The smell of this chicken pho simmering on the stove top will waft through your home and tempt even the fullest of stomachs. It is made with an aromatic broth enriched with chicken bones, root vegetables and spices. Bowls of steaming broth are filled fresh rice noodles and tender chicken pieces, topped with fresh herbs and served with hoisin sauce, chilli sauce and lime wedges.
Every time a fan recognises me on the street and asks me to post my pho recipe on the blog I tell them “It’s in the works!” You are probably thinking this sounds completely untrue… because it is. My only fan is my cat Bongos, and his loyalty is only shown when he’s hungry. But if anything is true, it is the fact that I have held back both my chicken and beef pho recipes. Why you ask? Because in my head I believe that pho is like an unspoken grading test among the oldies in the Vietnamese community. Behind their grey hair, big grin and karaoke microphone lies a tough critic who is always ready to serve young wannabe cooks a can of whoop ass.
After many restless nights and hours of soul searching, I have finally found the courage and strength to post my chicken pho recipe. I told myself that this wasn’t about me anymore. No… it was much bigger. It was about all my non existent fans out there who are eagerly waiting for the release of this recipe. Wait no further non-existent fans, it is finally here!
Truthfully, this chicken pho recipe is a product of thorough research and experimentation. I have tested it many times and can assure you that it tastes absolutely fantastic. But in saying that, I do concede one thing. My recipe will never be able to beat your mother’s, father’s, grandma’s or even Uncle Benny’s Pho shop around the corner. This is because pho is more than just a bowl of noodle soup. It is a bowl of fond memories which is not an ingredient you can just go out and buy. Anyone who grew up on pho, will know exactly what I am saying. To all those who didn’t… look no further, this recipe is a winner!
So, if I can escape public condemnation and excommunication from the Viet community for this recipe, I will post my beef version of pho. Otherwise, if it all goes belly up, then that Vietnamese guy with a food blog, will now be that Vietnamese guy that used to have a food blog.
Vietnamese Chicken Pho
Bowls of steaming pho are filled fresh rice noodles and tender chicken pieces, topped with fresh herbs and served with hoisin sauce, sriracha sauce and lime wedges. Perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner!
- 2 medium brown onions, quartered
- 30 gm ginger, cut into slices
- 10 star anise (Available at Asian groceries)
- 2 tsp peppercorns
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds (Available at Asian groceries)
- 2.5 L boiling water
- 1 whole chicken (1.8 kg / 4 lbs), washed and cleaned
- 1 large swede / rutabaga, chopped into small cubes
- 1 medium white turnip (the type with a purple top section), chopped into small cubes
- 1 medium carrot chopped into small chunks
- 5 washed coriander roots (buy coriander with the roots attached or omit)
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 5 tbsp fish sauce (75 ml)
- 1 packet of fresh or dried pho rice noodles (Available at Asian groceries)
- 2 spring onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 bunch of coriander / cilantro
- 1 packet of bean sprouts
- 1 bunch of Thai basil
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- 2 fresh chillies, chopped
Prep the chicken and vegetables. (Note 1)
Lightly char the onion and ginger with a creme brulee blow torch or on your gas stove. If you don't have either of these, put it in the oven at 200 C on grill setting until it forms a slightly burnt layer. (Note 2)
In a small fry pan on medium heat setting, toast the coriander seeds, star anise, pepper corns and fennel seeds until fragrant. Then set aside. Remember to move the aromatics around so that they do not burn on one side.
In a large pot, bring 2.5 L of water to the boil and add the whole chicken breast side down.
On high heat setting, allow the chicken boil vigorously for 5 mins.
Turn down the heat to medium low and scoop up the scum/fat on the surface with a spoon. (Note 3)
Add salt, sugar, fish sauce, toasted aromatics and chopped vegetables to the stock pot. (Note 4)
Simmer for 1 hour and 15 mins, regularly skimming the scum that accumulates on the surface.
After 1 hr 15 mins remove the chicken from the pot and let it rest on a plate for 10 minutes. Check the chicken to see if it is cooked. If not, pop it back into the pot and cook until done. (Note 5)
Let the soup simmer for another 15 mins (total 1 hour 30 mins) then strain the soup into a large bowl and press as much liquid from the vegetables as you can.
Check the soup for seasoning. Use fish sauce for more salt or add more boiling water to dilute the flavour. (Note 6)
Prepare the rice noodles. If you are using fresh rice noodles, then place them in a bowl of boiling water for 20 secs to soften. Seperate the noodles with chopsticks or spoon then strain. If you are using dried noodles then prepare them as per package instructions.
Place the coriander, Thai basil, bean sprouts, fresh chillies and lemon / lime wedges on a serving platter for the table.
Bring the soup to a mild boil.
Place the rice noodles in a bowl.
Tear off chunks of chicken and place it on top the of the noodles.
Ladle in the boiling pho soup.
Garnish with spring onion, red onion and coriander.
Serve the pho bowls with hoisin sauce, sriracha and fish sauce as condiments.
- It is important to cut the vegetables into small pieces to help the soup extract more flavour during the simmering phase.
- If you prefer a lighter clearer soup or short on time then do not char the onion and ginger. It will not be disastrous if you miss this step.
- I personally like a little bit of fat left in the soup for more flavour but if you want to get rid of it then skim it off with a spoon. You can also cool the stock in the fridge and remove the fat once it has coagulated on the surface.
- If you want to avoid the fish sauce smell while cooking the soup, add it after the soup has been strained. This however, will cause the chicken and vegetables to not absorb any salt which will cause the soup to be saltier. I recommend initially adding 3 tbsp of fish sauce first and then tasting the soup every tbsp after that.
- Keep the chicken whole for as long as possible. Only tear pieces of chicken just before serving to avoid drying out the chicken meat. Also, there will be some chicken left over from the meal. Be sure to have a recipe in mind to use up the leftovers.
- Be aware that the soup may taste well seasoned in the pot but as soon as you add all the other ingredients into the bowl, it will dilute. Hence, to counter this effect, allow people to tailor their pho bowls by serving sriracha sauce, hoisin sauce and fish sauce on the table as condiments.