Faux Pho

Many of my commutes home from work – which despite living a mere ten miles from my office take up to an hour – are spent contemplating what to make for dinner. Tonight on my way home (via Trader Joe’s), I was thinking that I’ve been so wrapped up in my nerdy database project (now I’m inputting years of records from book journals to track my reading habits) that I’ve been really slacking off in the cooking department, which was fine because I was sick anyway, but bad as far as maintaining a food blog is concerned. It dawned on me suddenly in the midst of my musing that what I wanted for dinner was pho. I think I saw a post about it on another, non-vegan, blog today, or maybe I was just driving by one of the many pho places around here. Pho – perfect! It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s healthy…and I’ve never featured it here! So I grabbed a few things I needed from Trader Joe’s (namely, bean sprouts which I never just “have on hand” and fresh basil) and, feeling very pleased with myself, came up with a probably-extremely-unoriginal title, and here we are.

Faux Pho

8 oz wide rice noodles
6 cups vegan “beef” broth
2 Tbsp Maggi seasoning or soy sauce
2 star anise
1 stick cinnamon
2″ piece of ginger, grated
1 chili, sliced
1 carrot, julienned or grated
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
6-8 oz seitan, shredded or very thinly sliced
several fist-fulls bean sprouts
something green, such as pea shoots (which I grabbed at Trader Joe’s because they looked good) or spinach, etc.
2 fist-fulls basil
1 fist-full cilantro (I couldn’t find any fresh so I used 2 frozen cubes from Trader Joe’s)
3 scallions, chopped

Soak the noodles in very hot water. I like to bring a pot of water to a boil, remove it from the heat, add the noodles, cover, and let them soak for about half an hour. If I need to speed the process up, I turn the heat back on for a couple of minutes.

Grate the ginger. There is no need to peel!

You should end up with, I don’t know, a tablespoon or two?

Gather the star anise and cinnamon stick. I’m fascinated with star anise. I don’t know what to use it in other than pho, so I get really excited every time I make pho and get to break out the star anise.

Meanwhile, bring the broth to a boil, add the ginger, star anise, cinnamon stick, and Maggi seasoning or soy sauce, and simmer for about 20 minutes so the flavors blend.

Prepare everything else while the noodles are softening and the broth is simmering. Julienne or grate the carrot, …

… thinly slice the chili, …

… and thinly slice the onion.

Shred or thinly slice the seitan.

Add the chili pepper to the broth …

… and the onion, carrot, and seitan. Continue simmering for the remainder of the 20 minutes (or longer).

Check the noodles – the best way to to taste one. They should be soft, but not too soft.

When they are done, drain.

When the broth is ready, remove the star anise and the cinnamon stick.

To assemble your bowl of pho, place some of the noodles in a bowl.

Top with the green stuff …

… and the bean sprouts and basil.

Ladle the broth over the noodles and veggies and top with scallions. Garnish with a lime half. (And when I say “garnish”, I intend for you to actually USE the lime! Squirt it over everything to taste – it really boosts the flavor!)

This was really, really good, I thought. It tastes so fresh, it’s so quick and easy, and it was a great way to use up some leftover seitan I had that wasn’t enough to be the basis of an entire meal. I wish I’d thought to make pho when I was sick: it’d have been perfect.

And here is a James Joyce finger pupper/magnet that Mark gave me today!

Isn’t it adorable? James Joyce plays an amusing role in the Story of How Mark and Renae Met, so I find it especially cute.


  1. Jes Said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 9:28 am

    I think Joyce would approve of the pho, even though he probably had no idea it existed. I’ve been meaning to make vegan pho for awhile; you beat me to it!

  2. Alexis Said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 11:42 am

    This looks like easy but good pho! What kind of vegan “beef” broth do you use?

  3. renae Said,

    January 13, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

    I probably rely on this stuff too much, but I use Better Than Bouillon’s vegan beef flavor. I keep thinking that since I make almost everything from scratch, I should make more of my broths from scratch, but Better Than Bouillon is so easy for a quick meal like this and actually tastes good.

  4. Lovliebutterfly Said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 11:13 am

    That looks delicious and really does look easy to make! I’m the same with star anise, I buy them but there are very few recipes I use them for!

  5. Melissa Said,

    January 14, 2009 @ 5:23 pm

    Yum, the pho looks great! I have never ventured out to find vegetarian pho before… but now I can cook it!

    New year, new blog. I love reading blogs so I’m finally joining the community. I’ll post about my tempeh-making trials once I finally get the starter. I was planning on ordering it from the culture company you posted about, but I wonder if I can find it in NYC. hmmm… I’ll have to do some research.

  6. renae Said,

    January 15, 2009 @ 6:27 pm

    Loveliebutterfly, I almost want to string them on a necklace and wear them!

    Melissa, welcome to the world of blogging! I’m looking forward to reading about your tempeh-making. I’m always under the impression you can get anything in NYC (I love it there!), but I don’t even know where to start to look for tempeh starter.

  7. lvleph Said,

    June 8, 2009 @ 3:07 pm

    I see you were trying to be clever with the name. However, the proper pronunciation of Phở is more like “fuh”.

  8. renae Said,

    June 8, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

    Thanks, lvleph, but I know how to pronounce pho and “faux pho” is still as clever as I’m capable of being with the name.

  9. pleasurefromthethorns Said,

    July 23, 2009 @ 11:57 pm

    i think “faux pho” is just the right amount of clever 🙂 i found a link to your pho post on VeganDad and when i read the first few lines describing you passing all the pho places and being stuck in traffic, i knew you must be in DC, Montgomery County, or Northern Va! We’re transplants from Silver Spring to Colorado Springs and when we lived back in that area of the east coast, pho was one of our go-to dining options. As such, it was one of the first things we vegan-ized (http://pleasurefromthethorns.blogspot.com/2009/01/cure-for-what-ails-ya.html) when we made the switch back in ’07. i enjoy your blog and it’s nice to be reminded of the DC area from time to time. keep up the good work 🙂

  10. lvleph Said,

    February 20, 2010 @ 8:44 pm

    I guess you were trying to be clever with the title? However, phó sounds like fuh.

  11. renae Said,

    February 20, 2010 @ 9:05 pm

    Um, lvleph, any reason you keep leaving the same (rather snotty) comment on this post?

  12. Pam B Said,

    January 9, 2011 @ 11:50 am

    I am excited to try this! Re Star Anise, I grew up putting it into homemade chicken noodle soup. I believe its a mennonite thing. My grandparents on my parents side were mennonite, but by no means religious, but the food culture remained, lucky for me! There is also a very interesting cookie that uses ground star anise called pepper nuts – I can’t vouch for this recipe ink but I wanted to give something to go on. http://www.tastebook.com/recipes/2110803-Grandma-s-Peppernuts

    Also, if you love the smell of anise, grind some up and just leave it out, it diffuses brilliantly and makes me so happy.

    Also, I should mention its a common ingredient in sausage so it would be great if you used your expertise to put it into a faux meat recipe! I would be very happy!

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