I have a very unhealthy obsession with a very healthy soup. I am talking about Vietnamese pho – otherwise know as chicken noodle soup.
This dish consists of rice noodles in a delicious chicken broth flavoured by a combination of spices such as cinnamon, star anise, cloves and cardamom. I don’t think I have the words to explain to you in this post about how good this tastes. You need a whole chicken, including the bones for this soup, as it is simmering the bones that gives it its deeply concentrated flavour.
I was lucky enough to attend a Vietnamese cooking class where I learned to make pho and other dishes. As we chopped, grilled, sautéed and boiled the afternoon away, our Vietnamese chef shared her secrets for the perfect pho recipe making us repeat them again and again so that we could recreate this soup at home. Here are some of her tips.
The whole chicken needs to be blanched in boiling water for 7 minutes after which that water is discarded. The broth is then started with the chicken and some fresh boiling water. This is necessary to produce the clear broth that makes this dish.
Chicken breast meat should be removed from the broth after about 20 minutes of boiling. Otherwise it will become too dry.
The ginger, onions and shallots have to be charred first before putting them in the broth to bring out their flavour.
The spices need to be toasted first before being put in the broth to bring out their flavour.
The spices are only added to the broth during the last 20 minutes of simmering as otherwise they might make the broth bitter
It sounds complicated – but it is not. Yes, it has quite a few ingredients but every single one of them has its place in making this flavour-full healthy soup. You can also buy the packets of pho spices already bagged up in Asian stores. And trust me, this chicken noodle soup is good, good, good.
And if you love soup as much as I do, you will want to try my Instant Pot Chicken Noodle Soup. So tasty and so quick to make!
So here is my Vietnamese pho recipe. What do you think?
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- 2 large black cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 star anise
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 20 cloves
- 2 large onions
- 2 shallots
- 30 g ginger
- 1 whole chicken
- 3 L water
- Fish sauce
- sugar optional
- 600 g of cooked rice noodles
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Toppings can include - chopped red chilli coriander, mint leaves, basil leaves, lime wedges, chilli sauce, thinly sliced red onion and yellow bean sauce
- Split open the cardamom pods and toast them with the cinnamon, star anise, coriander and cloves for about 2 minutes, stirring all the time so they do not burn.
- Put spices in a spice bag, seal and set aside.
- Char the spring onions, shallots and ginger (with their skin on) for about 5 minutes. Then peel and set them aside.
- Fill a large stock pot with water and bring it to the boil.
- Put the whole chicken in the boiling water and boil it for 7 minutes.
- You will probably get some foam from the chicken floating on the surface.
- Remove the chicken, discard the water and wipe the pot clean of the foam.
- Return the stockpot to the heat and add in 3 litres of boiling water, the chicken and the prepared shallots, ginger and onions.
- Bring back to the boil and then reduce heat to a simmer with the lid off.
- After about 20 minutes remove the chicken, carve off the breasts, slice them and set these aside.
- Return the rest of the chicken to the stock pot and simmer uncovered for a further 20 minutes.
- Add the spice bag into the broth and simmer for another 20 minutes.
- Sieve the broth and discard the vegetables, spices and chicken carcass.
- Return broth to the pot and adjust seasoning. Add in fish sauce and sugar (if using) to taste. Then switch off the broth
- Quickly blanch noodles and bean sprouts in boiling water to soften them.
- Then layer food in the bowl in this order – bean sprouts, noodles, chicken breast and cover these with the broth.
- Sprinkle over some black pepper and add toppings of your choice.