07 April 2014

Chicken Pho


I was in the mood for a bowl of soul food, so soup it had to be. 

"Do you have a kinder, more adaptable friend in the food world than soup? Who soothes you when you are ill? Who refuses to leave you when you are impoverished and stretches its resources to give a hearty sustenance and cheer? Who warms you in the winter and cools you in the summer? Yet who also is capable of doing honor to your richest table and impressing your most demanding guests? Soup does its loyal best, no matter what undignified conditions are imposed upon it. You don't catch steak hanging around when you're poor and sick, do you?"

Judith Martin (Miss Manners)

I’ve never made pho, that classic Vietnamese soup, before but I couldn’t resist the savoury broth simmered for hours, poured over noodles, topped with chicken & then a myriad of condiments to make each mouthful a little adventure all of it’s own. 

It’s comfort food at it’s best, uplifting for body & mind but bright, fresh & fragrant to awaken the taste buds. This one is all about the broth. If you are in a hurry you could use a good bought stock & add some spices but if you do have time make it from scratch as the depth of flavour delivered will beat any ready made stock, plus it’s not hard you just need to leave it simmering away on the stove to work its magic for a while. I promise this one is most definitely worth the time.

Chicken Pho, adapted from here & there & the Smitten Kitchen via Vietnamese Home Cooking

Serves 3-4

1 unpeeled yellow onions, quartered
2 1/2-inch-thick slices of unpeeled fresh ginger, smashed
3 Lt cold water
One fresh 2kg/ 3 1/2lb chicken, quartered
1/2 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp sugar
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/8 - 1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
250g / 1/2lb dried rice noodles, bánh phở if you can find them

Bits & pieces
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
1 cup bean sprouts
1/2 cup torn basil leaves, Thai basil if you can find it
1/2 cup coriander leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
2 limes, cut into wedges
2 red chillies, thinly sliced
Sriracha or other hot sauce
Hoisin sauce
Crispy shallots


Pre heat oven to 200C/400F

Place the onions & ginger on a lightly oiled baking tray & roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until softened & lightly browned. 

For the broth*

Fill a large pot with the water & bring it to a boil. Add the roasted onions & ginger, the chicken, salt, sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick & coriander & bring to a boil. Lower the heat to moderate & simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the broth & using tongs, transfer it to a plate & let cool slightly. Remove the meat from the bones & pop it in the fridge. Return the skin & bones to the pot & simmer for a further 2 hours until reduced to about 6 cups. Stir in the fish sauce & adjust to taste. I love fish sauce so I always like an extra little splash.

*The broth can be made a head & kept in the fridge for a couple of days

For the noodles
Cook according to the packet instructions. Drain well & divide the noodles between the bowls.

*Cook the noodles in this separate pot of water to avoid clouding your beautiful broth.

To serve add the reserved chicken to the broth & simmer until heated through. Ladle the broth & chicken over the noodles. Serve with the bean sprouts, spring onion, herbs, lime wedges, chillies, sriracha, hoisin sauce & crispy shallots.

Oh my this is quite the soup.  Comforting, nourishing & that broth so much flavour. Savoury from the chicken, a little sweet from the star anise & the cinnamon & that delightfully sour note from the fish sauce.

To eat top each spoonful with a mixture of toppings rather than putting everything in to the soup.  This way the herbs stay bright & fresh, the bean sprouts & spring onions nice & crunchy & you can mix up each mouthful you have.  Perhaps a little hoisin, a little chilli & a sprinkle of crispy shallots or bean sprouts, coriander & sriracha it is entirely up to you.  However each mouthful will be a little flavour journey all of its own.

If you like this you might like this Tom Yam Soup
Two years ago Banana Loaf
Three years ago Hot Smoking



  1. Seems that wherever you are in the world its a warming soup that restores and this looks to be no exception. So fresh and uplifting.

    1. That's so true, it's chicken soup tonight a little nourishment for boy & soul :)

  2. OH man! Everything here looks like something I'd happily eat 4 times a week (spending the rest the 3 days on an imaginary diet)! It's really funny that on our trip to Vietnam, the locals would raise their eyebrows at the idea of not adding MSG in the pho-broth (like what?!). I haves since decided that who am I to argue with them, and started doing so when I make beef pho... Big difference I tell ya... big difference.

    1. Thanks Mandy, yes definitely an easy one to eat day after day :)


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