>> Wednesday, April 1
It's a terrible pun, but it's still funny if you know that 'pho', the name of the classic Korean noodle soup, is actually said "fuh". It is. It's also known for its masses of meaty ingredients-from meat stock to chunks of beef, chicken, shrimp, octopus, squid, mussels, egg, pork, and crab. In California restaurants, there is always a vegetarian option too, but I have no idea how they manage to replicate the amazing broth flavor of traditional pho. I looked up some recipes the other day, and it seems complicated. I'm intimidated by complicated asian recipes becaus eI don't know which boundaries to respect. But I happen to know another soup-loving asian country with very easy recipes: Japan. Erin's gone all trigger-happy with the miso again.
This soup is absolutely the most satisfying, umame-loaded bowl of deeeelish I've made. I just ate it for lunch 3 days in a row. It's not exactly like pho yet, I have to perfect the faux-pho taste (somone stop me), but it's so good you won't care. And you know what, if you are a bento fan, this is a great bento meal. You can easily take along a bowl already made with a side container of chopped mint leaves, onions, chives, chilis, sprouts, or any of the other magnificent pho toppings out there. For those of you with access to a kichen at work, just take the ingredients and enjoy the zen-like process of finely slicing your leeks and ginger root next to all the fools with Campbell's soup cups. You won't notice the funny looks, because the tendency when eating perfect food is to, er, pho-get the world around you...
Vegan Miso Pho (for 1 medium-large lunch. I couldn't finish it all!)
I brought the ingredients to work and made mine there: I premixed the spices, brought the portions of whole veggies, garlic, and onion, and stuck the rice noodles in a tupperware with the tiny sack of seaweed and a plastic-wrapped miso ball (i used the corner of an old ripped produce bag). Learn more about miso balls at Just Bento, Maki's wonderful bento blog.
A single serving of rice noodles, whatever you deem appropriate
2 tbsp Arame seaweed
2 dried mushrooms of choice (shitake would be great, I had some Swiss thing)
1 small carrot, sliced into thin rounds
1/2 leek, sliced into thin rounds
6 little chunks of tofu (opt)
1/2 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2-inch chunk of ginger root, minced
1 dried red chili, chopped, ground, or use a pinch of hot cayenne, paprika, or chili powder
2 tsp dark miso paste
1 tbsp toasted sesame (or other, less delicious) oil
a twist of black pepper
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
4-5 cumin seeds
1/2 tsp anis seeds, if you have them (i didn't)
a dash of nutmeg
salt if desired
garnishes: chopped mint leaves, cilantro, onions, chives, chilis, or mung bean sprouts.
Put the seaweed and mushrooms in 2 cups cold water to soak
Boil 2 cups water, pour it over the rice noodles, and let them sit for a few minutes, or until soft (or follow the directions for your noodles). Drain and set into the bottom of you soup bowl.
In a saucepan, heat the oil and add the spices. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until nothing pops anymore (a minute or two).
Add the ginger, chili, and onion. Stir and keep cooking until the onions are glossy.
Add the leek and tofu, and if necessary, a dash of water. Keep stirring and scraping off any spices that stick to the bottom, until the leeks are tender.
Pour the water with the seaweed and mushrooms into the pan, stir thoroughly, and cover for 1-2 minutes. Keep the heat low enough that it wants to simmer but can't quite. Add the carrots and garlic, and cook for another few minutes, until the carrots are barely cooked, but nowhere near soft. Remove from the heat and stir in the miso by first dissolving it in a spoonful of hot broth. Serve!