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.
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 Vietnamese 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. Happy cooking everyone!
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 tbsp coriander seeds
- 2.5 L boiling water
- 1 whole chicken (1.8 kg / 4 lbs), washed and cleaned (not frozen)
- 1 large swede / rutabaga, chopped into small cubes
- 1 medium carrot chopped into small chunks
- 5 washed coriander roots (buy coriander with the roots attached) (Optional)
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp fish sauce (60 ml)
- 1 packet of fresh or dried pho rice noodles (Available at Asian groceries)
- 3 spring onions, finely sliced
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 bunch of coriander / cilantro (optional)
- 1 packet of bean sprouts (optional)
- 1 bunch of Thai basil (optional)
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- 2 fresh chillies, chopped (optional)
- Hoisin sauce (optional)
- Sriracha Sauce (optional)
Wash and clean the chicken and cut all the vegetables. (Note 1)
Optional Step: Lightly char the onion and ginger on your gas stove or put them in the oven at 200 C / 392 F on grill setting until it forms a slightly burnt layer. Remove any overly burnt bits before adding to the soup. Skipping this step WILL NOT ruin your soup.
In a large pot on medium high, bring 2.5 L of water to the boil and then add the whole chicken breast side down.
In a small fry pan on medium heat setting, toast the coriander seeds, star anise and pepper corns until fragrant. Keep the aromatics moving in the pan so that they do not burn.
Make a spice bag by cutting a square piece of cheesecloth / muslin / Chux wipes and place the toasted aromatics in the center. Bring the corners of the cloth towards the middle and tie it off with a string so that the aromatics cant escape. (Note 2)
Add the salt, sugar, spice bag and chopped vegetables to the pot. Once the pot is back to a boil, turn down the heat to medium low and allow to simmer for 1 hour, Every now and then, skim the scum that accumulates on the surface.
After 1 hour, turn off the heat and allow the pot to sit for 10 minutes. Then remove the chicken from the pot and let it rest on a plate. Check the chicken to see if it is cooked. If not, pop it back into the pot and cook until done. (Note 3)
Strain the soup and press as much liquid from the vegetables as you can.
Add the fish sauce and check the soup for seasoning. Use more fish sauce to add more flavour or add more boiling water to dilute. (Note 4)
Place (if using) the coriander, Thai basil, bean sprouts, fresh chillies, lemon wedges on a serving platter for the table. Also serve (if using) the hoisin sauce, sriracha and fish sauce as condiments.
Bring the soup to a mild boil.
Prepare the rice noodles. If you are using fresh rice noodles, then dunk them in boiling water for 30 seconds in your serving bowls and then strain. If you are using dried noodles then prepare them as per package instructions. (Note 5)
Tear off chunks of chicken and place it on top the of the noodles and then ladle the boiling soup over the top.
Garnish with spring onion and red onion.
- It is important to cut the vegetables into small pieces to help the soup extract more flavour during the simmering phase.
- If you are unsure how to make a spice bag, follow this link https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-make-a-stock-sachet-1137256
- Keep the chicken whole for as long as possible. Shred the chicken just before serving to avoid drying out the meat. Also, there will be chicken meat left over from the meal. It is wise to have a recipe in mind beforehand 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 the flavour. 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.
- Fresh rice noodles should be soft when bought. If they have been left in the fridge for a few days, they will go hard. If this is the case, then divide the noodles into your serving bowls and microwave for 1 - 2 minutes. Then dunk them in boiling water until soft and strain.