This truly savory soup is great for those cold winter days and nights. This dish does contain bacon and anchovies. If these ingredients don’t fit your diet, don’t fret. Just substitute mushrooms, a little more salt and some more garlic. Not all bacon is the same. Some is very smokey. Some is very salty. So taste as you season and always have ingredients prepped before you start cooking.
Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is a Vietnamese noodle soup that is based on a slow cooked, intensely flavorful beef broth. Traditionally it includes beef and noodles and is topped with all sorts of fresh accompaniments like cilantro, scallions, hot peppers and lime wedges.
Given this soup is so connected to its beefy roots, it is hard to imagine a vegan version would work. However, I think the lack of beef lets the other flavors shine through. It is still quite complex and I find it very comforting (perfect as we approach the winter months). If you want to increase the flavor even more, try charring the garlic and scallion greens under the broiler before adding them to the broth.
I lightly adapted this recipe from The Year in Food and I hope you tinker with it and make it your own, too. I have made this with brown rice instead of noodles when I didn’t have any on hand and it was just as good. And use whatever veggies you have on hand – carrots, kohlrabi, pak choi all come to mind.
makes 2-3 servings
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 to 3 star anise pods or 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 black cardamom pods (optional)
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce, or more to taste
- 1 – 3-inch knob of fresh ginger, smashed with the back of a knife
- 3 small scallions, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 4 ounces brown rice noodles or pasta or choice
- 8 ounces firm tofu, pressed, drained and cubed
- 1 cup broccoli florets, chopped
- 1 cup chopped sturdy winter greens, such as arugula, kale or mustard greens
- Lime wedges, cilantro and/or mint, thinly sliced hot peppers or Sriracha for serving
- In a large stock pot over medium heat, toast the dry spices until fragrant, stirring often, about 3-4 minutes. Add the stock, soy sauce, ginger, green parts of the scallions, garlic and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes.
- While the broth simmers, bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Cook until just barely al dente – if they’re slightly undercooked, it’s okay. Drain and set aside, covered, until ready.
- Strain the broth, removing all solids, and return to the stock pot. Add the tofu and simmer for a few minutes to allow the tofu to absorb the broth’s flavor. Add the broccoli florets and the sturdy winter greens and cook for a few minutes, or until slightly softened and wilted. Remove from heat.
- Divide the noodles among two or three bowls. Ladle the soup over each. Garnish with any of the items listed above. Serve immediately.
We all have those weeks when it is difficult to get through all of the wonderful produce we purchased at market (or received in our CSA baskets). This soup is a great way to use up various vegetables without seeming like a random, thrown together meal. The addition of mushroom powder and soy sauce give it a savory flavor and adding bulgur makes it hearty and filling.
The one obscure item called for below is mushroom powder. The powder I use came from Land Before Time Farms and it includes various types of mushrooms, herbs and salt. I am not sure when they will have it available again but look for it at the market! If you don’t have anything similar, you can grind up some dried mushrooms and herbs or just include fresh mushrooms.
This soup is especially tasty with the Roasted Garlic bread from Bread & Butter, also available at the market.
Farmhouse Vegetable Soup (adapted from here)
makes about 4-6 servings
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, cut into a small dice
- 1 large celery stick, trimmed and cut into a small dice
- 3 medium carrots, trimmed and cut into a small dice
- 1-1/2 teaspoons mushroom powder (see note above)
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1/4 cup vermouth or white wine
- 5 cups chicken/vegetable stock or water (I used 2-1/2 cups chicken stock and 2-1/2 cups water)
- 1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice
- 1 medium daikon radish (substitute salad turnips or kohlrabi if desired), trimmed and cut into 1/2″ dice
- 2-1/2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
- 1/2 cup bulgur
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- Chopped fresh parsley
- In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions, celery, carrots, mushroom powder, soy sauce and vermouth and stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the vegetables are beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.
- Add the stock/water, potatoes, radish, cabbage and bulgur and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and the bulgur is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Stir in the frozen peas and parsley, if using, and taste. Depending on the saltiness of your soy sauce, you may need to add salt.
If you like Thai inspired food, you are going to love this soup base. I simply puree sauteed greens, 1 can of coconut milk and 1 can of water together to create a healthy base that you can add just about anything to. Thai food is traditionally a balance between spicy, sweet, savory and sour so your options are endless if you add a little of each element (I have plenty of suggestions below). The other element of Thai cooking I love is that certain items, such as garlic, ginger and hot peppers, aren’t necessarily cooked before they are added to the final dish. This results in lots of bright, fresh flavor.
We hope you experiment and find a combination that you love!
Green Coconut Soup Base
makes about 4 servings
Recipe note: the additional ingredients listed below are just what I used – you can alter them in any way to suit your tastes.
Green Soup Base Ingredients:
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 6 ounces (or one bunch) Summerfest Asian greens (or other greens of choice), stems removed and roughly chopped
- 1 can full fat coconut milk
- 1 can water (just fill up the coconut milk can with water)
- 1-1/3 pound sweet potatoes or winter squash (I love using the red Kuri squash from The Healthy Kitchen because you can eat the skin!), seeded and cut into 1″ chunks
- 3 small tomatoes, chopped
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce (or substitute soy sauce if vegetarian)
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- Juice from one lime
- Thinly sliced hot peppers
- Chopped fresh cilantro
Green Soup Base Directions:
- In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium until shimmering. Add the greens and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a blender along with the coconut milk and water. Blend on high speed until the greens are fully incorporated, about 1 minute. Transfer the liquid back into the Dutch oven.
- To the coconut soup base, add the sweet potatoes or winter squash and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the remaining ingredients, stirring to incorporate. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve with rice or rice noodles.