Kitchen to Kitchen: Heaven in a Bowl — Mushroom Pho for the Instant Pot
Conversations with Chef Sidonie Maroon and Miranda Cook
Miranda: Hello, it’s Miranda Cook, with Kitchen to Kitchen, where Chef Sidonie Maroon and I chat about all things food. Today we’re talking about her new mushroom pho recipe using an Instant Pot. Hello Sidonie, good to be in your kitchen.
Sidonie: Good to have you Miranda, always enjoy talking with you.
Miranda: Wow, it smells delicious. Is that mushroom pho I smell?
Sidonie: Yes it is. I made some for lunch.
Miranda: Wonderful… So, you have two upcoming pho classes through the Food Coop. I know you have both a chicken and beef pho on the menu, but you’re also cooking a vegetarian pho. Isn’t that unusual?
Sidonie: Pho chay, the Vietnamese vegetarian version of pho is well known, especially for Buddhist monks.
Miranda: Interesting, I’d think vegetarian pho would be quite popular around here.
Sidonie: You bet, I always have vegetarians and vegans in my classes, and like to make sure they’ll have plenty to eat. Besides, I love introducing students to new takes on traditional dishes like pho. Most have only experienced pho in a shop, and American pho can be mediocre. I want to help people cook amazing pho at home, so they can make it a regular part of their lives. Good Homemade Pho is Divine, and so healthy!
Miranda: Why mushroom?
Sidonie: I wanted a mushroom pho for the deep nourishment it gives, and its satisfying umami flavors.
Miranda: Umami is such a good word. It means pleasantly savory, but it also means, scientifically, that it contains glutamate. But, that’s healthy right? Not monosodium glutamate! Foods naturally high in glutamate increase flavor.
Sidonie: Exactly and dried mushrooms are a high glutamate food. Another ingredient—Braggs liquid aminos is also umami, because it’s made from fermented soybeans.
Miranda: So tell me about the Instant Pot inspiration.
Sidonie: I keep hearing that students want to learn more about Instant Pots. So, I’m featuring one or two recipes in class so they can try them out. I often use the broth cycle and thought it would work well with this recipe. I incorporated a few flavor boosting techniques, like toasting the spices, and charring the ginger and garlic. We do it right in the pot on saute. All the ingredients are under pressure which intensifies flavor. A flavor that would take hours to develop on the stove.
Miranda: You’re making me hungry. How does Mushroom Pho taste?
Sidonie: It’s pure tasting, inspired by Northern Vietnamese cooking. They have a more straightforward palette, but use layers of subtle flavor. They don’t use a lot of toppings to distract you from the main deal. It has a clear bright broth. The spice, well everything in the broth is there to support the mushroom’s starring role. So fragrant with the basil leaves, and meaty shiitake slices over the al dente noodles. At the end, I add a squeeze of lime to the bowls and that elevates everything, opens the experience. Would you like to try some?
Miranda: That would be amazing. I was hoping you’d offer, actually longing.
Sidonie: Nothing makes me happier than feeding friends good food.
(Sidonie brings in a steaming bowl of her Mushroom pho to Miranda.)
Miranda: Oh my, it smells heavenly. That’s so good! Yum. Oh, that’s so good. Sorry, but I have to eat this pho… all up. It’s ok to slurp?
Sidonie: Perfectly so. Glad you like it. I think I’ll have a bowl… .
Instant Pot Vegetarian Mushroom Pho
Inspired by Andrea Nguyen’s The PHO cookbook
Takes 2 hours, mostly hands-off
Try this recipe when a vegetarian pho is in order. It’s flavorful mushroom broth and spicy notes contrast well with the shiitakes and aromatic basil. The lime, added at the table, sets everything harmoniously together.
For the broth
2 quarts water
1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt, more if needed
1-inch piece of unpeeled ginger thickly sliced and bruised
4 cloves garlic peeled
1 medium yellow onion cut into thick half slices
1 medium tart/sweet apple with peel, cored and cut into chunks
2 celery stalks coarsely chopped
3 packed cups crimini mushrooms roughly chopped
1 ounce dried shiitakes or dried mixed mushrooms
2 whole cloves
2 star anise pods
2 teaspoons coriander seed
1/2 cinnamon stick
3 tablespoons Braggs liquid aminos, more if needed
2 teaspoons coconut sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
For the noodles
10 ounces dried narrow flat rice noodles
For the bowl
1 red onion sliced paper thin and quickly blanched for 30 seconds, in a noodle basket or sieve, right before the noodles are cooked.
1 bunch Thai basil leaves, with leaves taken off the stems.
½ lb shiitake mushrooms, stems taken off and thinly sliced
1 lime sliced for squeezing
How to make the broth
Turn the Instant Pot to medium saute and dry toast the spices until fragrant, then take them out and set aside. Turn to high saute and add the onion, ginger and garlic turning frequently until aromatic,
3 minutes. Turn the heat off and add the spices, apple, celery, mushrooms, salt and water. Set on the broth cycle, using a natural release. When the broth’s done, strain it through a sieve and discard the solids. Add the Braggs, coconut sugar, and vinegar. Keep the broth hot, under a simmer, until it’s time to serve.
How to prep the bowls
While the broth cooks, ready the other ingredients — Prep the basil and red onions. When you’re close to serving, stir-fry or grill the shiitake slices, on a high heat, in batches, using a small amount of oil.
How to make the noodles
Bring a large pot of water to a boil; then keep it at a high simmer until needed. Soak the noodles covering in hot tap water, until opaque and pliable about 15- 30 minutes. Drain and wash off any extra starch, then drain them again. When you’re ready to serve the pho, bring the noodle water to a boil and dunk in a single portion of the noodles, using a noodle strainer or mesh sieve. This will heat and soften them. Submerge them for 60 seconds or al dente. Lift the noodles from the pot, shake the strainer to remove any excess water, and put the noodles in a warmed bowl. Repeat until all the bowls have noodles. Each bowl should contain a ratio of ⅓ noodles to ⅔ broth and toppings.
How to serve the pho
If possible, the bowls should be warm. The noodles will go in the bottom, followed by the broth, then onion, shiitake followed by the basil. I recommend a squeeze of lime. Eat the pho by first wafting the fragrance, then tasting and slurping heartily. Vietnamese traditionally eat pho with ceramic soup spoons and chopsticks.