Hetty McKinnon’s pho noodle salad with tofu, wombok and broccolini

Brooklyn-based Hetty McKinnon is the author of two books packed with community-minded, homemade salads. McKinnon also recently launched Peddler, a bi-annual magazine exploring ‘the multi-cultures of food’. Here, she shares a pho-inspired salad imbibed with flavours of her Sydney upbringing.


“People often ask me which is my favourite recipe in my book Neighbourhood — my answer is always this vegan pho noodle salad.

When we lived in Sydney, my family would often head over to the neighbourhood of Marrickville to have a bowl of pho. Well, for the others, not me. I would covetously sit by and literally salivate over the intoxicating bouquet of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and star anise.

Having been a vegetarian for over twenty years, pho noodle soup is really one of the only meat dishes that tempts me. So here, I bring my flesh-free pho dreams to life in an irresistible noodle salad.”

This recipe serves 4–6 people and is both vegan friendly and gluten free. You can substitute broccolini for broccoli and wombok for green cabbage.


What you’ll need for the salad

350 g thick dried rice noodles
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
400 g broccolini, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 2.5 cm pieces
120 g wombok cabbage, finely sliced
220 g five-spice tofu (1 packet), finely sliced into thin strips
180 g bean sprouts
1 cup Asian herb leaves (Thai basil, coriander, Chinese shallots, Vietnamese mint or perilla)
1 long red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
1 lime, cut into wedges
sea salt and white pepper

What you’ll need for the pho dressing

2 onions, peeled and halved
7 cm piece of ginger, peeled and halved lengthways
1 cinnamon stick
5 white peppercorns
3 star anise
3 whole cloves
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1.5 litres (6 cups) vegetable stock or water
1 tablespoon tamari
6 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt


How to make it

To make the dressing, place the onion and ginger pieces directly on the flame of a gas hob or under a very hot grill until they are slightly blackened all over.

Heat a large saucepan over a medium–low heat. Add the cinnamon, peppercorns, star anise, cloves and coriander seeds and toast, stirring to prevent burning, for 30 seconds until aromatic. Add the vegetable stock, tamari, carrots, mushrooms, charred onion and ginger to the pan and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 60–80 minutes until reduced by a third. Strain. Season with salt to taste and whisk in the olive oil.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, add the rice noodles and cook for 6–8 minutes until tender. Drain and refresh under cold running water.

In a frying pan, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and pan-fry the broccolini for about 5 minutes, until just tender and lightly charred.

Combine the noodles, wombok, broccolini, tofu, bean sprouts and herbs and pour over some of the dressing. Mix together well, making sure everything is coated in the dressing and season with sea salt and white pepper. Serve topped with chopped chilli (if you like) and lime wedges.