We all need a confidence booster in the kitchen once and while, especially when there’s no one across from the dinner table telling you, truthfully or otherwise, how wonderful your homemade meal is. I was really proud of myself for making pho at home (you go girl)––it’s the soup that satisfies on more than one level. Saying this, I wasn’t always in the know about this classic Vietnamese noodle soup.
When I was visiting my family in Edmonton, Alberta (my birthplace), maybe 6 years ago now, I went out to lunch with my cousin and some of his friends for pho. At the time, I really had no idea what pho was, so it had to be explained to me (embarrassing). When we arrived at the restaurant, a rather mom-and-pop kind of place in a strip mall, I took in the interior. It was quite, how do I put this nicely? Plebeian. I wasn’t expecting much in terms of food because apparently, I’m extraordinarily snobby. When our pho was delivered to the table I thought, This is ALL for me? I can’t possibly finish this ginormous bowl of soup. It’s too much, too overwhelming. But I did. I even had to tie my hair back so I could get right in there. And the pho itself was beautiful; a fine work of art with a tangle of noodles back crawling around the perimeter. My nose in the air needed a firm readjustment.
When you order pho, you’re generally given some raw bean sprouts and what seems to be a bride’s bouquet of fresh basil to stir into your soup. Before I tied my hair back and dug in, I had to sneakily eye how the rest of table was readying their bowl for slurping. I watched and learned as the boys bedazzled the broth. Basically you just kind of place a whole bunch of fresh things on top and hop to it. It’s unruly. You’re to gild your lily modestly or heartily (I lean towards the hearty side). I left the restaurant feeling like a rubber boot filled with water: very, very full.
Like the first bowl of pho placed in front of me in Edmonton, I get a bit giddy with greed, genuinely surprised that THIS IS ALL FOR ME? Yes, it’s all for me. I think today’s warming, huggable pho (for two or two dinners’ worth for one) will act as the fall food starting pistol on the blog.
If you’ve yet to experience pho, I urge you to give it a go. Its trademark broth is a heady, autumnally spiced infusion that just feels right this time of year. The traditional Vietnamese version doesn’t have miso and tamari, however, I’ve made a vegetarian version, so these ingredients act in lieu of bones and fish sauce to give it that rich, umami taste and a bit of body…without any actual bodies (sorry). The broth itself has so much flavour, you don’t need to start with a base of vegetable stock at all; in fact, I think it would ruin it. I’ve also changed up the classic vegetables, proteins, and noodles using delicata squash (otherwise known as sweet potato squash, the squash where you can eat the skin), einkorn noodles (you could use any whole grain spaghetti or brown rice noodles), enoki mushrooms, tofu, and fresh basil.
Quick Vegan Squash and Mushroom Pho Recipe (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)
A healthy Vietnamese pho recipe with squash, mushrooms, tofu, and whole grain noodles, all swimming in a heady, spiced broth. Don’t get turned off by the long list of ingredients for the broth–this comes together in just over 30 minutes.
Roasted Delicata Squash
1 delicata squash (sweet potato squash), halved lengthwise, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch half moons crosswise
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or avocado oil
Vegan Pho Broth
3 cups water
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons brown rice miso or mellow white miso
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari
1-inch piece ginger, peeled, left whole
2 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
70 grams (about 2.5 ounces) enoki mushrooms, separated
4 ounces whole grain or brown rice spaghetti, cooked, drained, rinsed with cold water, drained again, room temperature (for an even quicker meal, try brown rice vermicelli)
1/2 block extra-firm tofu, pressed, or smoked tofu, sliced into thin matchsticks or cubed, room temperature
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
- Roasted Delicata Squash: Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, add squash, and toss with oil. Line in a single layer and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until tender. While squash is cooking, prepare the broth.
- Vegan Pho Broth: In a large saucepan, slowly whisk water into garlic, miso, maple syrup, vinegar, and tamari until fully combined. Mix in ginger, star anise, cinnamon, chili, and mushrooms. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high, cover, reduce to low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Discard ginger, star anise, and cinnamon stick.
- To serve, ladle hot broth (including mushrooms) into very large, deep bowls. Top with sections of noodles, roasted squash, tofu, and basil. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.