Project Food Blog Challenge #2: a Vietnamese Classic

26 Sep

It was July of 2008.  The husband and I had just finished up a year-long stint in Thailand and were spending our final days in southeast Asia.  Vietnam to be exact.

During our time there, we walked the streets of Hanoi, taking in the smells of motorbike exhaust and meats from the street vendors.  We sailed Halong Bay, relishing the beauty and feeling the hot sun soak into our faces.  We watched the people as they went about their lives, and even though the setting was quite different than our country, there was a particular charm that simply couldn’t be captured in a photo.

We left feeling enamored with the Vietnamese culture – the food, the landscape, the somber, yet smiling people – and yet also sad to be leaving after only three short days.  I’ve reminisced about our time there many times since, but it wasn’t until today that I felt I was transplanted back to those days.  As my kitchen was infiltrated with the aroma of ginger, basil, chili peppers and mushrooms I was suddenly once again meandering down the streets of Hanoi, sidestepping tiny children and stray dogs, and taking it all in.  And that first bite of Vegetarian Pho – oh that first bite!  My mouth was filled with noodles and warm broth.  My eyes began to water as I felt the heat begin to spread.  I tasted Vietnam.

Vegetarian Pho – a classic Vietnamese dish
recipe adapted from here

Ingredients for broth

  • 8 cups water
  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 12 sliced rounds of fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp low-sodium tamari
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 5 fresh basil stems – set aside leaves
  • 5 cilantro stems – set aside leaves

Ingredients for Pho

  • 8 ounces Thai rice noodles
  • 8 ounces extra firm tofu, pressed and sliced thinly
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tbsp low sodium tamari
  • 2 cups soybean sprouts
  • 4 green onions, cut in 2 inch sections
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup spicy basil leaves
  • 1 chili pepper, sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • 1/2 cup arugula


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place tofu slices into a shallow baking dish.
  2. Combine olive oil, 1 tbsp seasoned rice vinegar, molasses and tamari and mix well.  Pour marinade over tofu, and turn tofu to coat both sides.  Bake for 25 minutes (I like mine well-done!).
  3. Fill a large stock pot with water.  Add vegetable broth, shallots, onion, mushrooms, anise star, garlic ginger, brown sugar, vinegar, pepper, cinnamon sticks, 3 tbsp tamari, basil stems and cilantro stems.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Prepare to be engulfed with the smells of Vietnam.
  5. With about 5 minutes simmering time remaining, bring a small pot of water to boil.  Add rice noodles and allow to boil for about 3 minutes.  When soft, drain and rinse with cold water.
  6. Strain broth and return to pot.  Discard solid ingredients.
  7. Divide noodles among 6 bowls.  Pour broth over noodles and top with arugula, green onions, chili pepper slices, tofu, and bean sprouts.  Serve cilantro, basil and lime wedges on the side to be stirred into soup as desired.

The husband and I enjoyed this dish with a side of vegetarian summer rolls and a spicy peanut sauce.  A perfect pairing.

Thank you all so much for putting in a vote for my entry in the Project Food Blog Challenge #1! I was so honored, happy and admittedly a bit surprised to advance to the next challenge.  When I first began to plot my take on challenge #2, a classic dish from another country, I knew without a doubt what I wanted to do.  That was the easy part.

The hard part was finding all the right ingredients!  I first stopped by my farmer’s market for the fresh herbs, cilantro, peppers and onion.  Next, I headed to our local ethnic foods store where I picked up many of the rest of the ingredients.  I had a little trouble finding watercress, so I opted for arugula plus a dash of black pepper instead.

I loved making this dish – it’s something I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to make had it not been for this challenge, but recreating an experience that was so impactful completely made my day.

And I have a feeling I’ll be reliving it for days to come considering the large amount of Pho in my fridge and the smell that has reached to the far depths of my house.

I would love to have your vote for this challenge if you deem my entry worthy.  You can vote here starting tomorrow!!


49 Responses to “Project Food Blog Challenge #2: a Vietnamese Classic”

  1. Rhea September 26, 2010 at 6:28 pm #

    YAY!!! I knew you would make it through round one :), but congratulations!

    The pho looks so good, especially for colder days! I love all the spices that go into it; any reason to use star anise is a good one in my book.

    I love step 4 in the recipe. That’s why I keep reading your blog and why I voted for you in the challenge. Anybody can write a food blog, but how many people can make it personal and interesting?

    • candice September 27, 2010 at 10:58 pm #

      you are too sweet:) thanks so much, Rhea! this was my first time to use star anise – it’s intense, huh?!

  2. Jennifer@ knackfornutrition September 26, 2010 at 7:20 pm #

    This is a beautiful post! Your pictures are gorgeous and your writing is so vivid! I love it!~

    • candice September 27, 2010 at 10:58 pm #

      thanks so much!

  3. Sarah September 26, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    I can’t wait to make this! We have a lot of Vietnamese restaurants here in Australia, but it will be so nice to make one of my favourite dishes at home, without spending all the money and without worrying about fish sauce 🙂 Definitely voting for you again!

    • candice September 27, 2010 at 10:58 pm #

      it’s hard to avoid that fish sauce! thanks for the vote:)

  4. Grace September 26, 2010 at 8:32 pm #

    That looks delicious! I would love to break into those summer rolls! You’ll have to teach me how to make them! 🙂

    • candice September 27, 2010 at 10:57 pm #

      they are so fun to make – you’ll definitely have to come over sometime and we’ll do it! thanks for the vote:)

  5. Jessica September 26, 2010 at 9:37 pm #

    Looks fabulous! You’ve got my vote!

  6. Amanda @ Vegacious September 26, 2010 at 10:11 pm #

    Absolutely beautiful! You’ve got my vote! 🙂

  7. Theresa September 27, 2010 at 2:39 am #

    Love it! Your photos are so beautiful!

  8. RhodeyGirl September 27, 2010 at 8:19 am #

    Love the story in the meal.

    You just got my vote!

    • candice September 27, 2010 at 10:57 pm #

      thanks Sabrina!

  9. Sarah Jayne September 27, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    GIRL! These pictures are amazing- GREAT job! You also told a really lovely story with this meal, as well.

    Go team ChiaSeed!!

    • candice September 27, 2010 at 10:56 pm #

      thanks friend:)

  10. Amelia from Z Tasty Life September 27, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    lovely, so authentic. Voted.

    (Here’s my post:
    See my entry here:

  11. amber@SAHM's musings September 27, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    love the story behind the meal. just makes everything that much more delicious! You have my vote!

  12. Grace September 27, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    p.s. i voted. 🙂

  13. Amy (Sing For Your Supper) September 27, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    This is an absolutely gorgeous post! The pictures are amazing…so beautiful!! I’m happy to vote for you!! Best of luck!!

  14. Joan Nova September 27, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    Very nice entry, beautifully illustrated. I voted.

  15. jen cheung September 27, 2010 at 11:06 pm #

    this looks delicious 🙂 Good luck with project food and you got my vote for this one! Feel free to drop by 🙂 Good luck and best wishes for making to the top !! WOOHOO

    jen @

    • candice September 28, 2010 at 10:21 pm #

      Thank you thank you! Good luck to you as well:)

  16. Margaret Murphy Tripp September 28, 2010 at 8:15 am #

    Beautifully done post! Love the photos. You got my vote. Hope you get to the next level!

    • candice September 28, 2010 at 10:16 pm #

      Thank you so much!!

  17. Danielle@Runs With Spatulas September 28, 2010 at 9:28 am #

    Great post! Good luck in round 2!

    • candice September 28, 2010 at 9:32 pm #

      Thank you!

  18. Halley (Blunder Constructin) September 28, 2010 at 4:34 pm #

    This is WONDERFUL! My boyfriend’s father is from Vietnam, so I am very interested in learning about their traditional foods. I actually just bought a cookbook last week “Into the Vietnamese Kitchen” but haven’t tried any recipes yet. Your photos trump the photos in the book, by a landslide! I love how authentic this recipe is, and how natural it is for you, based on your travel experiences, to share it.

    • candice September 28, 2010 at 9:32 pm #

      Thanks so much, Halley! That is so cool that your boyfriend’s father is from Vietnam – and even cooler that you’re reaching out to learn more about his country. Can’t wait to hear about the recipes you try!

  19. Amanda (The Culinary Passport) September 28, 2010 at 5:15 pm #

    Great pictures! You made me miss Vietnam. Good work

    • candice September 28, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

      aw, I know. I miss it too. Thanks:)

  20. Jacob's Kitchen September 28, 2010 at 8:26 pm #

    Great post! Gorgeous photos. I voted for you!

    Good luck! =)

    You can check out my PFB post at :

    • candice September 28, 2010 at 9:10 pm #

      Thanks for the vote! much appreciated:)

  21. Allison September 29, 2010 at 12:49 am #

    This looks delicious, great job!

  22. Susan September 29, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    Beautiful photos in this post Candice!! I have never had pho and it’s pretty popular here in Toronto. I think you will have to come make this for me 🙂

    • candice September 30, 2010 at 3:49 pm #

      Thank you! You name the time and place:)

  23. postcollegecook September 29, 2010 at 12:30 pm #

    This looks great – and what a beautiful photo of you at the end 🙂 You’ve got my vote.

    • candice September 30, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

      Thanks, girl! You are too sweet:)

  24. Anna September 29, 2010 at 4:23 pm #

    It looks wonderful and so easy to make, I love pho. You get my vote 😀

    • candice September 30, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

      Thanks so much! It definitely is easy to make once you get all the ingredients.

  25. Lisa September 29, 2010 at 8:17 pm #

    That looks Pho-tastic!! You have a vote from me.

    • candice September 30, 2010 at 3:47 pm #

      Haha, thank you!

  26. Janice- down the veggie road September 30, 2010 at 6:14 pm #

    Oh I love Pho – lots
    Of good Pho restaurants here in Dallas area 😉
    I made my first batch of Vietnamese spring rolls the other day – yummy – what a wonderful experience to travel there even if only for a few days 😉
    I have several coworkers from Vietnam whose parents actually brought them here when they were little escaping from refugee camps still left from war times – wow – hubs and I always watch the amazing race on TV just to see all the interesting places

    • candice October 1, 2010 at 10:45 am #

      I love Amazing Race! My husband and I never miss it. I love seeing all the different places they go. My dream is to be on it as a contestant:)

      Very cool that you have co-workers from Vietnam. It really is so sad to see and hear about the devastation from war there. There still are so many effects from it.

  27. Clarice September 30, 2010 at 7:42 pm #

    Wonderful post. I love the picture of cinnamon sticks.

    • candice October 1, 2010 at 10:45 am #

      Thanks you:)

  28. Danny October 25, 2010 at 1:06 pm #

    Looks totally delicious. I love vietnamese, always have.

    • candice October 25, 2010 at 10:23 pm #

      Thank you! Vietnamese food had such vibrant flavors. So glad you enjoy it too:)


  1. Project Food Blog Challenge #2: a Vietnamese Classic|ChiaSeedMe … | Collection Of Asian Food Recipes - September 27, 2010

    […] View original post here: Project Food Blog Challenge #2: a Vietnamese Classic|ChiaSeedMe … […]

  2. 2010: a look back part II|ChiaSeedMe - January 4, 2011

    […] fun thoughout the month, stretching and challenging myself in new ways.  I made it to rounds one, two and three before getting cut, which was way farther than I ever thought I would make it!  I also […]

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