With the boss out sick we wanted to share with you a popular Vietnamese dish that not only warms the soul but cures those winter blues. This dish is made by Nagi who is the voice, cook, photographer and videographer behind RecipeTin Eats, and she live in the beautiful northern beaches area of Sydney, Australia
Vietnamese Chicken Pho soup (Pho Ga)
Chicken Pho (Pho Ga) – the little sister of famous Beef Pho, equally delicious but much easier to make! I call it the Vietnamese version of homemade chicken noodle soup made from scratch. Except – dare I say it – so much more exciting!Ready to take a virtual trip to Saigon??
Chicken Pho soup
Chicken Pho – called Pho Ga in Vietnamese – is the chicken version of Beef Pho, Vietnam’s most famous food export.The magic of Pho is that while the broth looks completely unassuming, it’s actually full of complex-yet-delicate spice infused flavours. That special something-something that makes it unforgettable, and you just can’t stop eating it.If you’re a Pho fan, you will love this chicken version because it’s easier to make than Beef Pho – no need to hunt down specific bones, just use chicken pieces!This magical Pho soup broth is made the traditional Vietnamese way, using chicken pieces and infused with spices. Using store bought stock just isn’t the same!
Chicken Pho Soup broth
We’re making this Chicken Pho from scratch today – no cheating with store bought broth! Here’s what you need:
Chicken – I use chicken thighs for convenience (easier than man handling a whole chicken) but you can use a whole chicken too. Do not sub with breast – we need to use dark meat here, and we need skin to maximise flavour into the broth!Leftover chicken – We use some chicken to top the soup, but you will have leftovers – and it will be infused with lovely flavour! See bottom of post for things to use it for;Spices – cloves, fennel, star anise, coriander (fresh and seeds) and cinnamon – infuse the broth with the distinct Pho fragrance that you know and love so well!Onion and ginger – these are aromatics that are charred first to add a hint of smokiness to the broth. A traditional and mandatory inclusion!Fish sauce – this provides more complexity and depth of flavour than soy sauce, as well as salt in the broth;Sugar – Pho broth is actually a bit sweet. Most people don’t realise it because it’s subtle! But it’s there – and if you don’t use enough sugar, you will notice something lacking in the broth;
Chicken Pho Toppings
Pho is a dish that is the sum of its parts. It wouldn’t be Pho if you didn’t have the toppings – especially fresh herbs, a signature of Vietnamese food!
What is Thai Basil?
Thai Basil is the Asian version of standard Italian basil. It has a similar flavour with the addition of a subtle aniseed flavour. Though called Thai Basil, it’s used across South East Asia. It’s used in popular dishes such as Pad Kee Mao (Thai Drunken Noodles), Thai Red Curry and Thai Basil Chicken.Sold at large grocery stores in Australia, but normal basil can be substituted in a pinch so don’t stress if you can’t find it!
Can’t get all the herbs?
Don’t worry if you don’t have ALL the herbs. At least 2 of 3, and you still have a near authentic experience. If you can only get one, make it coriander!
How to make Chicken Pho from scratch
Here’s how to make it. Little more than a plonk-and-simmer job!
Essentially, there’s 3 steps:
Char onion and ginger – this provides a subtle smokey fragrance to the broth that is a signature feature of Pho. So char them well!Simmer everything gently for 1.5 hrs to infuse the water with all those incredible broth flavourings; andStrain, shred chicken, serve with Toppings!
See how clear the soup broth is? Beautiful! (And if only you could smell it…. those spices! It’s intoxicating!)
Chicken Pho making tips
I really wasn’t exaggerating when I said that Chicken Pho is straightforward. So I don’t actually have many tips to share! But here are a few:
Char well – Burn that onion and ginger well! Burn, baby, burn – you want that flavour in your broth!Do not use an enamel cast iron pot – the charring may require you to scrub the base, and if you scrub an enamel pot, the enamel will come off and the pot will start rusting;BIG POT is essential – 6 litres/quarts is ideal. If yours is a bit smaller, that’s ok, you can hold back some of the water and add it as the chicken shrinks / liquid evaporates (water reduces by 25%). Also, water level can be very close to the top because we simmer very gently, so spillage risk is very low;Simmer GENTLY – this is the key to a clear broth;Broth slightly on the salty side – the saltiness of the broth dilutes slightly once you ladle it over the noodles (which are cooked separately instead of in the broth). Beansprouts are also a watery vegetable. The combination of both of these means that if the broth tastes just right when it’s on the stove, then it will seem a little under seasoned once served with the noodles etc. So if it seems a bit too salty when the broth is in the pot, then it will be perfect once served! I’ve been very specific with my fish sauce and salt measurements in this recipe; andPrepare noodles JUST before serving – so they are hot and fresh, and also so they don’t break (rice noodles tend to be prone to breaking if left sitting out for ages).
How to eat Pho the traditional Vietnamese way!
Really, there’s no rules. But if you’d like to eat Pho like a pro (read: traditional Vietnamese way), here’s how it goes down:
Arrival – The bowl comes to you with noodles, chicken, broth and scattered with green onions;Take a small sip of the broth by itself, just so you can appreciate its pure, unadulterated perfection;Help yourself to herbs, beansprouts, squeeze of lime, fresh chilli slices. You can add more beansprouts and herbs later as you progress through the bowl;Dollop hoisin and sriracha onto the MEAT (and/or beansprouts).The sauces are not intended to flavour the broth, they are for the meat. In fact, you’ll find some Vietnamese Pho stalls provide little side dishes to put the sauces in so you can dunk the meat in. This makes the flavour quite full-on, so I prefer the alternative of dolloping directly into the bowl – better sauce dispersion. Also, it really is totally fine for some sauce to end up in the broth. Just don’t deliberately squirt directly into the broth and vigorously mix it in (Pho stall owners would look on with horror and be thoroughly insulted if you did that!!)Inhale – Lean over the bowl and inhale the incredible smell with all those fresh herbs (I am not kidding!!);Swish your chopsticks in the broth where you plan to attack first, to mix up the lime juice. Don’t deliberately push the chicken with the Hoisin on it into the broth – it’s fine if it happens naturally, but don’t taint the broth deliberately;The perfect bite – use your chopsticks to pick up some noodles with chicken, beansprouts and herbs. Devour, then follow with a slurp of soup using the spoon; andRepeat, until noodles are finished. Then pick up the bowl and drink every last drop of that beautiful broth!