Today is special day for me – May 17th is my native country’s (Norway) National Constitution day. Historically, we were always ruled by another nation or in a union with another country (Denmark or Sweden) so we are naturally very proud and grateful for our independence. As with any major holiday, this day is centered around food… (unfortunately not many plant based ones), and all you can see anywhere you go is a sea of red, white and blue, the colors of the Norwegian flag. So naturally I had to place a picture of it here where you can see parts of my home town on the west coast of Norway, Sykkylven.
When I first went vegan, I was scared and worried how I was going to be able to continue eating the foods I love, the foods I had grown up with since childhood. When looking at the Norwegian diet, I would say about 90% of our diet consists of either meat, fish or dairy products in some shape or form. Uh oh!
I had a catering company known for serving animal based dishes, a husband who works as a professional chef and a big meat eater, and a Norwegian food blog with a big following where I wrote about all the traditional foods, and yes – they all were based on animals. Would I lose my audience now?
When it came to family, I thought to myself “how on earth will I go home and visit my mom now, how will my being there change? My mom centers her world around food, and it’s not fruits and vegetables, but cookies, cream based cakes, meatballs, salmon, eggs and herring.
What’s my point here? I had so many reasons to say “screw it, this is too hard”, “I don’t have time or the energy to figure all of this out” or tell myself nothing is going to change by just little old me going vegan. But I knew my gut was telling me these were all excuses I was telling myself to make myself feel better. And guess what, the reactions and responses from people weren’t half as drastic as I had made it up in my mind to be. In fact, I was embraced by most of my community, who showed me incredible support. Our story is always more dramatic than reality 🙂
If you really are feeling drawn to this lifestyle, if you know deep down that this is the right way to eat to improve your health, the environment and help reduce suffering of other living beings , then I invite you to find the courage to go with your heart. Yes, there might be some ‘obstacles’ in the way, such as how will I get my children on board with this lifestyle, and how will I ever eat out at my favorite restaurant again – but let’s face it, these are minor issues and is your fear speaking to you, not your true self. And no greatness was achieved by giving into fear.
It’s funny to me how we think about life and situations sometimes. Just because we’ve done something or eaten a particular dish all our life, doesn’t mean there is something equally good or even better out there for us. Being open minded, curious and willing to explore other options, whether it be traveling, meeting new people or trying new dishes, is what being vegan is all about. It expands your mind, improves your quality of life and helps you get closer to your true self. I know you have a deep desire to stretch yourself in all these areas of life too, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this email.
Case in point, today’s recipe! I was so happy to come across a vegan version of “pho” – a Vietnamese, aromatic and flavorful noodle soup that is traditionally based on beef broth and also contains fish sauce. The vegan version does not lack for flavor AT ALL, in fact I would say it can most definitely stand up to the original recipe, and no animals were harmed in the making of this soup!
I realized this weekend that my mission will be going forward to veganize all the classic dishes we know and love from our childhood, family recipes and memories we treasure so much. I want to show you that it is not just possible, but PREFERABLE to eliminate animals from these foods, and embrace a more loving, compassionate and considerate attitude about life going forward. I promise you your taste buds won’t be disappointed, rather they’ll be elated!!
A book that has inspired my mission is Robin Robertson’s “Vegan Without Borders”, showing us that we can easily convert authentic dishes from around the world, satisfying our culinary palates and wanderlust. I am sharing her recipe for “Pho Chay” today – a popular street food in Vietnam that is traditionally eaten for breakfast in the southern part of the country, but also enjoyed other times of the day in the north. I used soba noodles (100% buckwheat) but my husband commented wisely that the soup could probably have used some sturdier noodles such as ramen noodles, or other flat rice noodles. This is gluten free if you use tamari or coconut aminos and you can also easily eliminate the miso paste.
I made my own vegetable broth from some wild garlic that popped up in my backyard the other day, and it was delicious! But you can use water or regular vegetable broth with great results too.
Here’s my wild garlic ready to go in the oven with some shallots and fresh thyme:
The broth simmering with some red pepper flakes added, yummm:
I hope you will try this out, and agree that no flavor need be lost anywhere if we eat vegan!
Happy cooking and I would love to hear from you if you are interested in following me on my mission to veganize YOUR favorite dish!!
8 oz soba (buckwheat) noodles (or rice noodles/noodles of your choice)
6 cups water or vegetable broth
3 shallos or 1 small onion chopped
1 small red bell pepper, sliced thin
2 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
3 tbsp tamari or soy sauce (coconut aminos work too)
1 tbsp grapeseed oil or other neutral oil
8 oz seitan or tofu, drained and cut into strips or cubed
2 tbsp dark miso paste
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp sriracha sauce
1 cup fresh bean sprouts, blanched
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
Lime wedges, for serving
Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.
Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot. Add in the shallots/onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, ginger, hoisin sauce and soy sauce. Decrease heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the seitan or tofu and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
Stir the lime juice into the broth. Remove 1/2cup of the hot liquid to a small bowl. Add the miso paste to the liquid in the bowl and stir to blend well. Transfer the blended miso paste into the soup along with the sriracha. Do not boil. Stir in the reserved seitan or tofu and noodles.
Divide the soup among individual bowls. Top with the bean sprouts, scallions and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and additional sriracha at the table.
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