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Vegan Pho Noodle Soup (Pho Chay)

This vegan Pho Noodle Soup (Pho Chay) is so hearty with deep savory flavors. While this vegan pho is quicker to make than traditional beef pho, it is just as comforting and delicious.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Dish, Noodle and Soup
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Servings: 3 people
Author: Sophie

Ingredients

Pho Spices & Aromatics

  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 2 large thumb-sized pieces of ginger, halved lengthwise
  • 1 stick of cassia bark (or cinnamon stick)
  • 6 star anises
  • 3 cloves
  • 1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 black cardamom pods, slightly crushed

Broth

  • 2 3''x4'' pieces of kombu
  • 7 cups water
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 leek, cut into chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into chunks
  • 1 fuji apple, quartered
  • 8 oz white mushrooms, halved
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fermented black beans, rinsed and drained (douchi or salted black beans)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Toppings

  • 1 lb extra-firm tofu
  • 8 oz king trumpet/king oyster mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce, divided

Garnishes

  • thinly sliced scallions
  • Cilantro, roughly chopped
  • bean sprouts (optional)
  • other herbs and condiments of your choice

Instructions

Spices and Aromatics

  • Char (or broil) onions and ginger until fragrant (about 7-10 minutes when broil on high). Remove the charred, black skin from the onions and set aside.
  • Optional step: Toast all the spices in a pan with medium low to medium heat for a few minutes until aromatics. Put them in a spice bag (so that it will be easier to remove them later).

Broth

  • Use damp paper towel to gently wipe the kombu. Add water and kombu in a stock pot. Turn on the stove and when the water starts simmering, discard the kombu.
    Kombu
  • Add carrots, leek, celery, apple, mushrooms, charred onion, ginger and the spice bag to the stockpot. Put the fermented black beans into a spice bag and add it to the stockpot. Also add salt and olive oil, bring everything to a boil, and then lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes.
  • After 30-35 minutes, remove all veggies and spices from the broth. Add soy sauce, taste the broth and adjust to your liking.

Toppings

  • While the broth is simmered, prepare the toppings. Wrap the tofu block in paper towel and place a heavy object on top of it to squeeze out excess water for a few minutes. Then cut into thin slices. Also cut the king trumpet/king oyster mushrooms into thin slices.
  • Pan fry the tofu slices until both sides are golden. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb excess oil. Set aside.
  • After the broth is ready, place a pan over medium high heat and pan sear the mushrooms on both sides until they develop nice color and are cooked through. Reduce heat to medium, add 1/4 cup of broth and a teaspoon of soy sauce to the pan. Quickly stir fry the mushrooms until all liquid is absorbed. Transfer to a clean plate.
    Searing the king trumpet/king oyster mushrooms - toppings for vegan pho
  • In the same pan over medium heat, add tofu slices, about 1/4-1/3 cup of broth, the remaining soy sauce. Cook until all liquid is absorbed, flip once. You may need to cook in 2 batches depending on the amount of tofu and the size of the pan.

Assembling the pho bowl

  • Cook pho noodles according to package instructions and prepare all the garnishes.
  • Add pho noodles to serving bowls, top with tofu slices and king trumpet/oyster mushroom slices, plenty of scallions and cilantro. Bring the broth back to a boil and ladle into the bowl. Serve immediately with other garnishes of your choice.

Notes

  • Kombu is edible kelp that is used intensively in Japanese cooking to make dashi stock. It is rich in glutamic acid which is responsible for umami.
  • Fermented black bean (douchi) is a popular ingredient in Chinese cuisine. If you love mapo tofu (like me :) ), you probably know about fermented black beans already. They are slightly pungent, very salty and full of umami.
You can find kombu and fermented black beans at Asian grocery stores. They are both essential ingredients to give this vegan pho broth deep savory flavors and umami. Using soy sauce alone isn't quite as good, so I think it's worth a trip to Asian grocery stores to buy them.
The most two important spices are cinnamon sticks/cassia bark and star anise. It's okay if you don't have the rest on hand.