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Friday, August 7, 2009

Chicken Pho Noodle Soup Recipe (Pho Ga)

First things first, the pronunciation of the soup’s name Phơ, which should be pronounced Fuhu (like cup). Click here to hear the properly pronounced vowel . The main advantage of cooking a Pho with chicken instead of beef, is that you can prepare this soup in the afternoon for the evening dinner, since it is rather quick and easy to prepare.
In comparison, the beef Pho needs to be prepared the day before.

Pho Ga- chicken Noodle soupPho Ga -
Chicken noodle soup
What is remarkable in my recipe,
is the color of the broth, which is mainly
due to the inclusion of cinnamon and grilled onions.

The Pho is the most traditional soup in Vietnam, especially with beef. One might say that this soup is the number one dish exported throughout the peninsula. In Laos for example, there are Pho at every corner, both literally and figuratively. Something remarkable about this soup, is that everyone cooks Pho, but the best Pho are served in restaurants that have this only dish in their menus. And although there is quantity of Pho all around the city, only a few are really famous. As a consequence, in Vientiane, when you specify which Pho you plan to eat, you just tell the name of the area in which the restaurant lies. We say Xi Pho Khai (near Vientiane’s airport), Pho Phon Kheng (next to Electricity Of Laos premises) or Pho Silhom. These Pho are famous all around the city, without being more expensive and it is not unusual to see large queues in front of a Pho stall while the stall right next to it remains desperately empty. This should be a good indicator when looking for a good place to eat.

I remember that incredible Pho restaurant in Ho Chi Minh city, which I tasted 6 years ago. My stepfather drove me there, and believe me, I knew a great deal about Vietnamese food. I don’t have the address, but hopefully I took a photo of its shop sign. If you are lucky enough to be in Ho Chi Minh city, take the time to stop by and report back to me please!

As for Paris, unfortunately, since the closure of the "clandestine" Pho Video, rue Claude Bernard in the 5th arrondissement, I haven’t been able to find a Pho that worth the noble appellation. I'm not saying that it doesn’t exist, but rather that I haven’t found it.

Anyway, the only Pho I care to eat nowadays is the Pho I cook at home. I will someday post on my blog the much more complex recipe of the Beef Pho which I got from the owner of that fantastic Pho restaurant of rue Claude Bernard. The man died ten years ago, but left me his recipe before leaving.

You should know that the following recipe is a very personal recipe of mine, which might not correspond to the pure Vietnamese tradition. Besides, my recipe is largely inspired from the Beef Pho recipe I mentioned earlier.

After this long introduction, let’s have a look at the recipe.

Ingredients (for 7 bowls)
  • 1 yellow farm-raised chicken or roaster (industrial poultry will give nothing else than insipid broth, not worth trying)
  • 1 large piece of ginger (1/3 of a hand), minced
  • 4 large onions, halved lengthwise
  • 2 large onions chopped
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 10 leaves of Saw tooth coriander (Ngo Gai in vietnamese)
  • 10 star anise
  • 2 big garlic cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 8 cardamom seeds (crushed in mortar)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 10 tablespoons Nuoc Mam (fish sauce)
Vegetables for serving
  • thai basil leaves
  • Coriander
  • Saw tooth coriander (very important)
  • roasted peanuts lightly crushed in mortar
  • fresh or boiled bean sprouts
  • young onions
  • lime ctu in wedges
  • Thinly minced chili
  1. In a large pot (70 cm at least), cook a large quantity of water (about 8 liters) with the coarse salt.
  2. Cut the chicken: Remove the legs and divide in two at the joint, remove the wings, separating cut carcass in half. Put all pieces in the boiling water. Very important: the boiling should never be too important or the broth will loose its clarity.
  3. Remove the foam the boiling will produce in the first ten minutes, and remove the fat as well. Keep two tablespoons of fat to cook the noodles.
  4. The broth should now be clear and boil gently in the soupe pot.
  5. Meanwhile, Cut onions in quarters and put them on a dish, and under the grill in the oven. Allow them to grill until their skin turns brown. You can also use a pan to do this, adding a little peanut oil and stirring occasionally. When the onions have turned brown, add them to the main pot. These grilled onions will slightly sweeten the broth..
  6. Minced the ginger in the mortar, add cardamon seeds and crush thoroughly. Transfer to the broth. Add star anises, cinnamon, pepper and Nuoc Mam
  7. Boil on medium heat to keep in order to keep a gentle boiling
  8. After one hour, remove chicken pieces, separate flesh from bones and put the bones back in the broth. With your fingers, “cut” the wings and legs flesh into bitable chunks, thus preserving flesh structure. The chicken breast can be minced using a knife. Keep the meat in the refrigerator.
  9. Allow the broth to simmer for another one and a half hour or two hours. Then filter the broth through a sieve and return to the soup pot. Remove from the heat.
  1. Heat the broth until it boils, then add 4 sliced onions (do not be frightened by the amount of onions used, it is a very important contribution to the taste of the broth), 5 leaves of Saw teeth Coriander and two new ginger slices.
  2. Heat a large quantity of water to cook the noodles. When boiling, add a tablespoon of fat (removed earlier from the broth while degreasing) and salt. Add the fresh noodles, stirring from time to time. When noodles are done “al dente”, filter out the noodles pouring cold water to stop the cooking process.
  3. Distribute the noodles in the bowls, add chicken flesh and cover with a few ladles of broth through a sieve. After a few minutes, filter out to return liquid from the bowls back to the main pot. This operation allows serving hot bowls of soup.
  4. Finally, add the broth through the sieve until the chicken flesh is 1cm under level of the broth. The easiest way to filter the broth, consists in immerging the sieve in the main pot, and to fill the ladle in the sieve.
  5. Add fresh grounded black pepper using a pepper mill in each bowl. Add minced young onions, and coriander leaves on top of each bowl.
  6. Quickly soak fresh bean sprouts in the boiling broth and drain before serving on the table, along with sliced onions dipped in white vinegar, lime cut in wedges, thai basil, crushed peanuts, sliced green chili.
A variant used in this famous restaurant in Saigon, is to soak the onions in the fat that was removed from the broth and serve. Not adequate for a diet though, but quite delicious.
And that's it.

If you have enough broth to make some additional bowls, you are lucky since this soup is even better after a day rest.

There are a few precautions though : pass the soup through a fine sieve (filter), cover and store in a cool place if possible. The next day, before serving, add two onions cut in slices and 5 leaves of saw teeth coriander, a slice of ginger and two crushed cardamom seeds.


  1. Thanks for the recipe. I want to try and make this soup, but I'm not sure what type of noodles to get. I didn't see it in the ingredient list. Rice noodles? Thanks.

  2. Thank you for the Pho interest. I used to labor for hours to make Pho and it still doesn't taste good. But I found this awesome new Pho-making kit called Happy Pho by this woman who used her grandparents' recipe to make them. They come in a box with a spice packet and a pack of pho noodles for 2 people. I was skeptical at first, but they have a simple recipe at the back that takes 15 mins. All I need to get is some chicken or beef broth and fresh ingredients, and the Pho that came out is absolutely delicious! It's also all natural and organic and made with brown rice. Check out their products here I got them from Whole Foods in SoMa. But you can also get them from I think. I've also joined their facebook page!/pages/Star-Anise-Foods/111447418877428 -- and just went to their product demo for some free tasting of all flavors. Love it!

  3. Thanks for the recipe. Now i have designs to make of this & I am sure my mom would definitely love it..
    Fitted kitchen

  4. This recipe is terrible and is not authentic Pho by any means... I wont write an exact recipe but I will write the technique (recipe can easily be found online) First off char the onion and ginger over low open flame until brown, roast seeds and spices in oven until fragrant, boil chicken 1 minute and all of the skum will rise to the top, empty and clean pot, refill with water and add rinsed chicken back into pot (you wont lose any flavor, this will assure a clear broth, the flavor comes from the marrow in the bones that can only be extracted from a long slow simmer). Add fish sauce to taste. Add roasted seeds and spices , charred onions and ginger to the pot, add water. Simmer for 3 hours. Strain broth through a cheese cloth, pull meat off the bones and slice the breast. Prepare bowls with sliced green onion, onion, and cilantro. On the side have sliced jalepeno, thai basil, bean sprouts and lime wedges. Enjoy... I have traveled to Asia several times, my son is half vietnamese, my wife was born in Siagon, we know Pho. I dont know where these people come up with these nonsense recipes...

  5. Tip, cut the chicken on bone into pieces so that the marrow can escape more easily...

  6. @David...I think your recipe is good up until the part about simmer for 3 hrs. I'm all for long simmers to extract for maximum flavor but don't you think in 3 hrs the chicken meat will turn into mush?

    The correct method is to remove the chicken parts after an hour, remove the meat from the bones...THEN return the bones and carcass back to the broth.

  7. @David, you did see where she said "You should know that the following recipe is a very personal recipe of mine, which might not correspond to the pure Vietnamese tradition. Besides, my recipe is largely inspired from the Beef Pho recipe I mentioned earlier." In other words, she bastardized the recipe to her own tastes. I appreciated her perspective and learned a few things just reading through the recipe. It definitely is not your typical pho (like the instructions you posted), but there was still culinary knowledge divulged, which I appreciate. Remember she is also not a native English speaker (I think she's Vietnamese and is translating through French or something like that). Thank you Kha, for taking the time to post this. I know it's difficult to blog, especially in a different language.

  8. Too much cardamom for a chicken pho.