Rice Noodles with Eggs, Broccoli, and Dark Soy Sauce

Recently, one of my neighbors was giving away a bunch of vegetarian cookbooks. In the pile was Real Vegetarian Thai by Nancie McDermott, a cookbook I know my mother owns and likes.

The first recipe I tried was this rice noodle dish from page 164. Nancie describes the dish as easy to prepare and indeed it was. I could see myself making this on a weeknight when I want something comforting and indulgent as an alternative to ordering take out.

The recipe calls for a dark sweet soy sauce called si-yu but offers an alternative combo of regular soy sauce and brown sugar. I used this option since I didn’t have si-yu. But next time I go to the asian market I’ll be looking for si-yu so I can try making this again. The other change I made was reducing the oil. Nancie calls for 3 tbsp. I only used 4 tsp. Next time I think I’d try cutting it to 1 tbsp since the dish was still pretty high calorie.

I followed the timing of the dish carefully and the veggies came out crisp, just like I like them. The flavor of the dish was peppery and savory. And the eggs add a creamy aspect. Very yummy. Nancie calls for offering chili vinegar as a condiment, but I didn’t have any. So instead I used about a teaspoon of rice vinegar on each bowl, which added to the flavor. I’d like to pick up chili vinegar for the next time I make this.

Update: So far I’ve made this twice, once for myself and once for my sister’s family while in Germany. It was a hit both times. Easy, tasty, filling, and indulgent. A very good weeknight dish indeed. The only issue we had with the dish was the ratio of pasta to broccoli. Everyone, including my seven-year-old niece, agreed it needed more broccoli. Although I think I messed up the proportions when I made it for my sister’s family, so it probably was more that than the recipe. Still, I’d do 4 cups of broccoli instead of 3 and probably 7 ounces of pasta instead of 8 and see how that went. The other issue I had both times was volume. Flipping this recipe without a big wok is really hard. Next time I’m going to try making it in my cast iron dutch oven and see how that goes instead.

Green Bean Salad with Spicy Thai Dressing

I made a modified version of this thai green bean salad as a side to tofu larb. I omitted the dried shrimp and used cashews instead of peanuts since I didn’t have peanuts on hand. I enjoyed the salad. It was quick to make and very tasty. The only thing is it really needed to marinate for two days before the flavor fully soaked into the green beans.

https://www.delicious.com.au/recipes/green-bean-salad-spicy-thai-dressing/d8f3d75f-9612-4c0f-883d-046071c93b8b

Tofu Larb

I was recently turned on to the miracle of tofu lettuce wraps by a friend. This recipe for a vegetarian twist on Laotian larb intrigued me. The recipe is essentially a Laotian-flavored tofu salad in leaves of lettuce. Since I’ve never eaten traditional larb, I have nothing to compare it to.

I didn’t mind these, but didn’t love them either. The tofu mixture just wasn’t quite flavorful enough to keep my attention for more than one meal. Plus, every time I saw the mixture in the fridge, it just made me crave my favorite spiced tofu salad recipe. I did enjoy the interesting texture created by the toasted rice powder and fried onions. An interesting recipe to try, but I don’t think I’ll make it for a main course again. Though it might make a nice appetizer for a Thai/Laotian dinner. One commenter recommended adding vegan fish paste. I might try that for more flavor.

Mushroom Hot Pot

We’ve gotten back to back winter storms in Durham this week, so I was craving something soothing. I thought this hot pot recipe from Post Punk Kitchen might be just the thing.

I liked but didn’t love the recipe. The broth was pretty good, but not quite as flavorful as I’d expected. I didn’t put star anise in the broth since I didn’t have any. There weren’t nearly enough mushrooms in my opinion. Maybe it would have been more flavorful if I had added them. I used broccoli, tofu, and rice noodles as my optional add-ins. But they didn’t really seem to go that well with the broth. Maybe rice would have been better?

Overall not bad. But I’m not sure it was good enough to make again.

Vegetarian Pho

I fell in love with pho while living in D.C. A restaurant called Pho 14 in Columbia Heights serves a delicious vegetarian pho made with a broth made from fuji apples. After I moved to North Carolina I found myself craving that pho and unable to find anything like it. Most pho restaurants that attempt a vegetarian pho broth use something that tastes like mock chicken broth to me. Not at all what I was missing. I decided to try to make it myself. I started by googling “fuji apple pho recipe”. This took me to this blog https://southofparadise.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/vegetarian-pho-with-homemade-fuji-apple-broth/. The person writing it was in the same position as me. Trying to recreate a beloved restaurant meal without any recipe. Using this recipe as a starting place, I’ve been tinkering with the recipe for the last five years, adding in some elements from this recipe when it was published a few years ago https://food52.com/blog/19080-how-pho-genius-andrea-nguyen-makes-a-richer-vegan-broth.

Here is the result.

Broth:

7 Fuji Apples (cut in half)

2 Carrots

1 Onion

3 celery stocks

10 peppercorns

1 tsp coriander seeds

3 cinnamon sticks

1 star anise

2 cloves

  1. Put all the ingredients into an instant pot or a 6 quart slow cooker.
  2. Fill it up with water, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top
  3. Cook on high (if your slow cooker has settings) for 10 hours

The idea behind this broth recipe is to make a concentrated broth so that it can be stores easily or combined with boiling water for a hot bowl of pho without having to microwave the broth. I put the broth in jars in the freezer and enjoy pho all season without having to constantly make more broth. I find that the right combination of water to broth is 1/3 broth 2/3 water.

Once you have the broth made, there’s only one more thing you need to make ahead of time before you’re ready for an almost instant delicious weeknight dinner: the tofu. I played around with various options for recreating the delicious deep fried tofu found in pho restaurants. I’ve actually decided that the best no deep-fry option is to bake the tofu. The tofu comes out crispy and tough. It’s not the same as restaurant tofu but it gives me the same textural satisfaction in the bowl. Here’s how I do it:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 Fahrenheit
  2. Cut a block of medium tofu into 2/3 inch squares
  3. Put 1 tsp of canola oil on a cookie sheet and spread it around.
  4. Put the tofu on the cookie sheet and spread it around flipping it on all sides to make sure all sides get coated in oil
  5. Cook the tofu, flipping it halfway through, until all sides are golden.

Now you’re ready for almost instant weeknight pho. Here’s how I do it. The proportions are for 1 large bowl of pho.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup of pho broth, left out to room temperature

1 cup Broccoli, in bite size pieces

1/2 Carrot, cut into 1/4 inch slices

4 Dried mushroom, in bite size pieces

1/2 cup Vermicelli rice noodles

1/5 block cooked tofu

Basil

Bean sprouts

Siracha

Hoison Sauce

Lime or lemon juice

  1. Boil 3 cups of water (I do this in a kettle)
  2. Put rice noodles into a heat-proof large bowl or pot, breaking them up so that each piece is 2 inches long
  3. Add the veggies to the bowl
  4. Add 2 tsp of soy sauce to the bowl
  5. Once the water is boiling, pour it into the bowl with the noodles and veggies
  6. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until everything is soft
  7. While ingredients are soaking, boil another 1 1/3 cup water
  8. Put the soft veggies and noodles, along with the tofu, into the bowl with the broth
  9. Pour in the boiling water
  10. Add lemon juice, hoison, siracha, basil, and bean sprouts as desired