Spicy Vegetarian Pho, Elizabeth Street Cafe

Not making the trek to the Lone Star State this week for all things SXSW? Get in the spirit at home with Elizabeth Street Café, the beloved Vietnamese-French café in Austin, Tex., owned by Larry McGuire and Thomas Moorman. The pair partnered with Julia Turshen to release a cookbook this past fall and below, share the recipe for their spicy vegetarian pho.

Elizabeth Street Café  Evan Sung

Spicy Vegetarian Pho

Serves four

“Our vegetarian pho started out simple and has progressed to become more exciting and complex. At first it was just a clear vegetarian stock (broth), but then, we added gochujang chile paste and sesame oil and made sure our vegetarian stock could hold its own next to our not vegetarian ones. This pho went from a tame run-of-the-mill dish to a red and fiery version that borrows as much from Korean soup cooking as it does from Vietnamese pho traditions. We garnish the soup with fresh Thai basil and cilantro [coriander], which grow abundantly in our garden next door. Luckily, our central Texas climate is perfect for growing spicy herbs and piquant limes most of the year.”


  • 1 recipe Vietnamese vegetarian stock (below)
  • Kosher (coarse) salt
  • 1 oz (30 g) dried white tree or wood ear mushrooms
  • 8 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, roughly chopped
  • 2 bunches (4 oz/115 g) fresh oyster mushrooms, tough stems discarded, roughly chopped
  • 12 oz (340 g) firm tofu, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes
  • ⅓ cup (80 ml) gochujang chile paste, plus extra for serving
  • 4 large handfuls baby spinach
  • 14 oz (400 g) fresh pho noodles or ½ lb (230 g) dried
  • 2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ESC Fragrant chile oil or high-quality store-bought
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
  • ½ small white onion, julienned
  • 12 scallions (spring onions), ends trimmed, thinly sliced
  • Bean sprouts, Thai basil leaves, cilantro leaves, thinly sliced radishes and lime wedges, for serving
  • Bragg Liquid Aminos, for serving


In a large pot over medium heat, bring the stock to a simmer. Bring a separate large pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, put the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with hot tap water. Place a plate over the mushrooms to keep them submerged. Soak until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain the mushrooms, discard the soaking liquid — or reserve it for another use, such as cooking grains — and discard the woody cores from the mushrooms. Roughly chop the mushrooms and add them to the simmering stock along with the fresh mushrooms and tofu. Cook until the mushrooms are softened, about 2 minutes.

Place the gochujang in a small bowl and add one large ladle of the warm stock. Whisk together, then return the mixture to the stock and stir well to combine. Add the spinach to the soup and cook just until wilted, about 1 minute. Season the stock to taste with salt. Cook the noodles in the pot with the salted boiling water until they have just softened but still have a bit of bite, either 2 minutes for fresh or up to 6 for dried. Drain the noodles in a colander. Warm 4 large soup bowls in a 300°F (150°C/Gas Mark 2) oven for 1 minute or in the microwave for 30 seconds. Evenly divide the noodles between the bowls.

Ladle the soup over the noodles and evenly distribute the vegetables and tofu among the bowls. Divide the sesame seeds, chile oil, sesame oil, julienned onion and scallions among the bowls. Serve immediately with a platter full of bean sprouts, Thai basil, cilantro, sliced radishes and lime wedges to add to your soups as you like. Have a bottle of Bragg Liquid Aminos and some gochujang on hand to stir into your soup.


Makes: 4 quarts (4 liters)

This is an intensely flavored, quickly made stock (broth). Our meat stock at ESC takes awhile to prepare (extracting flavor from bones is a time-consuming process), but this mushroom-based version takes only a half hour. Essential for Spicy Vegetarian Pho (page 82), this stock can be used in place of any of our meat stocks to make dishes vegetarian.


  • 1 large white onion, unpeeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 (3-inch/7.5 cm) piece fresh ginger, unpeeled and thinly sliced
  • 6 scallions (spring onions), ends trimmed, cut into 2-inch (5 cm) pieces
  • 6 carrots, unpeeled and roughly chopped
  • 12 fresh white (button) mushrooms
  • 12 fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems left intact
  • ¼ medium napa cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 (2-inch/5 cm) cinnamon stick
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 large piece (approximately 3 x 6 inches/7 x 15 cm) dried kombu
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, plus extra to taste
  • 3 tablespoons kosher (coarse) salt, plus extra to taste


Place the onion, ginger, scallions, carrots, mushrooms, cabbage, cloves, cinnamon, star anise, peppercorns, kombu and 4 quarts (4 liters) water in a large pot set over high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are very soft and the stock (broth) is fragrant, about 30 minutes. Pour the stock through a sieve into a clean pot set over low heat and discard the aromatics. Add the sugar and salt to the stock and whisk until they dissolve. Season the stock to taste with sugar and salt as needed. Use immediately or let cool to room temperature. Store the stock in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 1 month.

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