The cold and rainy weather has got me on a soup kick. A Pho soup kick, specifically. Pho (pronounced ‘fuh?’) is a Vietnamese soup usually made with beef, fish or other kinds of gross fleshy bits, rice noodles, and an amazing broth spiced with cinnamon, star anise, charred ginger, cloves, garlic and usually garnished with green and white onions, cilantro, Thai basil, lime, bean sprouts and some kinda hot sauce or chili on the side. The broth is usually made from meat and bones, so you either need to make your own or seek out restaurants that make it vegetarian, including the broth.

So back to my Pho cravings, I’ve had it already twice in the past couple of days at two different restaurants. Allow me to present my findings.

Pho adventure #1: Blossom Restaurant, Downtown.

Vegan Vietnamese Pho

Appetizer first please. This is the “Vegetarian Fritters”, which are sweet potatoes, mushrooms and tofu. Served with mint, veggies and a tasty sweet chili type sauce. Very nice, light and not at all greasy.

Vegan Vietnamese Pho

Ok, now here’s the garnishes mentioned earlier. We have a lovely plate of fresh bean sprouts, basil leaves, some kind of very spicy green chili, and lime wedges. There’s also plenty of Sriracha, soy sauce, hoisin and other condiments over on the side as well to be added as per your liking.

Vegan Vietnamese Pho

And here’s the pholicious bowl of steaming hot pho, made with tofu, mushrooms, carrots, baby bok choi, cilantro, a ton of rice noodles underneath it all… and lots of green and white onions. I don’t do onions, and there’s like a raging onion party going on in my bowl. No need to panic. The thing is, I appreciate the flavor they give food, I just don’t like the things themselves. So after a serious onion hunt and extraction expedition, my soup was ready to be topped with all the extra goodies, and then was heartily consumed.

The soup was delicious, the ambiance of Blossom smack in the middle of downtown can’t be beat, and it’s only a very short walk from the Pershing Square Metro stop, and everything else.

That was last weekend. Today I woke with another rager for Pho. I still need to try the Vietnamese Soy Cafe in Silver Lake which is all vegetarian, but they keep funky hours, and I was hungry now. A quick search online and then a few phone calls later I tracked down a location right here in the valley serving vegetarian Pho.

Pho adventure #2: “Absolutely PHObulous” in Encino.

Vegan Vietnamese Pho

Despite the silly name, this place was awesome. First up, vegetarian spring rolls. Delicious, packed with vermicelli, fresh veggies and herbs. The dipping sauce was some sort of peanuty love.

Vegan Vietnamese Pho

Here’s the photastic pho as it was served. This version comes with tofu, carrots, broccoli and baby bok choy. And yeah, enough onions to feed a small village in Somalia for a year. No problem. I’m a professional. Below is my creation after I’d had my way with it…

Vegan Vietnamese Pho

I also squirted in a healthy dose of spicy Sriracha this time around (after I took the picture). This pho was great. Very nice to know this place is tasty and doesn’t involve me having to go over (or under) the hill. They have a West Hollywood location as well.

Neither of these two restaurants are all vegetarian, but there are a number of vegetarian and vegan options at both that will more than satisfy.

A recent edition of Vegetarian Times magazine had a vegan recipe for Pho, and I’ve found a few different versions online that look good too. My craving has far from passed so I think I’ll try making up some of my own soon.

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21 Responses to “What the Pho?”
  1. Trina says:

    Dude, what the pho? All this radical eating without me?

  2. FoodEater says:

    Trina: Doh! I’ve been busted!

    Both these adventures were spur of the moment, get up and go sorta things. I promise next time I feel a radical adventure brewing, you will be the first to be notified!

  3. Dang! That looks phonomenal!

  4. Melisser says:

    The thing is, I appreciate the flavor they give food, I just don’t like the things themselves.
    YES, this is me!! I need to get some Pho; I’ve never had it!

  5. FoodEater says:

    vegan blog tracker: Phonomenial indeed!

  6. FoodEater says:

    Melisser: Oh, I know you will love it. I’m sure there’s some good Pho to be tracked down up North. I know there’s lots of places in Oakland but I don’t know of any specifically vegan/vegetarian one’s. I guess you have your mission now…

  7. VeggieGirl says:

    wow, that has to be the most delicious-looking pho I’ve ever seen – yum!!

  8. Liz² says:

    pho used to be like, my *favourite* thing to go out and eat – your list of the wonderful spices and additions to the broth pretty much made my knees wobbly… and the pictures! I gotta find veggie pho – or you have to post recipes! :D

  9. FoodEater says:

    VeggieGirl: Thanks! And there’s actually two different versions of Pho going on on this page… a double-whammy of yumminess if you will :)

    Liz²: I’m for sure going to be attempting to make my own version soon, so I promise to post whatever recipe I use.

  10. Anh says:

    Hey, great post! Was that veggie pho from Blossom made from vegetable stock?

    The people who run Blossom also have another pho restaurant in Chinatown, right next to Mountain Bar.

  11. FoodEater says:

    Anh: Yes, I verified with Blossom before eating it, the broth is totally vegan. And thanks for the tip on the Chinatown location… gonna have to check that out as there are so few options for vegetarian/vegan eaters out there. Perhaps I’ll push my way through the crowds this weekend during the dragon parade and do some investigating. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it ;)

  12. Cookiemouse says:

    Those pictures!… simply amazing. When I see photos like these I almost believe you can eat with your eyes.

  13. Marie says:

    Wow, beautiful pho pictures. I have been hunting for veggie pho in Nyc and have achieved limited results. Looks like a trip to LA is in order!

  14. scott says:

    so i hit up pho bulous today for lunch and got the veggie vermicelli and one of the girls i went with got the veggie pho… i thought the broth was really good, nice and light and not so salty. the vermicelli was good too. over all nothing special but a nice change of pace from the rest of the lunch spots that are walking distance from work.

  15. FoodEater says:

    Cookiemouse: Thank you!

    Marie: Yelp turns up this place in NYC called Lan Cafe… sounds promising!

  16. FoodEater says:

    Scott: Cool, I’m glad you checked it out. I agree, nothing to jump up in down in awe of, but still pretty gosh darn good for something local. I too appreciate that it wasn’t salty. Gonna have to try the vermicelli next time! I wish they offered a veggie Bánh mì.

  17. Katrina says:

    These look so tasty.
    nom nom nom nom nom chomp.

    I’m drooling just looking, now I want to run to the store and buy tasty food, lol. I might have to make some of this for my asian inspired/dim sum like/appetizer party I’m planning. We need more places like this in Ohio!

    Thanks for your comment on my site by the way!


  18. FoodEater says:

    Katrina: Thanks for dropping in! If you do a quick search online for “vegetarian pho” you’ll turn up some interesting recipe ideas. Good luck!

  19. J says:

    great pictures! there’s nothing I love more than Pho. I don’t understand vegan pho though…isn’t the pho broth made from beef? is the vegan dish made from a different broth? and if it is? what’s it made of?

  20. FoodEater says:

    J: Thanks for stopping by! Yes, real Pho is normally made using beef or other animal broth… I think it’s a long simmering process involving bones and other such stuff I’d rather not consider right now. Vegan Pho is made using the same seasonings, spices and ingredients (for example star anise, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, garlic, etc…), minus the animal bits. It’s pretty easy to make a delicious tasting vegetarian broth that can take on the same flavors of traditional Pho and there are even vegetarian broths already premade with beef or chicken type flavorings. Then use the usual vegetables and herbs, as well as a protein addition such as tofu or seitan instead of meat or seafood and you’ve got yourself a nice hot bowl of vegan Pho!

  21. James says:

    The best Vegan Pho in CA is at Golden Era in SF. The second best is at Vin Loi Tofu but I cannot wait to try these.