1/2pounddried flat rice noodlesknown as bánh phở; use 1/16", 1/8", or 1/4" width depending on availability and preference
For the toppings (choose a few):
Protein such as fried or baked tofubean curd skin, or seitan
Vegetables such as bok choynapa cabbage, or broccoli
For the garnishes (choose a few):
1/2large onionvery thinly sliced
1chile pepperThai bird, serrano, or jalapeño, sliced
1limecut into wedges
Large handful of herbs: cilantroThai basil, cilantro
Hoisin sauceSriracha (optional)
To make the broth, char the onion and ginger over an open flame (holding with tongs) or directly under a broiler until slightly blackened, about 5 minutes on each side. Rinse with water.
In a large pot, dry-roast cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and coriander over medium-low heat, stirring to prevent burning. When you can smell the aroma of the roasted spices, add vegetable stock, soy sauce, carrots, and charred onion and ginger.
Bring broth to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Strain and keep hot until ready to serve.
Make the noodles while the broth simmers. Place the noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender but still chewy. Drain. (If soaking does not soften the noodles enough, blanch them in a pot of boiling water for a few seconds.)
Prepare the toppings as desired – slice and cook tofu, lightly steam or blanch vegetables, and so on. Toppings should be unseasoned or only lightly seasoned so as not to interfere with the flavor of the broth.
To serve, divide the noodles between two bowls. Arrange toppings over noodles. Ladle the broth between the two bowls. Serve with garnishes on the side, which diners should add to taste.