Pho is heaven in a bowl | Kitchen to Kitchen

Sidonie Maroon
Posted 1/9/23

The kitchen’s filled with the intoxicating odors of mushrooms, ginger, garlic, star anise, coriander, and cinnamon, and it’s coming from the Instant Pot. 

Wondering what I’m …

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Pho is heaven in a bowl | Kitchen to Kitchen


The kitchen’s filled with the intoxicating odors of mushrooms, ginger, garlic, star anise, coriander, and cinnamon, and it’s coming from the Instant Pot. 

Wondering what I’m making? Mushroom pho! 

Yes, mushroom pho is a real soup. It’s called pho chay, and is a Vietnamese vegetarian version beloved by Buddhist monks. 

Pho, pronounced (fuuh?) raising your voice at the end of the word as if you’re asking a question, is simple to make in the Instant Pot using the broth cycle. You won’t need to stand over the stock for endless hours. 

While I love both beef and chicken pho, I’m glad to have this recipe. I love a good mushroom soup, and what could be better to bring out its umami flavors than Vietnamese seasonings?  I’ll take you through the recipe’s steps and explain as we go along. 

The Broth 

The secret to good pho is the broth, which is rich and clear. I make the broth by first dry roasting the spices in the Instant Pot on the sauté setting. You’ll know they’re done when they smell toasty. Take them out and dry sauté , turning the onions, garlic, and ginger until aromatic, about three minutes. 

These two steps will increase the depth of flavor in the finished broth. Next, add the spices, apple, celery, mushrooms, salt, and water. 

Following the Instant Pot instructions, set to the broth cycle, which is high pressure for 30 minutes with a natural release. When the broth is done, strain it and add the vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar. Keep the broth at a low simmer until ready to serve. 

The Bowl 

We serve pho in a large, deep bowl in layers. The noodles go in the bowl’s bottom, followed by meat or mushrooms, and then broth and toppings. 

It should be a ratio of 1/3 noodles to 2/3 broth and toppings. 

The bail and lime make the pho’s flavors pop.


Bring a large pot of water to a boil; then keep it at a high simmer until needed. Soak the noodles covered in hot tap water until opaque and pliable, about 15 to 30 minutes. Drain and wash off any extra starch, then drain them again. 

When you’re ready to serve the pho, bring the noodle water to a boil and dunk in a single portion of the noodles using a noodle strainer or mesh sieve. This will heat and soften them. 

Submerge them for 60 seconds. Lift the noodles from the pot, shake the strainer to remove any excess water, and put the noodles in a warmed bowl. 

Repeat until all the bowls have noodles. Each bowl should contain a ratio of 1/2 noodles to 2/3 broth and toppings.

Toppings and Serving  

The combination of umami and aromatic flavors gives the pho its allure. 

Allow the diners to put on their own basil and lime juice. Arrange the mushrooms and onions on top of the noodles with broth poured over. 

Everything should be piping hot. If possible, the bowls should be warm. Eat the pho by first wafting the fragrance, then tasting and slurping heartily. Vietnamese traditionally eat pho with ceramic soup spoons and chopsticks. 

Find more pho tips, hints, and recipes on the Food Coop’s Blog,
“The Beet.”

Instant Pot Vegetarian Mushroom Pho

Inspired by Andrea Nguyen’s “The PHO cookbook.”

Serves 4.

Takes 2 hours, mostly hands-off.

Try this recipe when a vegetarian pho is in order. It is a flavorful mushroom broth and the spicy notes contrast well with shiitakes and the aromatic basil. The lime, added at the table, sets everything harmoniously together. Directions are in the article.  


For the Broth

2 quarts water

1½ teaspoons fine sea salt, more if needed

1-inch piece of unpeeled ginger, sliced and bruised

4 cloves garlic peeled

1 medium yellow onion cut into thick half-slices

1 medium tart/sweet apple with peel, cored and cut into chunks  

2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

3 packed cups crimini mushrooms chopped

1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms

2 whole cloves

2 star anise pods

2 teaspoons whole coriander seed

½ cinnamon stick

3 tablespoons soy sauce, more if needed

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

For the Noodles

10 ounces dried, narrow, flat rice noodles

For the Bowl

1 red onion sliced paper thin and blanched for 30 seconds, right before the noodles are cooked.

1 bunch Thai basil leaves, with leaves taken off the stems.

½ lb shiitake mushrooms, stems taken off and thinly sliced, sauteed in a little oil  

1 lime sliced for squeezing

(Sidonie Maroon is culinary educator at The Food Co-op;