Vietnamese Pho

My version of pho – pronounced as ‘fuh’ in Vietnam

In March 2019, we visited Hanoi in Vietnam for a few days as a last stop on a mini-Asian tour. This is a truly crazy city chock full of moped drivers who aren’t even deterred by flooded streets. Whilst I didn’t enjoy the trip to Ha Long bay as much as I was hoping – tourists were packed in to the point there was barely a space to park the boats, I did enjoy haggling a little with the market stall owners who charge about 3 times what they usually would if you’re a Westerner. I think they quite enjoy the haggling as long as you don’t take the mick!

Whilst in Asia, we did cheat a little on our pescatarian diet to be able to try the local delicacies though I do believe that it would be impossible to avoid meat even if we were making an active effort to. In Vietnam, my favourite was the Chả Giò which are Vietnamese spring rolls. They are deep fried and the rice paper they are wrapped in crisps up beautifully.

However, this recipe is for Pho – a chicken or beef flavoured broth served with rice noodles. As the traditional recipe calls for beef/chicken bone stock I’ve taken a couple of liberties adding garlic and ginger which is not traditionally Vietnamese. I was extremely happy with the outcome of my dabbling (sorry traditionalists!)

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • thumb ginger
  • 2 shallots
  • 100g rice noodles – the ones that are strips like tagliatelle rather than the vermicelli style
  • 800ml ‘beef’ stock made with Massel beef flavoured stock powder
  • 3 spring onions
  • 15g mint leaves
  • 10g coriander leaves
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 pak choi
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 lime
  • 160g beef style soya chunks (I used a Tesco own-brand).

Method

1.) Peel the garlic, shallots and ginger. Chop them finely.

2.) Fry on a low heat for a couple of minutes. Add the coriander seeds, anise, cloves and cinnamon stick and fry for a couple more minutes.

3.) Add the ‘beef’ stock and put on to simmer for 20 minutes.

4.) Wash and chop up the spring onions. Add half of them to the stock.

5.) Wash and chop up the pak choi – add the stalks to the pan but reserve the leaves.

6.) In another pan, fry the soya chunks until cooked.

7.) In another pan boil the rice noodles until soft and drain. Add these to the bowls to eat. Divide the soya chunks between the bowls.

8.) In the meantime, chop up the coriander and mint leaves. Quarter the lime. Put a lime quarter in each bowl.

9.) 2 minutes before the broth is ready, fish out the star anise and the cinnamon stick. Ideally, you want to fish out the cloves too but personally I couldn’t find them so I didn’t bother.

10.) Add the pak choi leaves and simmer for 1 more minute.

11.) Stir in the soy sauce and the fish sauce.

11.) Now pour the broth into the bowls and sprinkle on the herbs and the rest of the spring onion.

Congee

Congee

Congee is a kind of rice porridge and is one of my favourite meals. I know of it from Chinese restaurants but actually it’s popular around many Asian countries. Sometimes, in restaurants here in the UK, it is prepared with lower quality meat which can be off-putting but it can be a beautifully fresh dish. I’ve used chicken-flavoured stock powder from ‘Massel’ as I no longer eat meat but I find that some recipes just don’t taste the same with vegetable stock. Being pescatarian is a choice I’ve made both against animal cruelty and also for the environment – agriculture is a big contributor to global warming. However, I don’t judge people for their diet choices – unless it’s MacDonald’s everyday! I’ve adapted this recipe from Shelina Permalloo’s ‘Sunshine Diet’

Ingredients

1 punnet shitake mushrooms

1 punnet mixed mushrooms

140g rice (I used basmati)

1.6 litres stock (made with 1 tbsp Massel chicken flavoured stock and 1 cube vegetable stock)

4 cloves of garlic

1 thumb ginger

6 spring onions

10g chives

2 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp sesame oil

Method

1.) Peel the garlic and ginger

2.) Chop up the garlic, spring onions, chives and ginger finely

3.) Add the stock, rice, garlic, ginger and half of the spring onions and half of the chives into a pan

4.) Bring to the boil, reduce and simmer for 1 1/4 hours until the congee reaches a porridgey-consistency

5.) In the meantime, preheat your oven to 200 degrees celcius, line a baking tray and spread the mushrooms out on the tray.

6.) Roast the mushrooms for 20 minutes.

7.) Stir the soy sauce and sesame oil into the congee

8.) Garnish the congee with the remaining spring onions and chives and top with mushrooms

Shelina uses sriracha with the congee but for me, sriracha overpowers everything it touches. Other garnishes I would suggest are egg, peanuts and fresh coriander.