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 Soup with Rice Noodles - Pho Ga
- 2 medium brown onions, quartered
- 30 gm of ginger, chopped into slices
- 10 star anise
- 2 tsp of peppercorns
- 2 tsp of coriander seeds
- 1 tsp of fennel seeds
- 2.5 L of boiling water
- Approx 1.8 kg chicken of the best quality you can afford (preferably free range and corn fed)
- 1 medium to large swede / rutabaga, chopped into small cubes
- 1 medium white turnip, chopped into small cubes
- 2 medium brown onions, quartered
- 1 medium carrot, chopped into small chunks
- 5 coriander roots (buy coriander with the roots)
- 2 tsp of sugar
- 1 tsp of salt
- 6 tbsp / 90 ml of fish sauce
- 1 packet of fresh pho rice noodles or dried pho rice noodles
- 2 stalks of spring onion, thinly sliced
- 1/2 a red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 bunch of coriander (cilantro)
- 1 packet of bean sprouts
- 1 bunch of Thai basil
- 1 lime or lemon, cut into wedges
- Fresh chillies, chopped
- Char the onion and ginger in the oven at 200 C on grill setting until it forms a slightly burnt layer. (Note 1)
- In a saucepan, toast the coriander seeds, star anise, pepper corns and fennel seeds until fragrant.
- Bring 2.5 L of water to the boil and add the whole chicken breast side down.
- Put the pot on medium high and let the chicken boil vigorously for 5 mins.
- Turn down the heat to medium low and scoop up the scum on the surface with a spoon.
- Add salt, sugar, fish sauce, toasted aromatics and vegetables to the stock pot. (Note 2)
- Simmer for 1 hour and 15 mins, regularly skimming the scum and fat that accumulates on the surface. (Note 3)
- After 1 hr 15 mins remove the chicken from the pot and let it rest on a plate for at least 15 mins. Check the chicken after it has rested to see if it is cooked by poking the breast with a chopstick or skewer. If there is any blood oozing out then return it to the pot and simmer until cooked. (Note 4)
- Let the soup simmer for another 15 mins (total 1 hour 30 mins) then strain.
- Check the soup for seasoning. Use fish sauce for more salt or add more boiling water to dilute. (Note 5)
- Prepare the rice noodles. If you are using fresh rice noodles, then place them in a bowl of boiling water for 30 secs to soften. Dislodge the noodles with a chopstick 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 slow boil.
- Place the rice noodles in a bowl.
- Tear off chunks of chicken and place it on top the of the noodles. (Note 6)
- Ladle in the boiling soup.
- Garnish with spring onion, red onion and coriander.
- Serve hoi sin sauce, chilli sauce and fish sauce as condiments.
- If you prefer a lighter clearer soup then do not char the onion and ginger. It will not be disastrous if you miss this step.
- It is important to cut the vegetables into small pieces to help the soup extract more flavour during the simmering phase.
- 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.
- Let the chicken rest to ensure it is cooked through before checking if its done. Also, there will be some chicken left over from the meal. Be sure to have a recipe in mind to use up the chicken before making the dish.
- 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, don’t over pack the bowls with rice noodles and serve chilli sauce, hoi sin sauce and fish sauce on the table as condiments.
- Keep the chicken whole for as long as possible. Only tear the pieces of chicken just before serving to avoid drying out the chicken meat.
- 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 case the soup to be saltier. I recommend initially adding 2 tbsp of fish sauce first and then tasting the soup every tbsp after that.