Tag Archives: asian

Pho sure!

Is there anything more satisfying than a humongous bowl of pho?
Maybe there is, to you, but I sure love sinking into this fragrant soup filled with amazing aromas, crunchy bean sprouts and fiery chilies.

2010-08-22 11.02.32I was first introduced to pho at a little hole in the wall Vietnamese place here in Florida. This place is authentic (and people do swear by its magical powers and great, cheap food) with Buddhas strategically placed and Vietnamese TV on in the background.

I had the vegetarian pho, and what struck me especially was the little side dish of condiments – basil, bean sprouts, chili peppers, lime) that signaled you to place them gently atop the finished soup, creating a masterpiece. It’s almost too pretty to eat!

When I get a hankering, I make my own at home (see above pic). It’s not hard. I love my river rice noodles, so those are very important. You can add anise, black pepper, garlic, and what not to a good veggie based broth. Add tofu (or leave it out), green onions, sliced mushrooms, gently simmer. Then you can begin adding your pretty condiments. Pho is adaptable to whatever you have on hand – it’s a lovely, gentle, forgiving soup. 🙂

Thai on the fly

I’ve been meaning to make the Spicy Thai Soup from my Vegetarian Times cookbook for some time; and it was this weekend that I discovered I had all the ingredients on hand. Yay!


Coming home from a hard day at work, I whipped up this tasty soup in no time. I was really hungry, so I tossed some shelled edamame with chopped garlic, sea salt, sesame oil and red pepper flakes as my side dish (heated briefly). Oh my, pure heaven. Edamame is up there on my list of my food addictions and I think preparing it this way is my new favorite.

I didn’t have kaffir lime leaves on hand but the book did say I could sub lime zest, which I did. The soup turned out spicy, salty, zesty, and so clean-tasting!

I’ll bet this would be a great meal if you were feeling under the weather. Lots of healthiness, here.

This is how we roll

…roll vegetarian egg rolls, that is. My friend T had us over to her house for an “egg roll making party,” which also included cat-and-dog petting, some knitting, and lots of gab. T was making a big batch of the rolls for some ladies with whom she has upholstery class.

We used Filipino wrappers, which are usually made into lumpian prito, a Filipino roll.  T chose these because her Vietnamese mother always used these particular wrappers instead of the traditional Chinese-style egg roll wrappers. They come frozen in the Asian markets, and I think there are about 50 wrappers to the pack.

T had the day before sauteed  a bunch of veggies: carrot, eggplant, onion, and cabbage to use in the rolls.  She decided to make the rolls vegetarian because she’s been thinking about switching from a meat & veggie diet to one that is completely plant -based. I applaud her thinking!

M rolls like a pro.

The veggie mixture

As we all sat at her dining table, R and I watched and knitted as T and M filled and rolled the rolls….lots and lots of rolls! We conversed about shopping, men, pets…and knitting, of course. Yeah, your typical ladies’ gathering!

T’s pets – two kitties and a dog – sensed something was afoot: namely, people food! Ginger, the yellow lab, eventually insinuated herself underneath the table for a nap when she realized she was not to take part in this party! Egg rolls and puppy dogs don’t mix!

Sad Ginger.

A quick fry in some peanut oil, and the rolls began to appear…ready for eatin’. T got out the Chinese hot mustard and we all had a sample. Super yum! You know egg rolls, that heady mix of “fried” and “I’m eating veggies, so it’s kind of healthy” – yeah, it was like that. So bad, so good, so bad, so very very good…

As always, T is very generous, and encouraged us all to take some un-fried rolls home. I grabbed six and fried them up a few days later, dipping them in some soy-based Vietnamese all-purpose sauce. Outstanding!

Cooking parties are awesome. Next time, T suggested we have a pasta-making party….I can’t wait to see how that goes!

The final result.

Appealing to my senses

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I love tofu. No, really, I do love it. It’s not as if, as a vegetarian, I am obligated to like it. I know a few vegetarians who positively dislike tofu – its texture, taste (or lack of it, in most cases), and general association with bland hippie fare. Yes, I know how maligned tofu has been through the decades, but I keep telling folks if they just had it prepared properly, flavorfully, they might learn to enjoy it (or at least tolerate it).

Sweet, spicy, salty, garlicky...perfect.

Here’s a dish I discovered that appeals to my appreciation of tofu as well as my favorite cuisine: Warm Tofu with Spicy Garlic Sauce. I came across the recipe in, of all places, Gourmet magazine’s Web site, while looking for Korean vegetarian food. (We have no Korean restaurants in my town; so one must make do on their own.)
It elevates that scary cube of tofu from ghostly white tasteless hunk to a savory, satisfying, super-easy dish. The “spicy garlic sauce” really is none other than a very basic Asian blend of sweet, spicy, salty, garlicky goodness that personally sings to my heart. It’s lip-smackingly delicious, and tofu never has dressed up so simply, so good.

I prepared this dish with brown rice. The rice soaks up the leftover sauce, and the whole affair ends up satisfyingly healthful. (You can use low-sodium soy sauce here if the salt content makes you nervous. I used my favorite Vietnamese full-on soy sauce, but that’s me.) I snipped green onions from my garden, and doubled the garlic. The sauce would go great on soba or somen noodles, too. Make up a small batch to keep on hand, because if you are an ‘Asian craver’ like me, you’ll be thinking about this at 2 in the morning (dip spring rolls in it, too!).

Faux pho

Pho! Ever since my first bowl, I’ve been in love. The closest Vietnamese restaurant to my house is about 12 miles away. I know, I know, not so far. But I’m not always able to make it over there. What’s a girl to do? Make homemade pho, of course.

It might be faux, but it's pretty good pho.

At the market they sell little packages of pho broth (vegetarian, luckily). I gently cooked the rice noodles in the broth, added a few cloves, Vietnamese soy sauce, and garlic powder to kick it up, and then simmered tofu cubes and mushrooms in the noodle-broth for about 10 minutes. On the side: bean sprouts, hot peppers, and basil (I had no Thai basil – a shame, really – so I had to opt for regular basil from my kitchen plant).

Result? Yummers. Yeah, not as good as in the restaurant – but passable and tasty. Works for me!

Spring Rolls Have Sprung!

Another of my latest obsessions (and I am a girl of many) are Vietnamese spring rolls. I fell in love with them for the very first time about a month ago, when my father and I tried out a local Vietnamese restaurant that came highly recommended by a friend. I’d always been intrigued by the delicate, almost transparent wrappers and the healthy goodies tucked inside. Until the restaurant, I’d never actually tasted one before, so, along with my noodle salad, I ordered up a pair.

Until I’d trawled my local Asian market to find the wrappers, the idea of actually making these on my own had eluded me. Then, bingo: I happened upon a package of rice paper wrappers (banh trang). Yay! All I needed to do was to moisten the buggers, stuff with whatever my heart desired, and wrap. And eat. Prepping them was a lot easier than I thought; but deciding what to wrap in there was the hard part!

For my first attempt, I filled them with baby spinach, tofu, peanut, bean sprouts, green onion, and a sprinkling of crushed red pepper (when I ran out of fresh Thai bird peppers.) I managed also to find Vietnamese soy sauce for that authentic dipping experience. Wow! They are so addictive and healthful! And a package of wrappers goes a long way. I’m not certain how many are in a package; I’d venture to guess around 30 or so.
With warm weather coming up, these would make a stellar appetizer for your next garden party, paired with some smooth miso soup topped off with green onions. Serve a nice iced green tea, or for the adults, a refreshing Vietnamese beer.

Thai Tuesday

Thai veggie stir-fry. Om to the nom.

Current Obsession…

…Miso soup. I buy it from the local Asian market in a refrigerator pack of paste. It makes fabulous soup, awesome stir-fry base, and adds flavor to salad dressing.

Here’s my miso soup with noodles and a little green onion in my new oriental soup bowl, which I bought specifically for my Asian soups. I love my new little bowl!

Below, somen noodles which I am also currently obsessed with. Isn’t the packaging gorgeous?

Futomaki fantasies

It’s edible works of art. This baby was photographed (and consumed) at Hook’s.

I love udon

Why do I? Because it’s so chewy, substantial, and tasty? Yes, and also because it fits the size of my stock pot and I don’t have to break the strands in two, like I do with Italian long pastas.

Yum! Udon!