Pho, pronounced “Fuh” – not ‘Fo’ – is probably Vietnam’s most famous dish. The locals have this light, fragrant noodle soup (usually with chicken (“Ga”) or beef (“Bo”) for breakfast. The price ranges from 20,000 – 40,000 Vietnamese Dong, which is about $1.20-2.40.
Every time I visit Vietnam, Pho Ga (Vietnamese chicken noodle soup) is one of the first dishes I seek.
This recipe is not strictly authentic – I’ve made a fast version for you using chicken stock and quick-cooking chicken breast so you can have pho as a quick, healthy meal.
If you want to make a pho from scratch, all you have to do is cook the shallots and garlic as per the method, then place in a large pot with the spices, 1 whole chicken (cleaned and rinsed in cold water) and 1 teaspoon of salt. Top up with enough cold water to just cover the chicken and slowly bring to a gentle boil. Gently simmer (for a clear broth and moist chicken, do not let it boil) for 1 about hour or until chicken is just cooked through. Be sure to regularly skim off any scum that comes to the surface. Remove the chicken from the broth, strain the broth, and shred or slice the chicken meat. This way you’re making your own chicken stock from scratch. While it takes more time, you’ll get great flavour and it’s nice to use a whole chicken.
As with most Vietnamese dishes, lots of fresh herbs, lime, fish sauce and chilli are essential condiments. They really bring out the flavour of the soup!
- oil 1 tablespoon
- shallots 3, sliced
- garlic 3 cloves, sliced
- lemongrass 1 stalk, chopped
- ginger 1 inch, sliced
- Spice mix (3 whole star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ¼ teaspoon Chinese five-spice, ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns)
- sugar 1 teaspoon
- fish sauce 1 tablespoon
- good quality fresh chicken stock 1.25 - 1.5 litres (5-6 cups)
- free range boneless skinless chicken breasts 500g
- dried thin rice stick noodles 250-300g
- carrot 1, shredded or peeled into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
- spring onions 4, sliced
- mung bean sprouts 2 large handfuls
- fresh coriander, chopped Large handful
- mint leaves Handful of, chopped
- red chilli 1, thinly sliced (optional)
- crispy fried shallots* 2 tablespoons (optional)
- kaffir lime leaf 1, tough central stalk removed, very finely sliced (optional)
- lime 1, cut into wedges
- fish sauce and chilli sauce more to taste
- Heat oil in a small fry pan on medium heat and gently cook shallots and garlic until caramelised and golden brown (about 4-5 minutes).
- In a large-size pot combine caramelised shallots and garlic, lemongrass, ginger, spice mix, sugar, fish sauce, chicken stock and chicken breasts. Cover with a lid and bring to a very gentle simmer. Simmer very gently for about 15 minutes to allow all the flavours to infuse and the chicken breasts are just cooked.
- Meanwhile, prep the vegetables and cook the noodles according to packet instructions until just cooked through (do not over-cook). Rinse under cold water to prevent them sticking together. Drain and divide between serving bowls.
- Remove the cooked chicken breasts from the soup and shred the meat using two forks. Divide shredded meat between bowls of noodles.
- Strain the soup through a sieve. Return soup to the pot and bring to a boil. Season to taste with more fish sauce if needed.
To serve, ladle piping hot soup into bowls of noodles and chicken, and top with carrot, spring onion, bean sprouts, herbs, crispy shallots and kaffir lime leaf. Serve with a lime wedge to squeeze over, and more fish sauce and chilli to add to taste.
*Crispy Asian shallots are available at Asian supermarkets