My go-to lunch became a thing last winter. It was cold, it’s always cold in Boston. In fact, it’s kinda cold right now, the sort of cold that has me pressing fuzzy mittens into my bag in the dark early morning hours. Ah, fuzzy mittens. I may not actually need those mittens once the sun blasts it’s full warmth mid-day but somehow it always feels good to have them handy.
My Faux Pho Jars feel good, too – whether it’s a golden fall day with a hint of heat from the afternoon sun or a chilly, grey lunch hour in the mid of winter. These jars came to life because of my obsessive need to use up every random food in the back of my fridge before having to face a grocery trip on a cold winter day. I wanted my own version of instant soup, made with the extras from the last few meals, but I wanted something fast. I don’t have anything against a slow-cooked, rich broth but there are moments when I want something light, easy, no fuss.
Like these …
This is where my friend and Canadian chef Cameron Stauch comes in. He lived in Boston for a minute earlier this year, and he’s writing what will undoubtedly be a wonderful cookbook on vegetarian Vietnamese food. I got to taste a bunch of it and even tested a few recipes. Cameron introduced me to mushroom powder and I was like, where have you been all my life?! it’s now an on-the-regular ingredient in my kitchen and I add it to anything that needs a little earthiness or an instant flavor fist pump, ha.
It works wonders in this fresh instant soup. Between that powder and the mashup of all the other flavors, this recipe makes a pretty great jar of fresh soup, a faux pho (if you will).
I make this with whatever I have on hand – roasted broccoli from last night, chick peas from the weekend, even pickled veggies in the bottom of a jar – but I provided a general list of typical ingredients below to help you along. Replace the cucumbers with cauliflower bits. Swap in arugula or lettuce leaves for the greens. A sprinkle of edamame would be pretty fab too. But, if you will, don’t omit any of the flavoring agents – the mushroom powder, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, chili paste, salt and pepper, and lime juice – because we need all of that to make the liquid taste powerful and interesting. Remember, we’re just topping it off with boiling water and a few shakes, so keep all those flavors inside the jar.
I typically pack these jars a few at a time, sending them off with the husband or handing them out during a work meeting at the last minute. They keep in the fridge (minus the boiling water) for a couple days. Just label them with how to make and distribute liberally. And even though you might not have fuzzy mittens on hand (apologies for the pun), this lunch will have you feeling just as warm and cozy.
I want to know, what food(s) keeps you warm and cozy as the temperature changes? Because Faux Pho is awesome, but I can use all the help I can get up in chilly Boston… Gracias!
Faux Pho Jars
- 1 tablespoon dried mushroom powder (dried mushrooms, like shitake, porcini, portabello ground into a fine powder)
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 teaspoon chili paste
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 block dried instant vermicelli-style noodles
- 1/2 medium white onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
- 2 to 3 kale or chard leaves, stem removed, thinly sliced
- 3 to 4 large mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1 to 2 cilantro sprigs
- 1 scallion, finely diced
- Extra lime wedges or fresh herbs, for serving (optional)
- Sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
- In a medium size jar with tight fitting lid and enough room to hold a block of noodles, add in the mushroom powder, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, chili paste, sale, pepper, and lime juice.
- Add in the noodle block and press in the other veggies (onion, cucumber, kale, mushrooms, cilantro, scallion) under and beside it.
- When ready to eat, pour boiled water into the jar and seal. Let sit for 5 to 7 minutes, shaking every other minute to disperse all the flavors. Faux Pho is ready to serve when noodles are soft and broth is flavorful.
- Garnish with sesame seeds or extra herbs. Squeeze extra lime juice to brighten it up.
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