Zucchini and carrots become 'noodles' in this healthy vegan soup, while tofu adds protein. Ginger, garlic, and scallions contribute flavor to the vegetable broth. A variety of toppings tie the whole thing together!
The first time I tried the great Vietnamese dish known as pho was in March 2015.
My two best friends Kevin and Collin and I were about to embark on a week-long journey through Peru, on a hunt for buried treasure and the spirit of the Incas and a cool new profile picture (priorities). However, before we could begin our travels, Kevin's parents took it upon themselves to ensure we were well-fed and rested, so that we could best avoid Montezuma's Revenge.
Our first stop on our 'well-fed' journey was an authentic Vietnamese restaurant in Chantilly, VA, where Kevin's parents ordered pho for all of us. Kevin and the 'rents (who are Vietnamese and ALL amazing cooks) worked their chopsticks and spoons expertly, guiding noodles, meat, and vegetables to their mouth without spilling a drop of broth. Meanwhile, Collin and I stared at each other in open-mouthed bewilderment as we attempted to get even one noodle from bowl to mouth without spilling everything.
We're really good at culture and eating and stuff.
Since this experience, I had not even toyed with the idea of eating pho - that is, until I bought a spiralizer. When my friend Matt saw the shining behemoth on my counter and asked "ummm Jesse what is that animal??" I responded as accurately as I could:
"A spiralizer is a machine used to make noodles out of things that aren't supposed to be noodles"
Sweet potatoes? Check. Zucchini? Yup. Carrots? If you're brave. And I'm very brave - I mean, I awakened the long-sleeping Incan spirits* without batting an eye! So, I decided that this pho would involve both zucchini AND carrot noodles. I made my way to the grocery store, picking out my vegetables, broth, and tofu with ease. There was one thing left on my list, though - ginger.
*I was cursed with 10 years of bad luck in love, but - let's be honest - that's no different from the past 10 years.
I could NOT for the life of me find the ginger! Where could it be?? So, I did what I do best - circle the produce aisle like a hungry shark, hitting several innocent shoppers with my cart along the way, until a salesperson approached me to ask if I was finding everything okay. Then, acting offended that he should dare think I need help, say "I'm fine!" and get right back into my shark circles.
Are there support groups for this kind of thing? Please say yes.
I eventually DID find the ginger, and thank goodness, because it was truly key to this...
Vegan Zucchini Noodle 'Pho'
To make this dish, you will need:
- 1 quart vegetable broth
- 2 zucchini
- 2 carrots
- 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
- 2 scallions
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 block extra-firm tofu, pressed
- Toppings of your choice (I used lime wedges, slivered almonds, and rice vinegar)
Numero UNO*, you're going to press your tofu**!
*Words I learned in Peru
**Words I did NOT learn in Peru
Prepare a baking sheet by topping it with a towel, then drain the liquid from your package of extra-firm tofu. Set the tofu on the towel, swaddle it in the other half of the towel, and top it with something heavy - I chose this super weird yet super awesome book that Collin adores. You could also use a skillet or your law textbook or whatever suits your fancy. Then, stick this sucker in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to let the moisture absorb out of the tofu.
Note: when your roommate opens the refrigerator door and finds a book in there, be prepared to explain yo'self.
While your tofu is pressing, you can make your 'noodles'! Slice each of your zucchini and carrots in half, then trim off the ends, trying to make each cut straight and even. Working one piece at a time, spiralize these babies!
My spiralizer has 3 blades (I'm so fancyyyy, you already knooow), so I made half-and-half fat and skinny zucchini noodles, and then flat carrot noodles. THESE CARROTS WERE SO HARD. SERIOUSLY. Just keep truckin, and you'll end up with these beauties:
Once these are done, and your tofu has pressed, chop that tofu into bite-sized cubes. Next up, you'll chop your scallions, grate your ginger, and mince your garlic.
Heat a bit of oil (I used sesame) in a large pot over medium heat, then add the garlic, ginger, and scallions, stirring until fragrant. Then, add the vegetable broth, noodles, and tofu. Allow these to simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the noodles are your preferred texture and the soup is heated through.
Serve immediately, and garnish with your toppings of choice! I ate this alone, so no one has to know that I used my chopsticks incorrectly and splashed broth everywhere. My apologies to Kevin and the Nguyen family - I promise I'll learn eventually :)