Vegetarian Pho

I’ve been musing about soup as seasonal comfort food ever since the weather turned chilly, but after having pho (pronounced “fuh”) tonight for the first time in my life, I now realize you truly don’t know soup as comfort food until you experience this Vietnamese rice noodle and broth concoction. On the day of our first snowfall, which was accompanied by sleet and icy winds, this recipe could only be more apropos if one had a cold—it would be the perfect food-as-medicine meal!

In the past, I’ve just skipped over the pho section on the menu at Vietnamese restaurants because it’s always been made with meat and meat broth. But a few weeks ago when I was reading 101 Cookbooks’ most recent favorites list, it included a “to cook” link that brought me to a vegetarian pho recipe from, a new-to-me blog. Upon reading the ingredients, I could practically smell the fragrant broth. And vibrant fresh veggies and herbs, plus brown rice noodles (pasta—yay!) had me moving this recipe to the top of my “to cook” list.

I made the recipe pretty-much as written with the exception of using baby bok choy in place of the called-for head of bok choy because the co-op didn’t have it. You’ll like this any time of year, but it will be an especially welcoming meal if you’re having weather like we are. In addition to being vegetarian, it’s vegan and gluten-free, and after seeing how much my non-vegetarian husband loved it, you’ll likely satisfy just about anyone. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Pho

From, as adapted from Green Kitchen Travels by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl

2 large onions, peeled and halved

A nub of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

4 cinnamon sticks

4 star anise

4 cloves

4 cardamom pods

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

4 large carrots, peeled and chopped

1 fennel bulb, quartered, stalks removed

1 tsp minced garlic

1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce (tamari is a gluten-free soy sauce)

8 cups vegetable stock

4 heads of baby bok choy, halved

Fresh basil

Fresh mint

2 cups beansprouts

Sliced jalapeño peppers

Several limes, quartered

Thin sweet onion slices

1 pound brown rice noodles

Sriracha sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Place onions and ginger slices onto a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the edges are starting to brown.

Place spices in a stock pot and dry roast until fragrant, stirring to prevent from burning. Add vegetable stock, tamari, carrots, fennel, and roasted onions and ginger. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Strain soup base through a fine mesh strainer to remove vegetables and debris, then return strained broth to the pot and reheat. Cook noodles according to packet instructions. Prepare serving bowls with cooked noodles, bok choy, beansprouts, onion, fresh herbs, jalapeño, and lime wedges. When ready to serve, pour over hot broth and serve immediately. Garnish with sriracha, if desired. Makes 6-8 servings.