* A Vietnamese noodle soup. Chay means vegetarian.
Oh Vietnam. The Husb and I spent a month cycling there in 2017 and, while it wasn’t without its challenges, it left an indelible impression in our minds. Not least the food….OH THE FOOD! I can barely talk about it without shedding a tear.
The Husb is, in fact, out eating Vietnamese this evening and I am WELL JEAL. Fortunately, we recently acquired a Vietnamese veggie cookbook, so I consulted it to see what I could conjure up from an inadequately-stocked store cupboard.
‘It must be pho’ I hear you cry. But no! While pho is widely touted as the ‘national dish’, we actually ate a lot more bun. Same soup, different noodle. Where pho noodles are flat, bun are round, more like spaghetti. Both made of rice, yet surprisingly different, especially in texture.
I had to freestyle it somewhat, not least because we didn’t have any actual noodles! Spaghetti would have to do. Which, if you have ever eaten bun, is less random than it sounds. Despite the different composition, the texture and taste is not dissimilar. And needs must!
- Light olive oil
- 1 block tofu, cubed
- 1 onion, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, peeled
- 1 inch ginger, peeled and slightly bashed
- 6 dried chinese mushrooms (could use porcini but use fewer, or fresh Shitake)
- 1 stock cube and 1 litre hot water
- 1.5 tbsp light soy sauce
- 0.5 tbsp chinese rice wine (or any white wine)
- Pinch chilli flakes
- 4 small carrots, peeled and then cut into strips with the peeler
- 4 large leaves from summer greens / pointed cabbage….or similar, ribs removed and shredded
- Couple of handfuls of spinach
- 150-200g spaghetti (or bun noodles, obviously!)
- Handful of coriander and chives, roughly chopped
Warning – this sounds like a faffathlon. It wasn’t actually that bad!
First, I coated the tofu in a slosh of oil and baked it in the oven until lightly crispy.
Meanwhile, I fried the onion until soft, and soaked the mushrooms in a small amount of hot water. I let the onion pan cool a bit while I removed the mushrooms from the water (I also sliced them for later). I topped up the water to a litre and added the stock cube.
I added the stock, soy sauce, wine, ginger, garlic and chilli to the onion pan. I brought the mixture to the boil, then reduced to a gentle simmer and put the lid on. I let it all infuse for 15 mins while I cooked the spaghetti. Once I’d drained the spaghetti and rinsed it in cold water, I removed the garlic and ginger from the broth.
I then added the cooked tofu, sliced mushrooms, carrot and greens to the broth pan and cooked it for a couple of minutes. I turned the heat off, and stirred in the spaghetti and spinach before serving in bowls with the herbs.
Not bad at all! I was almost taken back. Almost….sigh!