I ate pho at least once a day when we were in Vietnam, but when I gave up meat I knew it would be tough to make a vegetarian version that comes close to the rich, full-flavored broth that makes it so great. While this broth does have a nice blend of spices (star anise, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cardamom, and fennel), it’s missing the beef marrow that makes it so rich and smooth.
Still, for vegetarians, this is a great recipe to try because the flavors are nice, and honestly, one of the best parts of pho is all the things you get to stir into it! Plus, because each person assembles their own bowl, it’s easy to cater to vegetarians and meat-eaters at the same time, like I did here. I just put some thinly sliced tofu on top of my noodles, and some thinly sliced beef on top of Mikes noodles before ladling the broth over everything.
8 cups water
1 onion, quartered
a 2″ piece of ginger, quartered
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 star anise
1 cardamom pod
2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
Combine all broth ingredients and cook in a slow cooker on low for 6-8 hours. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer, then bring to a simmer in a large saucepan when you’re ready to assemble your soup. Taste and add more salt or sugar if necessary.
7 ounces medium rice sticks (like these)
1/4 pound flank steak, sliced as thinly as possible
6 ounces of tofu, drained and thinly sliced
2 habanero peppers, thinly sliced (if you like spicy food)
1-2 cups bean sprouts
2 limes, quartered
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves (loosely packed)
Prepare the rice sticks according to package directions.
Arrange the peppers, bean sprouts, limes, and mint on a serving plate so people can customize their bowls of soup. Have the fish sauce available for seasoning soup as desired.
Put a few noodles in the bottom of a bowl, then top with either tofu or beef. Ladle the simmering broth over the noodles, then garnish your soup however you like.