Vegan Pho with Spicy Tofu

Vegan pho with spicy tofu is a delicious, filling and naturally gluten-free dish. The broth is full of umami thanks to a couple of very simple tricks.


  • 1 small Chinese cabbage (approx. 500 g / 1 lb)
  • 4 celery stalks (120 g), washed and cut into large chunks
  • 3 medium carrots (250 g), washed and cut into large chunks
  • 1 Fuji apple, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, cut into quarters
  • 5 cm / 2″ piece of ginger
  • a bunch of fresh coriander (stalks for the broth, leaves for serving)
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 x 2.5 cm / 1″ pieces of Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1 large dried shiitake mushroom
  • 4 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2½ tsp sea salt, more to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp lime juice


  • 200 g / 7 oz flat rice noodles or zoodles
  • 200 g / 7 oz firm or extra firm tofu, pressed*
  • 200 g / 7 oz flat green beans
  • peanut oil (or other high smoke point oil), for frying
  • fresh coriander
  • fresh mint
  • 1 red chilli, sliced
  • 1 spring onion, sliced
  • 3-4 tbsp tamari / soy sauce or vegan fish sauce
  • chilli condiment like sambal oelek, to taste (optional)


  1. Wash ginger and slice it (no need to peel it) into thin slices lengthwise. Spread slices of ginger and quartered onion on a baking tray. Place under a grill / broiler (175° C / 390° F) for about 15-20 minutes to get a nice char. Keep an eye on them and flip them every 5 minutes to make sure they get charred on all sides. Let them cool and rinse under a cold tap to get rid of any flaky charred bits – you don’t want them floating in your stock.
  2. Dry roast all the spices: cinnamon, coriander seeds, cloves and star anise in a small pan until aromatic and fragrant. Make sure you give the pan a shake very frequently as they can burn easily.
  3. Wash all the vegetables well. Chop (no need to peel them if scrubbed well) the carrots and apple. Slice celery stalks and chop cabbage leaves into a rough dice. Place all of them in a large pot with a lid together with charred aromatics, toasted spices, coriander stalks, shiitake mushroom and salt. Pour 1.75 l / 9 cups of water into the pot. Place the lid on and bring to a simmer. Simmer, covered, for about 60 minutes.
  4. Cut your tofu into equal size pieces. Place them in a shallow dish and marinate in 1 tbsp of tamari (or soy sauce) and a touch of chilli paste (I used sambal oelek). After a few minutes, flip them to the other side to make sure it’s seasoned evenly.
  5. Fry tofu in 1-2 tbsp of hot oil (I used peanut) until golden on both sides. Blot on a piece of kitchen towel. You could also bake it, but it will take longer. Spread marinated tofu on a paper-lined baking tray and bake it in a 180° C / 355° F oven for about 30-40 min, flipping once half way through the baking.
  6. While the broth is simmering, place nutritional yeast in a measuring cup and pour 180 ml (¾ cup) of boiling water over it. Set aside for the murkier liquid to settle at the bottom.
  7. Cook your noodles according to the instructions on the packet. It’s worth undercooking them a touch as when they get immersed in a steaming hot broth they’ll soften a little more. Instead of rice noodles, you could also use zucchini strands (zoodles) if you want a lighter meal.
  8. Cut beans on the diagonal. Heat up a tablespoon of oil in a small pan / wok and once hot, add sliced beans. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until cooked but still crunchy. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  9. Strain the broth through a fine sieve – squeeze as much liquid out of the veggies as you can. Season with lime juice (I used 2 tbsp), nutritional yeast extract (only use the clear part floating on the top, discard the murkier stuff), and tamari (soy sauce) or vegan fish sauce to taste.
  10. Place a cluster of noodles, a few bits of tofu and stir-fried beans in each soup bowl. Pour hot soup on top. Garnish with sliced spring onions, hot chilli slices, chilli sauce of choice (optional), fresh mint and coriander leaves.