I'm guessing you understand that I don't have a problem with Pho that has no meat. Here in town, Lulu's Noodle Shop is good, as is Vietnam Cafe over on Rainbow (I am pretty sure their broth is meaty). So, if you don't want to make your own, head to a local joint and see what you get. But don't be surprised if you wind up with a surprise or two in the bowl.
One of the things I love about Vietnamese food (and Thai and Korean food, really) is the way that each bowl or plate is a marriage of contradictions: sweet, savory, hot, cooked, raw, smoky, salty, tart--it's all in there.
Angel's Vegan Pho
Adapted from Cooking Light's Turkey Pho
Serves 4-6 people (how brothy your bowls are is key).
8 cups vegetable stock
3 Tablespoons low sodium soy (Tamari if you're gluten free)
2 Tablespoons of brown sugar
1 3 inch piece of cinnamon stick
Several slices of ginger root (I use a good amount of ginger)
In a tea ball or a muslin tea bag put:
5-6 whole cloves
4 star anise (I have used anise seed and even fennel seed here. The licorice notes are what you want).
Simmer all of that together for about 30 minutes. Taste the broth and adjust seasoning if necessary. Take out the chunky bits (the cinnamon stick, ginger, and tea ball).
Anything you like could go in here, including proteins like tofu, seitan, soy curls, or even edamame. Mushrooms are great.
As important as the heat, though, are the garnishes. Here, we've got thinly sliced cucumber, torn mint and cilantro, and julienned carrot up top. This gets "dressed" liberally with fresh lime juice. You're going to want both chopsticks and spoon here, unless you're with family and can just pick up the bowl.