Recipe ReDux: Traditional Vietnamese Pho with a vegetarian twist – by Scoop Sub Laura Ford

I am so loving getting to know our two Scoop Summer Subs, Laura and Lauren (try saying that quickly 10 times on a Google+ Hangout).  Both of them are brimming with talent and ideas, so I felt very confident to hand this month’s Recipe Redux over to Laura.  The theme is a cherished childhood food memory and of course a recipe with a healthier twist.  And oh boy.  She didn’t dissapoint:

About our expert:

Laura Ford - Vietnamese Pho RecipeLaura is about to undertake her 3rd year as a Nutrition and Dietetics student at Monash University. Prior to commencing her degree at Monash, she completed a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Japanese and Political Science at the University of Melbourne and then decided to change career paths after enrolling in a postgraduate diploma in Human Nutrition at Deakin University. Laura is a devout foodie and is passionate about making healthy food appealing, easy and most importantly, delicious! Her Instagram account (@laurafordnutrition) is littered with Melbourne food hangouts, healthy treats and various Vietnamese delicacies.

Laura Ford - child photoMy mum is Vietnamese and my dad is Australian but growing up my Vietnamese grandparents looked after me and I was brought up on Vietnamese food, culture and language.  As I grew older and was surrounded more and more by Australian multiculuralism, my ties to my Vietnamese culture were bound closer to my family and less in my day to day life. I have a beautiful mixed bag of friends who have parents from all over the world and the multiculturalism in my life has influenced the way I eat and experiment with food. I am very open to trying new cuisines and foods and I love to try different things in the kitchen.  My mum has been a huge influence on how I eat and cook as she is fantastic in the kitchen.

Growing up with a large extended Vietnamese family, it goes without saying that my childhood was filled with market trips and Vietnamese Market - Market pho, lots of veggiesmany bowls of steaming hot Vietnamese pho.  Pho is unquestionably the national dish of Vietnam and is sold in restaurants, markets and sidewalks all over.  Traditionally it is made with fresh rice noodles and a heavily scented beef (or chicken) broth made from simmering charred bones for hours upon hours with an assortment of secret herbs and spices.  The soup is then served with various meaty toppings like raw sliced beef (that is cooked to tender perfection by the hot broth), beef balls, slow cooked brisket, tripe and other organ meats that I have never been brave enough to try.  It also comes with a pile of fresh bean sprouts, onion, Vietnamese basil, lemon wedges, chilli and hoisin sauce to add according to taste.

So you could say I’m known by my friends as a bit of a Pho expert.  Here’s my new age take on tradition below.  The full recipe is ready for download or printing here: Traditional-Vietnamese-Pho-with-Vegetarian-Twist.pdf It may look like a lot of steps but each step is extremely easy so don’t be overwhelmed.

Pho Chay – Traditional Vietnames Pho with a Vegetarian Twist

Pho Chay - Traditional Vietnames Pho with a Vegetarian Twist

Now I know what you’re thinking: this dish sounds like the ultimate dietitian’s fast food, and you’re right. It is one of the most fantastically healthy meal options, but it is lacking in the most important food group of all: vegetables.  With overall consumption of fruit and vegetables sitting low in most countries (only 7% of Australians meet the dietary recommendation for fruit and vegetable intake) but I’m going to show you how to make my new age vegetarian pho will make even the hearts of the most dedicated meat eaters warm with nutrient dense joy! Doesn’t it look delicious and nutritious?

Top tip: The Soup

Of course making your own stock will produce the best results but if you don’t have time for that just make sure you choose a good quality stock.  You can make a stock by simmering half a cabbage, 1 daikon radish, 4 carrots and 2 cobs of corn in a big pot filled with water for several hours until the vegetables are very soft.  Make the night before for maximum flavour.

This recipe is from my mum who has been a vegetarian for as long as I can remember.   It was developed over time with her Buddhist temple friends and as I began to learn about nutrition, I became more interested in this vegetarian pho that she had been slowly perfecting over the years.  Its clean simple flavours taste nourishing in a more uplifting way than a typical pho.  Whether this is because it is more karma-inclined with its lack of animal products or because it was developed at a temple with Buddhist monks, I don’t know.  Either way, it’s delicious and it makes a great addition to your meatless Mondays and is a fabulous way to boost your vegetable intake.  If you do still feel meat inclined, before serving, top the noodles with thin slices of uncooked beef that will cook when the hot soup is poured over.

Top tip: Pho spices

If you go to an Asian grocer they will have a spice mix called ‘Pho spices’.  But I’ve given you a breakdown if you can’t find it.

Pho spices photo - asian

Pho is more of an assembly job than it is a recipe.  Once you have all the soup prepared, you can leave it in the fridge for the flavours to develop for up to several days.  It freezes well (like all stocks) making it a great fast meal if need be.  The quantities given are just a rough guide as the amount of tofu or variety of vegetables you can use will vary according to how hungry you are.  I’m yet to meet a friend that can finish a bowl of pho so just make as much as you need and if there is extra soup, you’ve got a quick meal on hand.

Editor’s comment:

Bupa Blog Award - scoop nutritionI adore all your extra tips and insights Laura.  Thank you!  I must say we are spoilt living near Footscray in Melbourne where Pho is steaming all day and night.  But I know our US RD friends will LOVE this fully stepped recipe.  It feels good to be back with Redux.  I missed the last couple of months due to far too many reasons to go into here.  But we’re back and can’t wait to see what everyone else cooked up below.  Oh and did we mention?  Scoop Nutrition just so happened to win a big deal blog award!  We can’t thank you, lovely readers, enough!


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