: Pick your favorites!
Protein: Baked tofu (see my recipe here), tempeh, fake meats, bean curd skin
Veggies: Lightly steamed bok choy, mung bean sprouts, any Asian style greens
Toppings: Asian cilantro, chives (if you eat onions), mint, basil, Sriracha, hoisin sauce, lime wedges.

To serve:
Arrange noodles in bowl and top with your choice of toppings. In most Vietnamese restaurants I have been in, they will neatly place each topping in it's own arranged pile and the protein goes in the middle, on top of the noodles. That way, you can choose what topping you want with every bite! Fun!
Gently pour about 2 cups of broth in the bowl (depending on your bowl size).
Top with, well, the toppings! Enjoy!

Mr. Scissors loved it, but it definitely was not as cinnamon flavored as I would have thought (which was OK by me). If you do cook with onions, please use them. My broth was a tad flat. The hoisin sauce and Sriracha helped.

Oh my goodness, this soup is really making want to go to Lan Café in NYC. One of my favorite eateries on earth! The green papaya salad! The seitan vermicelli! The faux meatball Bahn Mi! Sigh... I digress. If you are in NYC, please go there right now for me.

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