If you haven't had phở before, it is a traditional Vietnamese soup with rice noodles in a rich broth deeply fragrant with cinnamon and star anise. It is also usually very meaty, with a beef based broth and either slices of beef or chicken, but that version is for chumps. I found a vegan version in Robin Robertson's Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker, and it was just what the doctor ordered.
I think nearly every culture has their own version of a make-you-feel-better chicken (or not-chicken) soup, and I've adopted this recipe as my own. It is warm and healing in an almost medicinal way. Not medicinal like a shot of Robitussin, but medicinal in a soothing, comforting, good for your body and your soul kind of way.
Robin Robertson's Slow Phở (recipe from Fresh From the Vegetarian Slow Cooker)
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 small green chile, seeded and chopped
3 slices fresh ginger
2 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
3 Tbsp. tamari or other soy sauce
5 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbsp. peanut oil
4 oz. seitan, cut into strips
3 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. barley miso paste, dissolved in 2 Tbsp. hot water
6 oz. dried rice noodles, soaked 15 minutes in cold water to soften, then drained
1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts for garnish
4 scallions, chopped, for garnish
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
1. In a 4-quart slow cooker, combine the onion, chile, ginger, anise, cinnamon stick, tamari, and stock; cover and cook on Low for 6 hours.
2. Meanwhile or beforehand, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the seitan strips, and brown on all sides. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Strain the stock and return the broth to the cooker.
4. In a small bowl, combine the hoisin, lime juice, and miso paste mixture, then add to the broth. Stir in the drained rice sticks and seitan and cook 10 minutes longer, or until the rice sticks are soft.
5. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the bean sprouts, scallions, and cilantro.