Spring Pho

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Spring is on the way again. In Chinese language, there’s a special phrase called “倒春寒” (late spring coldness) which means an unexpected sudden temperature drop in the spring. This Pho is perfect for those cold days, when you need some warm savory food, meanwhile still can enjoy loads of freshness from the evergreen spring.
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Pho is a classic Vietnamese soup dish. A typical Pho includes rice noodles in broth, a combination of raw and cooked vegetables, fresh herbs, and beef strips. The broth for a traditional pho usually involves several kinds of meats and hours of simmering in order to bring out a rich meaty flavour. In this recipe, I will make a doable vegetarian version for a weekday meal by simplifying ingredients.

To make the broth, I’ll use onions, shiitaki mushrooms and coriander stem, together with ginger and star anise. Pho is highly customizable, you can assemble your own bowls with your favourite add-ins. Since it’s spring time, I’ll throw in bamboo shoots, carrot, beansprouts and tofu, then stuff the bowl with lettuce, coriander, basil leaves, and complete with a generous drizzle of lime juice. Enjoy this colourful bowl of pure goodness in the spring!
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Ingredients:
(serves 2)
For the broth:
1 large onion, peeled and halved
8 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
nub of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 star anise
small bunch of coriander, stem and leaves separated

For the Pho:
200g dry rice noodles (or 400g fresh rice noodles)
200g firm tofu, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped in strips
several lettuce leaves
handful of Thai basil
handful of beansprouts
1 lime, quartered
red and green chili
sesame oil and salt to taste

Methods:
1. place all the ingredients for the broth in a pot with 1L water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain broth, and return to pot. Leave the mushrooms and discard the other solids.
2. add in sesame oil and salt in the broth to taste. Put in bamboo shoots and tofu, bring to a boil, set aside.
3. cook rice noodles in boiling water until soft, drain and rinse under cold water. Divide into 2 large bowls. Top with lettuce, mushrooms, tofu, fresh carrots and beansprouts, ladle broth over. Serve with chili, coriander, basil, and lime wedges on the side.