Tag Archives: Pho

Ngon Chiswick: A Vegetarian Pho Review

I headed in here today, the sunniest day of the year so far, to pick up a bowl of their Vegetarian Pho, which I think is the best in Town. And I’ve had a few. When the place first opened in Autumn 2013, they held back on releasing a vegetarian version of their pho, unhappy with the flavour of the stock. And so we’d been happy to eat their summer rolls, zesty salads and delicious garlic marinated mushroom and tofu Banh Mi’s, until one day in January the hallowed vegetarian soup was ready.

I was told by the lovely staff at Ngon how the Saigon born owner had come up with a broth using pears and apples to add a slight, woody sweetness and depth to their meat-free stock that I haven’t tasted elsewhere in the UK. Add to this the lovely combination of marinated shiitake and oyster mushrooms, tender green beans, chives, chillies and you have a very addictive soup: both fresh and hearty.

Sadly it had been a quiet day at Ngon, because the increasingly bland chain Vietnamese restaurant, Pho, has just opened up the road on Chiswick High Street, offering 50% opening weekend discounts. But the staff are confident that once the novelty and discounts have worn off, people will be back at Ngon, which offers you so much more flavour and charm at a better price. I for one strolled out towing my sweet pho and ice coffee picnic into the spring sunshine.

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Pho with Tofu and Mushrooms

This pho looks good in 2 different lights – the tofu doesn’t only reflect the flavour of its co-habitants in the bowl, it seems to reflect different colours of its surroundings…

This vegetarian pho recipe is an adaptation of a recipe I received at a Pho cookery class in Acton. Sadly at this otherwise excellent class, mushrooms were my only replacement for chicken. If you feel that even as a vegetarian you nonetheless do need some protein, add some tofu (raw or marinated) as I have done above. Also, seitan mock meats made from flour can be delicious for as a replacement.

Recipe (serves 4):

2 litres of vegetable stock
400 grams tofu
1 onion sliced
1 carrot sliced
6 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
6 cm stick of cinnamon
24 coriander seeds
4 star anise
20g fermented black beans
200g green cabbage or choux chinois
300g rice noodles
2 tbs thin soy sauce
1 bunch coriander, stems chopped and separated off

Poach the tofu in the vegetable stock for about 5 minutes. Whilst you are doing this, toast the star anise, cinnamon and coriander seeds dryly in a frying pan or wok until they start to spit and become fragrant. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Toast the ginger and garlic in the frying pan til charred.

Add 1 tbps of oil to the frying pan and brown the onions. Remove tofu from the stock and set aside. Add onions, carrots and coriander stems to the stock and simmer for 30 minutes. In the meantime, fry the tofu in abut 2 tablespoons of oil until it has gone golden brown and cripsy on the edges.

Add the soy sauce and adjust the seasoning to the stock. Strain the stock and discard solids. Finely slice the cabbage and chop the coriander more roughly.

Place the noodles, tofu, cabbage, shitake mushrooms (with their stock to taste), salted beans in a bowl, pour over the boiling stock and sprinkle on the chopped coriander. Add dipping sauce – nuoc cham – to taste.

And here is a nuoc cham recipe from the same cookery school for good measure –

3 Thai bird’s eye chillies
2 sliced garlic cloves
3 tbsps sugar,
170 ml warm water (or less)
1 I/2 tbsps fresh lime
5 Tbs thin soy sauce
2 Tbs finely shredded carrot for garnish

Slice chillies at an angle and keep on third aside for the garnish.

Pound the remaining chillies to a paste in a pestle and mortar with garlic and sugar.

Transfer to a small bowl and add water, lime juice and soy sauce and stir well.

Set aside for 10 minutes and serve with the remaining chillies and carrot as a garnish