Pho Ga: Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

Pho Ga: Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

You haven’t experienced wild until you’ve lived in the heart of Hollywood. My little duplex was squished in between movie-star wannabes, the homeless pushing shopping carts piled 8-ft high with trash treasures and gold-chained pimps proclaiming to the world, “GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! Right over here!”

The location was by choice and I had a very good reason for living 2 blocks from the golden sidewalk stars. It was called, “just so I can say that I did.” I know. I was young. But seriously, where else can I shimmy into CFM boots, don an electric pink wig and just blend in without getting mistaken for $25? When the sun sets and street-level neon gas flows, Hollywood is pure freedom of expression.

After a night of clubbing 2 blocks south, my friends and I would walk 3 blocks east to a small, rinky-dink Vietnamese noodle shop to fill up on pho. Asian girly posters littered the walls and the same bad karaoke DVD played over and over. Thank goodness the steaming, hot, intoxicating bowl of pho drowned out the awful Chinglish rendition of, “Baby Got Back.” That soup was un-pho-king believable.

I don’t know what secret family recipe they followed, but after all these years, I finally mastered that bowl of chicken pho in my home kitchen, boots not required.

Pho Ga

Believe it or not, I’m actually more crazy and bold now that I’m in my mid-thirties. When I was younger, I cared deeply about what people thought of me.Β  Now I live in a very tame, sorta Stepford Wives-ish, suburban neighborhood (well, I guess any place is tame compared to Hollywood Blvd.) I kind of feel its my duty as an Official Ambassador of Chaos & Confusion to cause a little bit of trouble, you know, stir the pot a bit, just to make sure that my house doesn’t get sucked into the vortex of boring, bland and god-forbid…NORMAL.

My Modern Asian version of Pho Ga, Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup, takes everything that I learned from T’s Mom, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen and simplifies it just a bit for the home cook, but still as wonderful and authentic as it can be.

Pho Ga


Pho Ga - Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe

Servings: 4 Prep Time: Cook Time:

You can judge how good a Pho soup is by how much concentrated flavor is packed in the broth while still retaining a clean, uncloudy, clear broth. I like my Pho without Sriracha hot sauce or Hoisin sauce....I really enjoy the purity of the chicken broth without anything to hide its flavor and aroma.

There are 2 very important steps to a clear but intense broth - 1) parboiling the chicken to get rid of the impurities 2) charring the ginger and onion for a naturally sweet, robust flavor.

A note on fish sauce - I prefer the Three Crabs brand. Choose a fish sauce light in should look like brewed tea. Anything darker than that (looking like Coca Cola) is inferior quality. Three Crabs fish sauce contains gluten, please check labels if you are making GF substitutions.


1 whole organic chicken (4-5lbs)
1 whole onion, unpeeled and cut in half
3-inch chunk of ginger, unpeeled
(A) Broth spices
2 tbl whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 tbl sugar (or rock sugar)
2 tbl fish sauce
small bunch of cilantro stems only, tied in bunch with twine
(B) Accompaniments at table
1 lb dried rice noodles (about 1/4" wide)
2 cups bean sprouts, washed & tails pinched off
cilantro tops - leaves and tender stems
1/2 cup shaved red onions
1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha hot sauce
Hoisin sauce
sliced chili


Place ginger and onion on a small baking sheet. The top of the onion should be about 4" from the oven's heating element. Set to broil on high for 15 minutes. Turn the onion and ginger occasionally, to get an even char. The skin should get dark and the onion/ginger should get soft. After cooling, rub to get the charred skin off the onion and use a butter knife to scrape the skin off the ginger. Slice ginger into thick slices.
In a large stockpot, fill with water and boil. With a sharp cleaver, carve the chicken breast meat off and reserve. With the rest of chicken whacking hard through the bones to get sections about 3" big. The more bone that is exposed, the more marrow that gets in the broth (translation: rich, flavorful). You can even whack several places along the bone just to expose more marrow. When the water boils, add chicken sections (not breast) and boil on high for 5 minutes. You'll see lots of foam and "stuff' come up to the surface. Drain, rinse your chicken of the scum and wash your pot thoroughly. Refill with about 4 quarts of clean, cold water.

Add chicken, chicken breast meat, onion, ginger and all of (A) in the pot and cover. Turn heat to high - let it come to boil, then immediately turn heat to low. Prop lid up so that steam can escape. After 15 minutes, remove the chicken breasts, shred with your fingers when cooled and set aside (you'll serve shredded chicken breast with the finished soup). With a large spoon, skim the surface of any impurities in the broth. Skimming every 20 minutes ensures a clear broth. Simmer a total of 1-1/2 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning with more fish sauce and or sugar.

Strain the broth, discard solids. Prepare noodles as per directions on package. Ladle broth, add shredded chicken breast and soft noodles in each bowl. Have (B) ingredients set at table for each person to add to their bowl.

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Comments 201

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  5. Tobias

    I was searching for a good vietnamese noodle reciept so long. Can`t wait to try it out πŸ™‚ it looks so good on the pictures

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  10. Georg

    thanks for the tip on the color of the fish sauce. Does these Three Crab sauce taste strongly like fish? Or is it just a little flavor which getting added to the noodle soup? I am not that fish fan ;-), I hope you understand,
    thank you

    1. MIchael Le

      It adapts to the flavor, just put in a dash or two or just use some salt. I personally put in a bit, but i ended up adding more… the fish sauce is salty enough to bring out the ginger and onions. I did like a tablespoon and a bit of salt instead of the 2 tablespoon or u can leave the soup as is with a bit of salt.

      But in my opinion its not that fishy… it makes the soup a bit sweeter and less bland.

  11. Angel from the Bay

    I wanted to pop in to say hello and thank you. I admire your writing method. Informative+entertaining=Not your boring run of the mill recipes.
    I’m from the Bay, Silicon Valley and I am blessed with a multitude of Vietnamese PHO restaurants and Asian Markets. I’ve decided to venture out and make my own PHO. I’m pretty good at thin beef Phở tΓ‘i and wanted to try PHO Ga/chicken. I’m into a health kick right now aka bodybuilding and this PHO is what my body wants, craves, needs. By the way I’m a SpanishAmerican.

    Thank you

  12. Gina

    This recipe is the OMG. The broth was so flavorful and rich that I thought I could pour more water in it to make more soup! lol. Awesome. I’m coming back to your website for more recipes πŸ™‚ Keep ’em comin’.

    1. Post
  13. Becky

    Thank you for your post! I was planning on making this today, but alas! I forgot the Ginger hahaha! I am now going to be making it after work tomorrow πŸ™‚
    The first time I tried Pho was 2 days ago at a fairly local restaurant in Manchester! Best meal ever! And I was shocked that is was incredibly filling and under 600 cals! Wooop! Good start to the New Year ha!
    The only thing that worries me is the boiling of the chicken. Its cooked in water the whole time and I have never done anything like that! Going to keep the pieces fairly small just to thaw the worries! Other than that I am looking forward to making this indeed!

    Thanks again! Bringing you well wishes for 2015! X

  14. Chi

    I made this exact recipe last night and it was delicious!! I can’t believe I was able to make Pho. Thank you so much for the simple directions. I will definitely be making this again!!

    1. Post
  15. Doug

    Thank you for this recipe. This is the best homemade soup I’ve had, and easily on par with the vietnamese restaurants around here.

    I made just a few changes. Perhaps listing them will help others:

    – I wasn’t going to be home for a while so I simmered it overnight. I’m not sure if that deepened the flavor though.
    – the next morning I couldn’t detect the spices as much so I added two more star anise and 3 more cloves.
    – For garnish I used basil, thinly sliced white onion, green onions, cilantro, and serrano peppers.

    – i added about a tablespoon of 3 crabs fish sauce to each bowl, along with a pinch of MSG.

    It was wonderful!

    1. Post
  16. Marlene

    Do you put salt in the chicken before you cook it? I’m asking this only because of the chicken breast since they are thick and only cook for 15min, the flavour of the broth might not temper the meat.

    1. Post

      Hi Marlene – I do not salt the chicken (but you are welcome to). Asian noodles are salted already (unlike Italian pasta, where you add salt to the water), and the broth is plenty flavorful.

  17. Josie


    Just want to drop a note to say I tried your recipe and it turned out great!
    Didn’t know it was so easy to make my own pho and the broth turned out so clear I didn’t have to scoop out any gunk at all.
    Thank you for sharing this!
    My hubby and I decided on the first taste that this is a keeper and we will be making lots more of it!

    1. Post
  18. Matt

    Thanks Jaden. I went with skin on so will let you know how it turns out.
    As an aside what do you do with the chicken that you use to make the stock?

    1. Post

      Hi Matt – Some of the meat is reserved to add to the bowls. But as for the rest of the chicken, once the chicken is used to make the stock, it’s pretty much spent. Personally, we shred the meat off the bone and share with our 4-legged family members.

  19. Harissa

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I followed your recipe tonight , and my wife and I were transportated back to Vietnam, where we enjoyed many bowls steaming pho. The taste is completely authentic.

  20. Carla

    Jaden, I remember my mom cooking this and she use to clean the chicken, then nic the bones, and place the bones over night to seeming to get the marrow flavor. Your thoughts.


    1. Post
  21. Ermie

    I need a little clarification please.

    “You’ll see lots of foam and “stuff’ come up to the surface. Drain, rinse your chicken of the scum and wash your pot thoroughly. Refill with about 4 quarts of clean, cold water.”

    Does this mean you’re getting rid of the original broth, and starting over with the 4 quarts of clean cold water?

    1. Post

      Hi Ermie – Yes, that’s what it means. The “original broth” really isn’t broth yet – it’s just scummy water. All of the flavor and nutrients in a broth come from long simmering. The scummy water has no flavor, so don’t worry about pouring it down the drain. Starting over with clean water will ensure that your broth is clear, clean and free from impurities that was on the surface of the chicken.

      1. Ermie

        Cool, thank you for the quick reply. I am halfway done gathering all the ingredients.. I’m off to the local Asian grocery this morning to pick up the rest. Will let you know how it turns out. I can’t wait.

  22. chelsea

    I plan on making this, and I had a couple questions.
    ” Turn heat to high – let it come to boil, then immediately turn heat to low.”
    Should it still be simmering, or as low as it can possibly get?

    Instead of just taking out the chicken breast and shredding it, can I also strip some of the dark meat too? I hate to waste it. After boiling for so long it will definitely be unpalatable. And I have no pets to feed it to πŸ˜€
    So if I take out some or most of the dark meat but still leave some on, will the broth still have a really good flavor?

    I will post back on how it turns out. I love your site btw, been going here for recipes for years, I’d say a good 1/5th of my cut and paste recipe book is Steamy Kitchen πŸ™‚

    1. Post

      Hi Chelsea –

      -Simmering is fine.
      -Yes, you can strip some of the dark meat too. πŸ™‚ The broth will be just fine if you strip some of the meat, and leave some on. If you want to use all the meat, then add more chicken bones to the recipe. Maybe an extra 2-3 wings (or whatever is on sale).

      Thank you so much!!! Jaden

  23. Alejandra

    I keep taking some of the original spices and seeds with me when I clean up the scum. How do I stop that? Should I have put all of my ingredients in a mesh bag?

    1. Post
  24. Karin

    Made this last night for a quick weekday meal (I boiled a chicken in water over the weekend so I had unseasoned broth sitting in my fridge). It was amazing and easy…. We will not be going out for pho anymore. Thanks for the recipe!!

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