Pho (pronounced “fuh”) is a Vietnamese noodle soup that is based on a slow cooked, intensely flavorful beef broth. Traditionally it includes beef and noodles and is topped with all sorts of fresh accompaniments like cilantro, scallions, hot peppers and lime wedges.
Given this soup is so connected to its beefy roots, it is hard to imagine a vegan version would work. However, I think the lack of beef lets the other flavors shine through. It is still quite complex and I find it very comforting (perfect as we approach the winter months). If you want to increase the flavor even more, try charring the garlic and scallion greens under the broiler before adding them to the broth.
I lightly adapted this recipe from The Year in Food and I hope you tinker with it and make it your own, too. I have made this with brown rice instead of noodles when I didn’t have any on hand and it was just as good. And use whatever veggies you have on hand – carrots, kohlrabi, pak choi all come to mind.
makes 2-3 servings
- 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 to 3 star anise pods or 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 2 black cardamom pods (optional)
- 6 cups vegetable broth
- 1-2 tablespoons soy sauce, or more to taste
- 1 – 3-inch knob of fresh ginger, smashed with the back of a knife
- 3 small scallions, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 4 ounces brown rice noodles or pasta or choice
- 8 ounces firm tofu, pressed, drained and cubed
- 1 cup broccoli florets, chopped
- 1 cup chopped sturdy winter greens, such as arugula, kale or mustard greens
- Lime wedges, cilantro and/or mint, thinly sliced hot peppers or Sriracha for serving
- In a large stock pot over medium heat, toast the dry spices until fragrant, stirring often, about 3-4 minutes. Add the stock, soy sauce, ginger, green parts of the scallions, garlic and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes.
- While the broth simmers, bring a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Cook until just barely al dente – if they’re slightly undercooked, it’s okay. Drain and set aside, covered, until ready.
- Strain the broth, removing all solids, and return to the stock pot. Add the tofu and simmer for a few minutes to allow the tofu to absorb the broth’s flavor. Add the broccoli florets and the sturdy winter greens and cook for a few minutes, or until slightly softened and wilted. Remove from heat.
- Divide the noodles among two or three bowls. Ladle the soup over each. Garnish with any of the items listed above. Serve immediately.