Recipe: Vegan Pho

If you’ve ever lived or worked down the street from a Vietnamese restaurant, chances are that you’ve definitely sought out the soul-stirring comfort of Pho.

Pronounced “fuh”, this classic noodle soup is distinctive for its intensely-spiced and aromatic broth. While traditionally made with beef bones and fish sauce, a vegan-friendly version can be just as inviting, swirling with an earthy depth of flavour from umami-rich mushrooms and add-ins such as miso.

This recipe uses water rather than vegetable stock to make the broth, as it absorbs the gentle flavours of fresh veggies (added to the broth while simmering) and a heady mix of spices, from star anise and cloves to cinnamon and cardamom pods. The final flourish comes from your choice of garnishes.

As with all recipes on TFD, this one is endlessly adaptable. Adjust the ingredients of the broth as per your taste, gussy up your favourite veggies and proteins (a boiled egg tastes delicious thrown in too) and garnish with what you have easily at hand. Don’t forget to finish with a drizzle of Sriracha or hot sauce. It’s a bit unconventional yes, but delivers just that right whack of heat to bring it all together!


Ingredients

For the broth

  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • 3 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 6 cups of water
  • 2 – 3 star anise
  • 3 – 4 cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (3 inch) 
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 1 tbsp whole peppercorns
  • ½ tbsp whole coriander seeds (you can sub dried coriander)
  • 1 leek, cleaned well and cut into thick slices
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and thickly-sliced; (you could alternatively add your own choice of veggies for flavouring the broth)
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms (recommended to give a “meaty” depth of flavour) *
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, cleaned and trimmed
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic 
  • 1½ – 2 tsp coconut sugar (or brown sugar; according to taste)
  • 2- 3 tbsp dark soy sauce 
  • 2 tbsp vegan fish sauce (optional) **
  • 1½- 2 tsp of miso paste (optional) **

* Alternatively, wash fresh mushrooms of your choice and cook in the broth. I prefer this method to simply sautéeing the mushrooms on the side as it adds more flavour to the soup.

** Fysh or fish sauce (if not vegan/ vegetarian) and miso paste are optional but recommended for adding a kick of umami to the broth.

Noodles,

  • Packet of thin rice (vermicelli) noodles (alternatively you can use a thinly-textured noodle of your choice)

Veggies, protein & garnish

  • 2 cups of cut veggies of choice (baby corn, carrots, red peppers etc.)
  • Handful of baby bok choy
  • Tofu
  • Heaps of garnishes: toasted sesame seeds; sprouts, sliced chillies (preferably Thai chili) and fresh herbs (cilantro or coriander, mint etc.)
  • Sriracha (or other hot sauce; according to taste)

Method:

Make the broth

  • Start by charring the onions and ginger (sliced lengthwise) – you can do this quite simply, by holding them above a flame with tongs, turning the pieces until they are blackened on all sides. (Alternatively you can place them under a broiler until the tops are slightly charred)
  • Then toast the spices (anise, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, peppercorn and coriander seeds) in a large stock-pot (medium high heat) for a few minutes until fragrant.
  • Add the charred onion, ginger, lemongrass stalks, leeks, carrots (or other veggies you are using to flavour the broth), mushrooms, garlic cloves and water to the pot. Stir to combine and let it come to a boil, before reducing the heat and letting the broth simmer on the stove for at least 30 minutes. If adding the miso, add this towards the end (in the last 5 – 7 minutes)
  • Strain out everything except the mushrooms from the broth (that is, strain and discard the onion, ginger, spices, veggies, lemongrass and garlic. Then stir in the soy sauce, fysh sauce and coconut (or brown) sugar, mixing to combine well into the hot broth. Taste and season with salt as required.

Prep other broth ingredients

  • About midway while your broth is simmering, cook the noodles (according to the instructions on the packet) until al dente. Drain and shock (rinse) the noodles with cold water. You can also add a splash of sesame oil to prevent the noodles from clumping together.
  • Heat a few tbsp of sesame oil in a skillet and sauté your chosen veggies, adding leafy greens (such as bok choy) towards the end. If you are using tofu, I’d recommend coating the tofu slices with a little bit of corn-flour before gently searing the tofu on both sides (separately to the veggies). Once cooked, set aside.

Assemble

  • Divide the noodles and veggies across 2 – 3 bowls (depending on how large you want the servings to be) and ladle over the hot broth. Finish with a flair, adding on your chosen garnishes and a good squeeze of lime. Serve hot!

If you’re looking for more inspiration, here are some more Pho recipes to try:


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