Vegetarian Pho Bo (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

These are very hot little firecrackers from the orient. They can be used to add spice to almost any oriental dish. They dry very easily and can be stored and used this way for a long time.

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8 cups clear vegetable stock
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
8 medium garlic cloves, peeled and chopped coarsely
1 small onion, diced
1 3-inch piece of ginger
two 3-inch cinnamon sticks
Vegetarian Pho Bo

8 cups Vietnamese style broth (see recipe above)
1 pound rice noodles
8 oz. package seitan**, drained

1/4 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup shredded cabbage (such as Napa cabbage)
1/2 cup tender greens, torn into bite-sized piecescup basil leaves
1/2 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced (both green and white parts)
3 Tbsp. chopped, roasted, unsalted peanuts
1 lime, cut into wedges
3 fresh red or green Thai chiles, seeded and cut into fine rounds
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

**seitan is a gluten meat substitute and can be found in Oriental markets and health food stores


To make the broth:

Put the vegetable stock, soy sauce, garlic and onion in a large stockpot and bring to a boil over medium heat.

Meanwhile, char the ginger on all sides over an open gas flame or in a small skillet and add to the stock. Add the cinnamon sticks, star of anise, and bay leaves to the broth. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for about 20-25 minutes.

Remove the solids with a slotted spoon or strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve. Adjust the seasonings if necessary and return to the pot. Keep the stock hot until ready to use in soup.

To prepare the soup:

Make the broth as directed. When the broth has been simmering for about 10 minutes, soak the noodles as follows.

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot, then remove from the heat. Add the noodles and let them soak for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the noodles are pliable and easily separated.

Drain the noodles and divide them among six bowls. Simmer the seitan in the broth until it has heated through, about 4 minutes, then remove the seitan with a slotted spoon and slice it thinly into six portions. Add to the noodles.

Assemble the soup by placing the bean sprouts, cabbage, greens, basil, cilantro, scallions and optional peanuts on top of the noodles and seitan. Ladle the hot broth onto the noodle mixture and serve with a plate of lime wedges, chile rounds, and salt and pepper for individual seasoning.

Recipe from the Vegetarian Journal.