Phở Chay (Vegetarian Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

Phở Chay  (Vegetarian Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

Makes two very large bowls


2  three-inch cinnamon sticks
6  whole star anise pods
1  teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
2 large carrots, peeled and quartered
1 two-inch piece of ginger, peeled and

cut into thick slices
6 cups vegetable stock
2-4 teaspoons soy sauce, depending on taste

See sidebar for optional flavor enhancers


2-3 cups chopped or sliced vegetables such as broccoli, kale, bok choy
Sliced mushrooms
Fried or baked tofu, cut into bite-sized pieces


½ onion, sliced paper thin
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 lime, quartered (to squeeze over soup)
1 cup bean sprouts
Fresh sliced chili pepper (i.e. Thai, jalapeño, Serrano)
Handful of herbs such as cilantro and thai basil
Hoisin sauce
Sriracha sauce

½ pound dried Vietnamese rice noodles (bánh phở)


  1. Wrap cinnamon sticks, anise pods, peppercorns, bay leaf, coriander seeds and onion in cheese cloth.  Place in a large pot with carrots, ginger and vegetable stock. Bring broth to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove and discard the bundle of spices/onion, carrots and ginger. Taste and add soy sauce to your preference. Keep hot until ready to serve.
  2. Prepare garnishes while broth is simmering. Set aside on a plate.
  3. Soften noodles according to package directions (e.g. either soaking in hot water for 20 minutes or cooking in boiling water for 5 minutes). Noodles should be as soft as al dente Italian pasta.  Drain, rinse with cold water and divide into serving bowls.
  4. Lightly blanch desired toppings in hot broth and divide into serving bowls with the noodles.
  5. Bring broth to boil and then ladle hot broth over noodles and toppings. Serve garnishes on the side, with each person adding them to taste.


There are a few ways to boost the flavor of the stock.  Eric recommends lightly charring the onion and the ginger over an open flame before adding to the stock.  I missed the meaty flavor usually found in phở. The stock may be cloudier but to add that earthy flavor and keep it vegetarian try the following:

Dice about 2 Cups of mushrooms.  In your stock pot, coat the bottom with a tablespoon of vegetable oil and heat on medium high.  Add the mushrooms.  Sauté the mushrooms until they reduce down and a fond starts to form on the bottom of the pan.  (Fond is French for “base” and commonly refers to the browned bits and caramelized drippings of meat and vegetables that are stuck to the bottom of a pan after sautéing or roasting.)  Add a ¼ cup of red wine and stir until all the liquid is evaporated.   Add the vegetable stock and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Strain out the mushrooms and proceed with instructions for the stock, adding in spices, etc….