If you thought pho was for restaurants or weekend stove duty, think again. This vegan, vegetable-filled soup is made in the time it takes for a takeaway delivery. Use the recommended edamame noodles for even more filling protein. Make double the stock and freeze some for another time. You’ll be glad that you did.
The first time I ate Vietnamese food, made by Vietnamese chefs, was about five or six years ago in London. I know it’s not “proper” proper, but I believe it was probably as authentic as we would get without flying nearly 7,000 miles. Less tiring. And cooler, too.
Me being me I researched this two-hour slot in our schedule in excruciating detail. Actually all London meals were thoroughly planned: menus were downloaded, recommendations elicited on Twitter, walking directions and Tube stations and stops were memorised. But when we got to where I had carefully selected, it was shut for a funeral. You can’t be mad about that of course, but we were left standing there, the tables, chairs and menus all tantalisingly on view through the lacy curtain, our stomachs ready for spicy slurpy food. I might have knocked my head against the door in a childish way. 🙂
Disappointed, we wandered further into Soho and soon spied a small queue outside a tatty frontage. Never wanting to be left out we wandered over to see why they were queueing (this being pre-cleaned up Soho, you couldn’t really be sure it was for something entirely legal, or indeed food). As we approached we saw that the inside was obscured not by lacy curtains but by steam. A young couple exited, wreathed in smiles and bringing with them the distinctive humid aroma of star anise and rich broth. Without a word we joined the orderly line and pressed ourselves against the cold wall to wait our turn.
Soon the three of us were in possession of a small rickety table and an embarrassing number of dishes. We just kept ordering.
I can’t quite remember the names of the dishes, but all delighted. A bowl and plate were standouts – the pho and the bánh xèo (sizzling savoury cake). As we crunched and slurped our way through this visual and taste feast – so many colours and textures – I almost couldn’t wait to get home to have a bash myself.
Since that time I have mostly relied on the few Vietnamese restaurants in Edinburgh rather than my own kitchen to get my fix of this heady, light and healthy cuisine. Especially the pho (pronounced, of course,”fuh”).
One sticking point for homemade is the broth. A proper broth takes absolute ages to achieve the body and depth that makes proper pho a real standout. Most of us don’t have time for that. Over the years I have, if not perfected my veggie broth, then refined it. Deepened it. Below I tell you how.
If you aren’t familiar with pho it is pretty much the national dish of Vietnam, so I really have no business telling you how to make it. But it really is too good not to share, even if a Vietnamese mama or chef would I’m sure scorn my 30 minute-ish effort. It is a most heavenly broth flavoured with singed spices and base vegetables then simmered before straining over cooked rice noodles and fresh herbs. Authentically it should include thinly sliced raw beef and loads of beansprouts. I do neither. Beansprouts and red meat are not really my friends these days. I have however made it a bit British by adding fresh lemon verbena instead of coriander/cilantro, and it really works and is a great option for those who can’t stand coriander. But use the coriander if that’s what you have and like. I like it too, but just didn’t have any for the photos. So, I’m not that much of a planner. 🙂
What restaurant favourite do you make – or like me try to make – at home?
Easy Vegetarian Pho Recipe with Rich 30-Minute Broth
If you thought pho was for restaurants or weekend stove duty, think again. This vegan vegetable-filled soup is made in the time it takes for a takeaway delivery. Use the recommended edamame noodles for even more filling protein. Make double the stock and freeze some for another time. You’ll be glad that you did.
Oh, and do use whatever veggies that you like to eat only very lightly cooked or just blanched. My Scottish homegrown tweaks include freshly-picked lemon verbena, carrots in the stock to add sweetness, and fresh purple sugarsnap peas, teeny yellow squash, steamed eggplant, ribbons of chard and kale, plus cherry tomatoes straight from the bush. xx
4 star anise
6 cm piece cinnamon stick, broken
1 rounded tsp coriander seeds
2 tsp black peppercorns or Vietnamese peppercorns
3 whole cloves
1 thumb-sized piece of gingerroot, peeled and sliced lengthways
3 peeled garlic cloves, sliced lengthways (I actually prefer it without garlic)
1 large onion or 4-5 shallots, cut in thick slices/or in half – peel on or off OR 1 large leek, sliced
3 medium carrots, roughly cut up
4 dried shiitake mushrooms (optional)
2 litres water or light vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon)
1-2 tbsp soy sauce, fish sauce or coconut aminos – to taste
Add-Ins – add a few, not all
1 pack flat dried rice noodles (brown or white), edamame noodles (I use Asian Explorer brand, available online or at health food stores), courgetti/zoodles
Diced sauteed tofu (I used frozen deep-fried tofu from my favourite Chinese supermarket), rehydrated crumbled yuba sheets ,or any protein you like (if meat or chicken, cook first or use leftovers)
Sugarsnap peas, cut longbeans or fine beans
Summer squash or courgette/zucchini, thinly sliced (if not used as noodles)
Chard or kale, de-ribbed and sliced into ribbons (or pak choi for closer authenticity)
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Blanched bean sprouts
Sliced hot chillies
Lemon verbena, basil, coriander/cilantro or mint – any variation that you fancy
1. Heat a heavy skillet or pan and add the spices. Let them toast for 2 minutes, until they release their aroma. Set them aside for a moment. Add the ginger, onion and garlic slices and allow to sear on all sides – really brown them. This is essential. I find a cast-iron skillet the best pan for this job but it is not essential by any means.
2. Bring the stock or water to the boil and add the toasted spices and vegetables, as well as the carrots and mushrooms, if using. Return to the boil then reduce to simmer and pop on the lid. Let the stock simmer undercover for 30 minutes at a minimum. I sometimes do this for an hour, but at a very low simmer. Strain through a fine sieve or muslin cloth laid in a colander and add the soy or fish sauce, to taste. Some of you might like to add a bit of brown or palm sugar, or a little salt, especially if you used water rather than stock.
3. For the pho itself, cook the noodles to packet directions. The aubergines, if using, you will steam too – either hung in a sieve over the simmering broth for 8-10 minutes, or steamed separately (or indeed use leftover roasted). The rest of prep is just making sure everything is cut into bite-sized pieces.
To serve, tong cooked noodles into each bowl, top with your desired add-ins, ladle over the steaming broth and serve with lime and the fresh herbs.
Soft food diet: This broth can be the basis of many soft diet soups using any produce and protein that you are able to manage in the form that is suitable for you.
Other Vietnamese-style recipes on Food To Glow:
and my older, longer version of this recipe, A Really Useful Asian Broth
***I have loads and loads more southeast-Asian dishes in my Food To Glow recipe index for you to peruse.***
Slurpy Asian soups from fellow food writers:
Vietnamese-inspired Noodle Soup (not a pho)
Keep In Touch!
You can also find me on:
Instagram – behind the scenes with my recipe development (triumphs and tragedies!) and mini, Instagram-only recipes;
Twitter – tweeting on health, nutrition and global news, as well as sharing other bloggers’ content;
Facebook – posting on the latest nutrition and food stories, as well as sharing recipe links;
Pinterest – loads of boards on food, travel, food writing, blogging, health and novel ingredients;
Huffington Post – writing bespoke recipes and opinion pieces on my own Huff Post blog