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Vegetarian Pho


TODAY Michael Pham of Phamily Kitchen teaches us two things. First and foremost, we learn to make Michael’s intensely tasty vegetarian pho, which is so full of spices and complex flavour, it’s hard to believe this dish is entirely meat free.

Also, we learn a new abbreviated slangword – ‘OG’. Yep I admit I had to google it when Michael included this mysterious acronym in his intro below. ‘Original Gangster’ apparently?  (Phew, thanks urban dictionary!)


24th March, 2015
Michael Pham of Phamily Kitchen
Tuesday 24th March 2015

This is the OG favourite fragrant Vietnamese soup, the super-comfort food, the ultimate hangover cure, the grandma’s hug in a bowl. When I think of this dish my mind boggles at the options of what meat to put in it. Tripe? Brisket? Beef balls? Chicken? Fried chicken? Blood pudding? Livers? All of the above? It’s a wonder that a cruelty-free vegan version for you clean-living ethical folk out there would be even possible. For a long time, this dish eluded me, but now that we’ve got it down pat, it’s one of the tastiest dishes at the restaurant.

Now, the (semi) tricky part… Pho is kinda only worth bothering with to make in large-ish quantities – so either throw a nice get-together for at least half a dozen of your nearest and dearest, and/or freeze the rest of the stock for an easy dinner after work.

OK, the truth is, it looks daunting, but don’t be put off by the lengthy ingredients list, it’s actually really, really enjoyable to make. You’ll learn something about yourself. Perhaps. I’d say yes. So climb that mountain at least once and you’ll never look back.

Ingredients (Serves 10-12)

For the spice mix

  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 4 star anise
  • 5 cm cassia bark
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 small pod cardamom

For the stock

  • 100g ginger
  • 300g brown onions
  • 1 corn cob
  • 250g carrots, sliced into 1cm discs
  • 1 core (middle) of white cabbage
  • 1 leek, white part only, halved, cleaned
  • 1 sweet seasonal fruit to bring the sweetness - nashi pear, apple, white peach
  • 40g vegetable stock powder
  • 4 tablespoons sea salt
  • 50g rock sugar

Pho trimmings

  • 200-250g fresh rice noodles per serve
  • 3 dried shiitake mushrooms per serve, soaked and thinly sliced
  • 1 small bag enoki mushrooms
  • 1/2 bunch spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1 bunch coriander, washed and picked
  • 1 x 500g Fortune brand semi-fried tofu, sliced

To serve

  • Bean sprouts
  • Thai Basil
  • Lemon wedges
  • Fresh birds-eye chilli, sliced


In a dry frypan, lightly toast the spices until fragrant. Let the spices cool and place them into a spice bag (a small muslin bag, kind of like a teabag for making stock, available from most speciality food stores).

Fill a large 10-12 litre pot 3/4 full with cold water, and place it on medium-high heat.

On a gas stove, char onions and ginger until black. Let cool and rub charcoal off. This grilling makes them nice and sweet. Alternatively, you could roast them for half an hour or so at 180ºC, then peel the skins off the onion.

Add ginger, onions to the pot of water; along with the stock vegetables and powder. Add salt, sugar and the bag of spice mix.

Bring pot to a gentle boil, and let simmer gently for 2-3 hours to let flavours develop.

Meanwhile, rinse and pat dry the tofu, and slice into nice 5mm x 5mm strands.

Soak the shiitake mushrooms and slice. Plate up the noodles, tofu strands, shiitake and enoki mushrooms into bowls.

Prepare your side plate: bean sprouts, nicely draped strands of thai basil, lemon wedges and chilli.

Once the stock is ready, pour it to cover (roughly 350ml – 450ml per serve) the noodles and garnish with spring onion, coriander and fried onions. ENJOY!

Vegetarian pho by Michael Pham of Phamily Kitchen, photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

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