I tried and tested numerous combinations or vegetables and spices and this recipe here I must say beats out all other vegan broths I have tasted.
For the Vegan Broth
- 1 large onion (about 1/2 pound), peeled and quartered
- 1 3-inch piece of fresh ginger
- 3 quarts water
- 1 pound leeks (1 1/2 large), tough ends cut away, halved lengthwise, cleaned and cut in thick slices
- 2 medium turnips (about 10 ounces), peeled and cut in wedges
- 1 pound carrots (3 large), peeled and sliced thick
- 2 ounces mushroom stems (from about 8 ounces mushrooms), or 4 dried shiitakes
- 1 head of garlic, cut in half
- 2 stalks lemon grass, trimmed, smashed with the side of a knife, and sliced
- Salt to taste
- 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (to taste), preferably raw brown sugar
- 6 star anise pods
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- A 2- to 3-inch cinnamon stick
- 1 to 2 tablespoons vegan fish sauce (nuoc mam), to taste (optional)
For the Noodles and Asparagus
- 3/4 pound wide rice noodles
- 1 pound asparagus, woody stems trimmed away and cut on the diagonal into 2-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup Asian or purple basil leaves, slivered
- 4 scallions, chopped
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 to 4 bird or serrano chilies, finely chopped (to taste)
- 6 mint sprigs
- 3 to 4 limes, cut in wedges
For the Vegan Broth
- Scorch the onion and ginger by holding the pieces above a flame with tongs, or in a dry frying pan if using an electric stove. Turn the pieces until they are scorched black in places on all sides. Slice the ginger lengthwise.
- Combine the scorched onion and ginger with the water, leeks, turnips, carrots, mushroom stems or dried shiitakes, garlic, lemon grass, salt to taste and 1 tablespoon sugar in a large soup pot and bring to a boil.
- Tie the spices in a cheesecloth bag and add to the soup.
- Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add the fish sauce if using, and simmer for another hour (2 hours total, with or without the fish sauce).
- Strain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer.
- Taste and adjust salt and sugar.
To assemble the Vegan Vietnamese Pho
- Have the broth at a simmer in a soup pot.
- Steam or blanch the asparagus for 2 to 3 minutes, just until crisp-tender. Set aside.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the noodles. Cook until just al dente, firm to the bite, following the timing instructions on the package (my wide noodles take about 5 minutes).
- Drain and divide among 4 to 6 large soup bowls.
- Distribute the asparagus among the bowls and ladle in a generous amount of hot broth.
- Sprinkle on half the cilantro, half the basil leaves and the green onions.
- Use the chopped chilies, mint sprigs and the remaining basil and cilantro for guests to add as desired, and the lime wedges to squeeze on.