Jul 04 2013

Vegan Pho with Grilled Eggplant and Mushrooms

Published by at 3:57 am under Asian,Comfort Food,Soup,Vegan,Vegetarian

Happy Pho of July!

Vegan Pho with Grilled Eggplant and Mushrooms

Vegan Pho with Grilled Eggplant and Mushrooms

This Fourth of July celebrate your patriotism with a bowl of a soon-to-be American classic. Living in Chicago, a quintessential melting pot, I’ve tried a wide variety of international cuisine in very intimate, authentic, and mom & pop style eateries. Whether it’s pot-stickers, samosas, baba ghanoush, or pierogies, what was ten years ago known as exotic cuisine, is now considered an American favorite. One of my new American favorites is pho, pronounced “pha.” A couple years ago I discovered it in the Edgewater neighborhood on the north side of Chicago in a Vietnamese neighborhood filled with unique markets, restaurants, and pho eateries. Most pho is prepared with a broth simmered with thinly sliced meat such as rib-eye, brisket, tongue, and even more exotic meat like cow penis. I know, yummy! Long rice noodles are added to the broth. But it’s not the broth, the meat, or noodles that are the stars of pho. The stars are all the fresh ingredients you stir into the broth: fresh Thai basil, mint, bean sprouts, chilies, lime, and anything else you fancy.

The excitement is in using both hands to eat this bowl of goodness. You grab some noodles and fresh herbs with chopsticks in one hand and a sip of the spicy broth using an Asian soup spoon with the other hand. You might alternate and coordinate the pattern of broth to herbs and noodles any way that floats your pho.
Since removing meat from my diet and all high sodium foods, I’ve dearly missed this friend, not foe, but pho. (Please forgive the pun.)

So, I’ve recreated this favorite into a vegan and low-sodium treat you can make easily at home. To replace the meat, I’ve added grilled mushrooms and Japanese eggplant, also some fresh baby spinach to bump up the iron.

Vegan Pho Recipe
Serves 4
Broth ingredients:
3 stalks of lemon grass
2 cups of mushrooms
1 lb of carrots
1 large onion
3 stalks of celery
1 medium ginger root
1 cup fresh Thai basil
1 cup cilantro
1 jalapeño pepper (optional)
5 raw garlic cloves
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 Japanese eggplant
1 cup pea pods
2 cups spinach
1 cup of portobello or shiitake mushrooms
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup Thai basil
1 cup fresh mint
1 cup bean sprouts
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Roughly chop the lemon grass, mushrooms, carrots, onion, celery, and ginger. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, add a pinch of salt and pepper and drizzle with
1 tablespoon extra virgin oil. Roast in a 300° oven for 30 minutes.

After your aromatics have finished roasting, put them in a big soup pot or cast iron pot. Add roughly chopped garlic, jalapeño pepper, 1 cup of Thai basil, and 1 cup of cilantro. Add water (about 4-6 cups) to the pot, to cover all the aromatics. But keep in mind the ratio of water to the other ingredients should be less than half. Note the amount of water is important to ensure you create a very concentrated and flavorful broth. Add a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper. Bring pot to a boil, reduce to simmer for at least 1 hour, but ideally for 3 or more hours. The longer it simmers, the more flavorful the broth.

Slice your eggplant 1/4 inch thick on a bias and then your mushrooms. Drizzle them with a tablespoon of olive oil, and toss them with salt, pepper, and ground ginger. Place them on a really hot grill pan, an outdoor grill, or in a good old fashioned frying pan. Flip them after a couple minutes and remove them after another couple minutes.

After at least an hour of simmering, strain all ingredients from the broth. You can throw these out as they have fulfilled their destiny, or if you’re my husband, you might insist on pickling these aromatics. Pour the broth back into your soup pot and add the noodles. Cover the pot and turn the heat on medium high. Allow the noodles to cook for at least five minutes in the broth. Then add your peapods and allow them to cook for two minutes or until they turn into a bright green color.Turn off the heat.

Place some spinach into a deep individual serving bowl. Ladle the broth with about an inch still remaining at the rim of the bowl. Add some of the grilled eggplant and mushrooms.

Place the mint, basil, lime, and bean sprouts on a plate along side your bowl of pho.

Bon Appetit!



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