Saturday, March 20, 2010

Vegan Pho with Seitan

Vegan Pho with Seitan

By now, everyone should know what pho is (and banh mi but that'll be a different post in the future). It is either the new(ish) food trend where you live or an old trend going back several years. Wherever it falls on the food trend scale, it is warm, comforting, complex and delicious.

I haven't had vegan pho (or any other Vietnamese food) in three years since I moved from Toronto and I miss it a LOT. Sure, there are restaurants that list "vegetarian" pho, but chances are that the stock is still NOT vegan. So... I steer clear unless it's a vegan or vegetarian restaurant.

Yesterday I couldn't decide what to make for dinner and for some reason, I just wanted pho. Because I can't really get vegan pho here, I had to make it myself. This was the first time making it and it was awesome. My house smelled like a pho restaurant all evening.

I looked at a few different recipes online and saw that they all had a similar formula so I ended up winging it. Some recipes also call for whole cardamom, coriander and fennel, but I just stuck with cinnamon, cloves and star anise. Success! I did deviate a bit from some of the traditional recipes in that I didn't char the onions or strain my broth. I unfortunately did not write down or pay attention to how much I put in of some of the ingredients. I just made it to taste, so here's my blueprint.
  1. Saute some thinly sliced onion, garlic and ginger.
  2. Add water (I think I used 6-8 cups), vegan "beef" bouillon powder (half of what was called for with the amount of water I was using since I was adding soy sauce and salt), cinnamon stick (3"), whole cloves (5), star anise (5), Japanese soy sauce, splash of Bragg's, salt, pepper and sugar. Let that come to a boil and add thinly sliced seitan. I put the cloves and the star anise in a tea ball so it was easy to pull out later. I also added in some sliced mushrooms since I had some kicking around.
  3. Lower heat to a strong simmer and let simmer for about 1 hour uncovered. Take out the cinnamon stick, cloves and star anise. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  4. Add in rice noodles to the soup and cook until noodles are tender.
  5. Mound some noodles in a bowl, ladle the soup on top and garnish.
For the garnish, I only had green onions but I would have added a lime wedge, thai basil and cilantro. No bean sprouts for me though as I'm not too fond of them. I also added a dollop of chili garlic sauce. Yes, I know that you can't really see the soup under all the noodles, but trust me, it's there! I just like a lot of noodles.

It was easy to make and probably not the best vegan pho in the world, but it was so delicious and easy to make. Definitely going to make this again very soon.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tomato Sauce with Onion and "Butter"

Tomato Sauce with Onion and "Butter" over Pasta

I came across a delightful little recipe for a super simple tomato sauce that made its way around the internet some time ago: Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter by Marcella Hazan. I was intrigued that it only has 3 main ingredients (tomatoes, onion and butter) and received rave reviews from everyone. So of course I had to make a vegan version.

You'll find the original recipe in the link above. Basically you take 1 large 28 oz tin of good tomatoes (don't settle for crappy cheap tomatoes*) smooshed up with the juice along with about 5 tbsp of your favourite vegan margarine (Earth Balance) and an onion** cut in half and throw that in a sauce pan. You can use unsalted vegan margarine and then salt to taste but I found that the salted margarine wasn't too salty for this. Anyway, bring the mixture to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 45 mins, stirring occasionally. Then you take out the onion and serve over pasta.

Sounds too simple to be that good right? Wrong. It's incredible. Really! The combination of margarine, slowly cooked onion and tomatoes works so well that I wanted to just eat the sauce as is. I did deviate from the original in that I did throw in some roughly minced garlic. I also cut the onion into 8 wedges and left that in the final sauce. Next time I'll try it like the original — no garlic and take out the onion.

I served the sauce over thick homemade wheat pasta with basil since I was out of packaged pasta (and no semolina flour). Just 2 cups white flour with 1/4 cup soy flour, salt, basil, olive oil and about 3/4 cup boiling water. Mix and knead until smooth, cover and let sit for 30 mins. Then simply roll out, cut and let dry for a few minutes and then cook in boiling salted water until done. It's super easy and yummy, but it is a bit time consuming. Sometimes it's worth it though and the homemade pasta was awesome with this sauce.

And there you have it. A 3 ingredient sauce that folks all over rave about. I think that this sauce is going to become my go-to sauce around here since I always have those ingredients on hand. Now, this is NOT a low-fat sauce by any means but it's really good, and for me, worth the calories and fat. Give it a try!

* If all you have are cheaper mediocre canned tomatoes, you might want to add a sprinkle of sugar to the sauce when simmering.

** I was reading that quite a few chefs swear by not sauteeing onion or garlic in tomato sauces and letting it cook in the sauce itself for the best flavour. I think they're on to something because this tasted way better than any tomato sauce I've made with sauteed onions and garlic.
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