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This simple bowl of rice noodles and soup is my go-to for keeping warm and at peace during the winter. It is the quintessential and true “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” I have been known to make it every night for 21 days straight, though I’m anti-routine by nature. That’s how much I love it.

While a traditional pho broth is derived from beef bones, this vegetable-based version is every bit as satisfyingly savory. It doesn’t hurt that the aromatic soup’s spices and herbs are full of antioxidants, aid digestion and fight inflammation. If you’ve never heard of or tasted this delicious Vietnamese dish before, don’t hesitate to try it now. It blows ramen out of the water.

The ingredients are easily found at any Asian supermarket and sometimes in the ethnic foods sections of standard grocery stores:



6 quarts cold water

2 medium onions, quartered

1 tsp each: ground star anise, clove, cinnamon, fennel seeds

4 inches fresh ginger, sliced

2 tbsp hoisin sauce

1 ½ tbsp salt

2 tbsp yellow rock sugar. (*If you can’t find this, regular sugar or agave can be substituted)

1-2 pounds ⅛-inch wide rice noodles (or “banh pho” noodles)

½ pound of bok choi, sliced in half lengthwise


To Garnish

Onion, very thinly sliced on a mandolin

Scallions, chopped


Fresh thai basil


Mung bean sprouts



1. In a large pot, over medium high heat, add star anise, clove, cinnamon and fennel seeds.

2. Toast for a minute or two, stirring frequently, until fragrant.

3. Add water, onions, ginger, hoisin sauce, salt and sugar.

4. Simmer for a minimum of 15 minutes. The longer you cook, the more flavor will develop, but, if you are in a hurry, 15 minutes will produce a more than decent soup. (For full flavor, simmer for 3 hours.)

5. Use tongs to remove onion.

6. Strain broth through a fine mesh strainer.

7. Bring broth to a boil and add rice noodles and bok choi.

8. Cook 6-8 minutes until al dente.

9. Divide soup and noodles into bowls.

10. Add garnishes as desired.

photo credits: matthew frost

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