5:2 Veggie & Vegan: Vietnamese spicy pho

70 calories Suitable for vegetarians & vegans, gluten-free OK, this has a long list of ingredients, but it’s so fresh, light and spicy, and packs lots of vegetables into one uplifting bowl. The method is simple, too: make the broth, briefly cook the veg, then tuck in. The courgettes are prepared like ‘courgetti’ - fine strips/ noodles, and I use a small, inexpensive julienne peeler rather than a spiraliser – much less washing up, though do watch your fingers! You can make several batches of the broth in advance and freeze or keep in a container in the fridge to reduce the cooking time. You can make this with courgette noodles (which I prefer, it’s so light) or rice noodles. NB: The calories listed here don’t include the aromatics added to the soup, because they’re removed before you eat it.

Serves 1
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes


Broth (flavours not calorie-counted as they are discarded before eating)

1 garlic clove, sliced

1/2 red chilli, sliced (leave out if you prefer a milder flavour)

1cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

1 lemongrass stalk, cut in half and lightly crushed

1/2 onion, cut in half

1 star anise or 2 cloves (you can reuse after drying out)


30g exotic mushrooms, sliced, 8

30g mangetout or green beans,10

30g pak choi, leaves separated, 4 

30g carrot, sliced into matchsticks, 9

Zest and juice of 1/2 lime, 8

75g courgette, cut into noodles with a julienne peeler or spiraliser (see above), 13

In the bowl

Small handful mixed herbs: coriander, Thai basil and mint, 5

1/2 red chilli, finely sliced, 2

25g beansprouts from a tin, rinsed, or fresh, 8 (see safety note below)

1 spring onion, chopped, 3

Optional garnish: 3g peanuts, lightly crushed, 18 (calorie count with nuts, 91)

  1. Place all the broth ingredients in a saucepan with 400ml water. Bring to boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, lightly chop the herbs for the bowl and place half in your serving bowl, along with the chilli, plus the beansprouts if using tinned.
  3. Strain the broth through a sieve, discarding the aromatics (or you can reuse in another soup). Return the broth to the pan, add all the vegetables, the fresh beansprouts, if using, (they need to be cooked well) and lime juice. Bring to boil then reduce to a simmer for 2 minutes. Add the courgette noodles and simmer for another 2 minutes.
  4. Pour the hot soup and vegetables over the herbs. Top with the chopped spring onion, the remaining herbs, lime zest and the crushed peanuts, if using, and serve immediately.

From my new book, 5:2 Veggie & Vegan - packed with over 80 great recipes, a menu planner, and 10 fantastic stories of people who combine veggie or vegan dishes with fasting and have had brilliant results. 

Important:  Handle fresh beansprouts carefully as, surprisingly, they are a very common cause of food poisoning. Rinse well and discard if smelly, brown or even slightly musty. If you are immune-compromised or are serving this to children, the elderly or pregnant women, simmer for at least 4 minutes before serving, or use shredded lettuce instead. Canned beansprouts can be safer and taste pretty good.

For a slightly higher-calorie version with rice noodles, replace the courgetti with 25g/around half a nest of thick no-cook rice noodles (92 calories). Prepare according to the packet instructions, then place in the bottom of the bowl along with the herbs and pour the soup over. It increases the calorie count to 149.