This is an ‘involved recipe’, but well worth the effort for this big bowl of spicy comforting noodles. Vietnamese soup noodles are often made with bone-based broths, but this vegan version is equally fierce and deep in umami.
For the Broth
- 3 lemongrass stalks
- 1 leek
- 10-cm/4-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 large onion, quartered
- ½ fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks (or use 1 x 227-g/8-oz. can pineapple in juice, not syrup, drained)
- 2 Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled and roughly cut into chunks
- 5 dried shiitake mushrooms (preferably good-quality Japanese ones) or use ¾ oz (20 g) dried wild mushrooms
- 12 oz (350 g) mooli/daikon radishes, peeled and roughly sliced
- ½ Chinese leaf/napa cabbage, thinly sliced (or use white cabbage)
- 1 litre/1 quart good-quality vegetable stock or use 1 tablespoon good-quality bouillon and water
For the Sauce
- 2 tablespoons coconut or vegetable oil
- 1 large bulb of garlic, roasted whole until soft, then peeled and crushed
- 3 tablespoons fermented bean curd pieces and 1 tablespoon sauce from jar (chao)
- 3 tablespoons fermented soy bean paste (mam ruoc chay), to taste
- 1 tablespoon Korean red chilli/hot pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 8 fried tofu puffs, halved
- 9 oz (250 g) rice vermicelli noodles, soaked in boiling water for 10–15 minutes, then drained
- ¼ white cabbage, thinly sliced
- ¼ red cabbage, thinly sliced
- 6 spring onions/scallions, thinly sliced at an angle
- large handful of beansprouts
- 6 x 5-mm/¼-inch slices of Vietnamese vegan ‘chicken ham’ roll, halved again into half-moon shapes
- 2–3 sprigs of fresh lemon thyme, finely chopped
- handful of freshly chopped mint
- handful of freshly chopped coriander/cilantro
How to Make It
- Remove the ends of the lemongrass stalks and discard the outer layers. Cut the lemongrass stalks in half and separate the white thick stalks from the greener ends. Bruise, crush and finely chop the white parts and set aside. Bruise the green ends and put in a large stock pan. Cut the leek in half, roughly chop the dark green part and add to the pan. Finely chop the white part and set aside. Add the ginger, onion, fruit, mushrooms, mooli/daikon, cabbage and stock to the large stock pan, plus 2.5 litres/11 cups of water. Bring to the boil over a high heat and then reduce to a simmer. Skim off any foamy scum and simmer for about 1½ hours. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 10–20 minutes, then strain the broth. Keep the mushrooms and discard the other vegetables. Chop the mushrooms and set aside.
- For the sauce, place a frying pan/skillet over a medium heat, add the white parts of the lemongrass and oil and fry gently for 2 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients. Stir well, cooking gently for a couple of minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside.
- Return the broth to a large deep pan (using as much as you need to fill 4–6 big bowls – any leftovers can be chilled for up to a week or frozen). Place the pan over a high heat and bring to a simmer, adding the tofu puffs, reserved mushrooms and two-thirds of the sauce. Stir well and remove from the heat.
- Adjust the seasoning and add more paste if desired. To serve, place a handful of noodles into each bowl and top with small handfuls of the cabbage, spring onions/scallions, beansprouts, ham roll slices and herbs. Ladle over the broth, distributing the tofu and mushrooms between the bowls. Scatter the remaining herbs and shredded white leek on top. Serve with more cabbage, beansprouts and sauce.