Pho with beef or tofu

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.

(adapted from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, via Steamy Kitchen)

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
3 cloves
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)
fish sauce

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.

6 Responses to “Pho with beef or tofu”

  1. 1 Maria January 20, 2010 at 8:57 am

    I love all of the veggies!

  2. 2 ravenouscouple January 20, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Well done!! There’s actually so many Vietnamese recipes that can be adapted into vegetarian. Try some sliced shiataki for a meat substitute as well

  3. 3 elly January 20, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    This looks delicious. I adore pho, but I’ve really never considered making it at home because after I buy all the stuff, I should probably just fork over the $7 to the Vietnamese place and get carryout. This recipe/ingredients doesn’t look too bad in terms of that though!

  4. 4 jo January 20, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Simple it may be but the ultimate word is DELICIOUS!

  5. 5 Cara January 20, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    I agree with Elly, and I’ll add to that, I have very little interest in cooking with marrow. I’d be much more apt to try this version!

  6. 6 Pink Panda January 20, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    This looks like a great alternative to the meaty version, and more affordable as well. Will be giving this a shot sometime in the future.

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