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When Emily and I were in Hoi An, we took a vegan Vietnamese cooking class at Karma Waters. Our instructor was excellent and even adapted the recipes to remove soy for me.

Here are the recipes our instructor taught us for phở (Vietnam’s famous noodle soup) and fresh spring rolls (salad rolls). They might look intimidating at first glance, but they’re not that complicated. The result is well worth it.

Pho Good

Vegetarian Phở
Makes enough soup for 3-4 servings

  • 1/4 of a manioc (cassava) – peeled
  • 1/2 chayote – peeled and core removed
  • 1/2 carrot – the big fat cooking ones
  • handful straw mushrooms – cut into bite sized pieces
  • handful wood ear mushrooms (labelled ‘black fungus’ at grocery store) – if dried, rehydrate in warm water, cut into bite sized pieces
  • handful shiitake mushrooms – cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 white onion
  • 1/2 finger ginger
  • whole spices – 2 star anise, cinnamon stick, 3 nutmeg, and cloves (the Vietnamese grocery store sold bags of phở soup mix that contained these)
  • 3 tsp vegetable stock powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp vegan fish sauce or soy sauce
  • 1/4 package dried rice noodles
  • bean sprouts
  • fresh mint
  • fresh cilantro
  • green onions – chopped
  • fresh lime – cut into wedges
  • hot sauce

We found all of the ingredients at a local Vietnamese grocery store, but Chinese grocery stores should have most ingredients too.

Pounding the Spices Chopped Vegetables Chopping the Vegetables Frying the Mushrooms Cooking the Pho Vegetarian Pho Cooking Class
Steps:

  1. Pound ginger and garlic in a mortar and pestle very finely.
  2. Slice carrot and chayote into flowers (see video) thinly. Slice manioc thinly.
  3. Chop onion into chunks.
  4. Boil carrot, chayote, and manioc in 3 inches of water until soft (approx 10 minutes).
  5. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in a frying pan and add chili powder, ginger, and garlic. Cook until golden brown
  6. Add onions and fry for 1 minute.
  7. Add mushrooms and stir for another minute.
  8. Add fish sauce, soup stock, and black pepper. Add water as necessary in small amounts to keep ingredients from sticking to pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
  9. Add spices and cook for another minute. (In our cooking class we added the whole spices to the stir fry and then just picked them out of our soup bowls. At home, we put the spices in a tea ball and put it in with the boiling vegetables.)
  10. Scrape the fried ingredients into the soup pot. Add water to rinse out the pan, and add the water into the soup pot.
  11. Add at least 2 cups of water to the soup and taste – add more fish sauce and stock as necessary.
  12. Add rice noodles and cook for a few minutes. Be careful not to overcook the noodles.
  13. Get a bowl. Add bean sprouts in the bottom. Pour soup over. Top with pieces of mint, cilantro, and green onions.
  14. Squeeze in some lime juice and add some hot sauce for the perfect bowl of phở.

Spring Roll Filling
Fresh spring rolls (salad rolls)
Filling:

  • Handful of wood ear mushrooms (you can find dried ‘black fungus’ in grocery stores)
  • 1/2 carrot
  • 1/2 potato
  • 10 green beans
  • 1 clove garlic – finely chopped
  • black pepper
  • 1 tsp soup stock powder

Steps for filling:

  1. Cooking with ChopsticksCut mushrooms, carrot, and potato into thin matchstick-like pieces.
  2. Cut green beans into thin slices on an angle.
  3. Heat oil in frying pan, add chili sauce and garlic.
  4. Add all the vegetables and cook for a minute.
  5. And a small amount of water and fish sauce. Cook for another minute.
  6. Add pepper and soup stock.
  7. Stir fry until green beans are cooked but still a crispy.
  8. Set aside.

Sauce:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 onion
  • handful wood ear mushrooms (same comments as above)
  • 1/2 tbsp peanuts
  • 1/8 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp vegan fish sauce or soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp soup stock powder
  • 2 tsp cornstarch dissolved in cold water

Steps for sauce:

  1. Spring Roll Dipping SauceHeat 1 tbsp oil, add chili powder, garlic, onion. Stir until golden.
  2. Add mushrooms, fish sauce, and some water. Continue to fry, adding water when it dries out.
  3. Add 1 cup water and 1/2 tbsp stock. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add corn starch and peanuts.
  5. Lower to simmer and taste.
  6. Put sauce into a serving bowl.

Making Fresh Spring RollsOther ingredients:

  • lettuce
  • fresh mint
  • fresh cilantro
  • rice paper, the big circular sheets

Steps for assembly:

  1. Chop lettuce, mint, and cilantro roughly (like a salad).
  2. Cut round rice paper pieces in half.
  3. Dip rice paper into cold water and wait until its soft (~ 10 seconds).
  4. Put lettuce, mint and coriander at one end of the rice paper.
  5. Top with fried veggies.
  6. Roll, open ended.
  7. Dip into sauce and enjoy!
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