Vegan Vietnamese?!

Mmm, Vietnamese food. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is not really vegetarian or vegan friendly, at least not as found here (since there are Buddhist influences, there are some vegetarian foods in the culture, but they are not commonly found as menu options in restaurants) because they use fish sauce in many many things. Also for instance, the famous pho, where the rich broth simmers with meats for half a day, is something a vegetarian or vegan would never have pass through their lips.

But wait! Pho Pdx doesn’t want them to feel left out. So surprisingly, not only do they have vegan pho, but they even offer more then a dozen dishes at their hole in the wall lunch spot/super late night munchie spot in the downtown area of Portland. It turns out not all the dishes are equal to the meat version, and I was a bit cynical anyway that they would be, but I was curious to see how they would stand just on taste and on their own too. Usually I need to find other people to eat Vietnamese with out in Beaverton (I believe I have mentioned before that I heart Best Baguette. Pho is a bit hard to have for lunch because it comes out so hot and I end up hot after eating it, and in Beaverton you have to account for driving there and back during your lunch hour as well), and so a downtown option was a potential alternative (though Pho PDX is only open for lunch and late night).  And, I am trying to eat healthier for some meals. Don’t worry, I still love butter and cheese and bacon just as much as I used to, but no one should eat like that all the time.

We tried it for lunch since I had the day off for President’s Day. We started with the  traditional spring/salad roll, but with tofu. This translates to tofu, vermicelli noodles & lettuce and bit of mint rolled in rice paper, served with the dipping sauce that doesn’t have fish sauce so it’s vegan while still giving a hoisin peanut sauce flavor that is both spicy nutty and sweet at the same time. These were pretty good, with the freshness of the roll and the fact that the mint was not overwhelming and the vermicelli noodles were soft and in good proportion to match all the other ingredients. The tofu is really fresh, so even though you can see it is a huge hunk, it tastes really good, and also mops up the dipping sauce well. You could order these instead of the ones with shrimp or pork and still feel satisfied with your salad roll experience.

traditional spring/salad roll with tofu, Pho PDX, now Luc Lac Vietnamese, Portland, Oregontraditional spring/salad roll with tofu, Pho PDX, now Luc Lac Vietnamese, Portland, Oregontraditional spring/salad roll with tofu, Pho PDX, now Luc Lac Vietnamese, Portland, Oregon

Next, the main event. We tried the vegan pho with five spice vegetable broth w/ tofu & veggies. Would it taste weak? Well, it has a light taste, but it’s flavorful in its own right even if it is not like a traditional meaty broth for regular pho. The tofu here also sang, and we eagerly sought them out. The best part was the broth at the bottom where the peppers had been adding itself to the broth- wish we had added more peppers. Congratulations on your great tofu sourcing. Again, it’s not like regular pho- but it isn’t bad, and if you are ordering this you are probably veggie. I also appreciated that the pho was hot but not boiling so that we had to sit and wait to enjoy or burn or tongues or be sweating as we left because we got hot from the soup. It was just right temperature for us to eat the rolls and start on the pho.

vegan pho, Pho PDX, now Luc Lac Vietnamese, Portland, Oregonvegan pho, Pho PDX, now Luc Lac Vietnamese, Portland, Oregon

Finally, Pho PDX’s lemongrass tofu stir-fry w/ veggies & lemongrass-turmeric-chili sauce. This tasted as good as any Asian stir fry tofu dish, especially with the green beans, but if you are expecting the lemongrass flavor and texture you will be disappointed here. The sauce doesn’t get to caramelize like it would if chicken was used and there was too much sauce (it needed to reduce more). I had asked for it at level 3 out of 4 spicy, and didn’t find it spicy at all. The only thing I found spicy during the meal actually was the jalapeno infused bottom of the pho bowl. I would pass on this to get something else on the menu if I wanted a traditional Vietnamese taste to my food rather then something which is good but could be served at any Asian restaurant.

Pho PDX's lemongrass tofu stir-fry, Pho PDX, now Luc Lac Vietnamese, Portland, OregonPho PDX's lemongrass tofu stir-fry, Pho PDX, now Luc Lac Vietnamese, Portland, Oregon

They really are in a hole in the wall, somewhat hidden location that is like an Asian food court with the exact atmosphere that description probably brought to mind. But, their food came out fresh. I have to give them props for offering several veggie versions and if you are a late night veggie in the area you can get some pretty satisfying veggie eating on at Pho PDX. Especially those salad rolls. Yeah, I liked those, I really did.


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