Pho With Spinach and Tofu
Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times
You can fuse Asian cuisines in this version of pho, substituting soba for the rice noodles and seasoning the tofu with a little soy sauce.
1 recipe vegetarian pho broth
1/2 pound firm tofu, cut in dominoes
Soy sauce to taste (optional)
12 ounces soba or wide rice noodles
4 to 6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems cut away and discarded (can use stems in the broth), caps sliced thin
1 generous bunch spinach, stem ends trimmed away, washed thoroughly in 2 changes water, or 8 ounces baby spinach
1/2 cup Asian or purple basil leaves, slivered if large, left whole if small
4 scallions, chopped
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 to 4 bird or serrano chilies, sliced thin or finely chopped (to taste)
6 fresh mint sprigs
3 to 4 limes, cut in wedges
1. Have the broth at a simmer in a soup pot. Place the tofu in a bowl and season with soy sauce if desired.
2. For soba: Bring 3 or 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the noodles gradually, so that the water remains at a boil, and stir once with a long-handled spoon or pasta fork so that they don’t stick together. Wait for the water to come back up to a rolling boil – it will bubble up, so don’t fill the pot all the way – and add 1 cup of cold water. Allow the water to come back to a rolling boil and add another cup of cold water. Allow the water to come to a boil one more time and add a third cup of water. When the water comes to a boil again, the noodles should be cooked through. Drain and divide among 6 large soup bowls.
For rice noodles: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the noodles. Cook until just al dente, firm to the bite, following the timing instructions on the package (my wide noodles take about 5 minutes). Drain and divide among 6 large soup bowls.
3. Add the thinly sliced mushroom caps and spinach to the simmering broth, and as soon as the spinach wilts (about 20 seconds) ladle the broth and spinach into the soup bowls. Divide the tofu among the bowls. Sprinkle on half the cilantro, half the basil leaves and the green onions. Pass the chopped chilies, the mint sprigs, the remaining basil and cilantro for guests to add as desired, and the lime wedges for guests to squeeze on. Serve with chopsticks for the noodles and soup spoons for the soup.
Yield: 6 servings.
Advance preparation: The broth will keep for a few days in the refrigerator and can be frozen. The noodles can be cooked several hours ahead. Rinse them after draining and keep in a bowl. Just before serving, reheat by dunking briefly into a pot of simmering water and draining (it helps to place them in a strainer or pasta pot insert). You can blanch the spinach ahead or when you reheat the noodles.
Nutritional information per serving: 265 calories (267 with optional fish sauce); 2 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 1 gram monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 51 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams dietary fiber; 164 milligrams sodium (354 milligrams with optional fish sauce; does not include salt to taste); 14 grams protein
Martha Rose Shulman is the author of “The Very Best of Recipes for Health.”