Spring took its sweet time coming to us here in the Cologne region of Germany. We had snow just before Easter and it was cold and dreary right up until about mid April! We are now in full Spring mode here though and the weather has been quite lovely lately. Lots of sun, warm but not too hot out and everything is growing! I put in my herb garden a few weeks ago and am planning on planting some vegetable seedlings this weekend. In the meantime I have been enjoying cooking with all the herbs that we have been harvesting from our balcony planter and I have been making soups, salads and pasta dishes that revolve around a bouquet of freshly picked herbs on top. Nothing says Spring like a splash of greenery atop your dish, so if you’re looking to get creative with your cooking this Spring then add a dash of color and flavor with a handful of fresh green herbs to liven up your meal.
This dish is a vegetarian version of the classic Vietnamese broth soup called Pho which is usually served with rice noodles, beef or chicken on top and then garnished at the table with an assortment of herbs, vegetables, fresh lime juice and hot peppers or hot sauce. This is such a quick and flavorful soup and has been one of our favorite go to meals lately in that it can easily be made in just under 20 minutes! I really like this soup when I’m in the mood for a light but filling and flavorful meal.
For the soup base:
Half a package of 5mm wide Rice Noodles
1 Liter of Vegetable or Chicken broth (or bouillon of your choice)
Spices for the broth can include (or you can omit these entirely):
Star Anise, Cardamom Pods, Coriander Seeds, Fennel Seeds and Cloves
(You only need about 1-2 star anise, 4-6 cardamom pods, a generous pinch of coriander and fennel seeds and about 3-4 cloves)
Garnishes for Serving at the table:
1 Brick of Tofu or cooked chicken sliced thinly
1 large bunch of Cilantro
Spring Onions or Chives
Fresh or dried Chili Peppers
Bean Sprouts (optional)
Fish Sauce (optional)
Hot Sauce (optional)
In a large bowl soak the rice noodles in warm water for at least 10-15 minutes (or according to your packages instructions). In the meantime prepare the fresh herbs, tofu or chicken, chilies and lime and/or optional sauces for serving. About 5-10 minutes before the noodles are done soaking add your vegetable or chicken broth (or water + bouillon if using) to a sauce pan and heat the broth with your spices tied up in a cheesecloth sack until boiling and then reduce to a simmer with the lid on. At the same time bring a separate pot of water to a boil and add the pre-soaked and drained rice noodles, cooking them for just about 1 minute. Drain and divide the noodles into two large bowls. Ladle hot broth over the noodles in each bowl and serve immediately with the accompanying plate of garnishes. Enjoy!