Phenomenally Phast Pho (vegan)

Pardon the Pun (and the alliterations). I’m not even the worst out of all the punning bloggers! Ahh pho. An umami-rich broth, soft noodles and fresh, earthy herbs. It’s also usually made with beef or chicken AND requires hours and hours of fussing and simmering. Unfortunately, my moving-house-planning skills don’t extend to the kitchen. This means that I usually think about making a dish about (half) an hour before I want to be eating it. So, this is how I did it when I wanted pho yesterday. I whipped up some marinade for tempeh, then quickly made a nice broth and while that was simmering away, I prepared my herbs and pan fried the tempeh. I am especially proud of the tempeh in this recipe because I just recently learnt how to cook with (and like) it. I really wanted the tempeh to taste, well, ‘meaty’ and to have a nice texture and I believe I nailed it 🙂 This dish, including the tempeh, is even better the next day so if patience does work for you, you can always wait until the day after.

Traditionally you are supposed to char the onion and ginger in an open flame or over a grill. I don’t actually want to set my teeny tiny kitchen on fire, even though I have to admit that the idea is tempting. So, I added a little smoked paprika to add a level of smokiness without distracting from the other flavours. I also boiled the noodles directly in the broth, purely because I really don’t like doing dishes (this is an understatement). Doing that thickens the pho a little so if you don’t like that, it’s best to boil the noodles separately.

Ingredients (2-3 portions):

‘Meaty’ tempeh

  • 1/2 package (about 200 grams) of tempeh, boiled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetarian oyster sauce (this is crucial to the flavour, don’t omit!)
  • 1/2 cup of red wine (I buy the cheapest one I can find, again don’t omit)
  • 1 tablespoon of less salt soy sauce (I like Kikkoman the best)
  • 1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil (or any other neutral tasting vegetable oil)
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar


  • A glug of rapeseed oil (sub with any other neutral tasting vegetable oil)
  • 3 teaspoons of Chinese five spice (you can also use a mix of ground cinnamon, cloves and star anise)
  • 3/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika powder (this adds a tiny bit of smokiness to the dish, don’t omit)
  • 1 small onion, roughly diced
  • 3 medium cloves of garlic, sliced (not traditional, just yummy)
  • 1 big piece of ginger, peeled and sliced (I used a piece about the same size as the onion)
  • 4 cups of frozen, sliced mushrooms (sub with fresh if you have them)
  • 1 mushroom stock cube (sub with a vegetarian ‘beef’ stock cube or add more marmite towards the end)
  • 5 cups of filtered water
  • 1/2 tablespoon of marmite (you can also use vegemite)
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 of a package so about 100 grams of rice vermicelli noodles (you can use any type of rice noodle)

To serve

  • 2 spring onions, chopped (don’t omit)
  • A handful of basil leaves (you can use mint instead)
  • A handful of coriander leaves and stems, roughly chopped
  • 1 big green chilli pepper, sliced (use any type and amount you like, depending on how hot you want it)
  • Optional: 1 lime, cut in half
  • Optional: a handful of bean sprouts (mine were frozen, so I added them to the broth towards the end)


‘Meaty’ tempeh

  • Boiling tempeh for at least 10 minutes takes away the bitterness so start with this if you haven’t done so yet. Let cool and grate.
  • Whisk the vegetarian oyster sauce, wine, soy sauce, oil and balsamic vinegar together. Dump the tempeh in the marinade and let sit while you prepare the rest of the dish.
  • When the pho is simmering away with the noodles, drain the tempeh in a colander and squeeze any excess liquid out of it. Then pan fry in a non-stick pan over high heat in a little extra oil until browned and slightly crunchy.
  • Serve over the pho.


  • Pan fry the five spice and paprika powder in the oil over medium heat in a big, non-stick pot. Make sure not to burn it! You don’t normally have to use oil for this but because we don’t use meat we have to add at least a little fat. Fat = flavour! 🙂
  • Add the onion, garlic and ginger and pan fry for a minute.
  • Add the mushrooms, stock cube and water and bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer with the lid on for at least half an hour.
  • Add the marmite and salt about 5 minutes before serving and then boil the noodles in the pho (or separately).
  • Serve with the spring onion, basil, coriander, chilli, lime, bean sprouts and tempeh.

Storage and tip of the day:

This dish will keep for 3-4 days in the fridge and 4-6 months in the freezer.

You don’t need to cook for hours to make a tasty dish. Just some planning and loads of spices, aromatics and stock will do 😉

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