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

  1. Pingback: Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen » Blog Archive » Pan-Fried Lemon Ricotta Gnocchi

  2. Rasa Malaysia

    Now you will have to find a Malaysian lover so you can make dishes with tamarind, turmeric, shrimp paste, and yes, pandan leaves. (Just make sure Mr. Hair doesn’t see this message!). πŸ˜›

  3. Steve

    This recipe sounds great, but it seems a shame to discard the dark meat. That’s the best part! I would shred the thighs and legs and toss the white meat.

  4. SteamyKitchen

    LPC- haha! Once a lifetime is enough

    SueAnn- You’re welcome!

    David- let me know how you love it

    RM- hmmm…thats a good idea…a Malaysian lover…

    Steve- you’re absolutely right. I myself prefer dark meat but my husband likes white meat. I’ve revised recipe to include a note about dark meat.

  5. honest ape

    I make a really good faux broth, but Pho broth seems beyond my capabilities.

    BTW, faux broth is water with brown food coloring and salt in it.

  6. retno

    Oooh…It looks delicious!. Thank you for stopping by my blog. Unfortunately, I΄ve written my recipes in Indonesien. Next time, I will write it down in English. Your food pictures are so good, nice shoots!

  7. wmw

    Ahhh….saw someone else posting about Vietnamese food too. I miss the Vietnamese food I usually have when I’m in San Francisco. As usual, your bowl of noodles look great. There is this dry version of wantan noodles with slices of grilled beef. Add in vinegar and some fish sauce and mix it with the Vietnamese Chili Sauce from that squeeze bottle! Best in the world!

  8. Amy

    I’m a fan of fatty beef pho myself but your chicken pho is making me drool even on a hot day like today. I better toss my fish sauce too, it’s the color of coca cola. πŸ™

  9. SteamyKitchen

    Lynn- towering stack almost ready to topple?

    Honest Ape- easier if you just *buy* a can of broth! food coloring makes your hair fall out.

    Retno- thats ok…I can use online translators

    Elaine- you’re welcome!

    LPC- there is therapy for that type of problem!

    WMW- mmmm….sounds like Asian version of fast food

    Ninja- thank u!

    Amy- time for new Fish Sauce!

    Jolynna- thank you for coming by

  10. Big Boys Oven

    Your Vietnamese soup had been something I wanted to have and now I get to view the recipe…. how fantastic it is, thanks Jaden…. your are an angel.

  11. Mae

    Looks so good. I’d like a bowl just about now. It’s very early in the morning and i should be in bed but how can i now have a decent sleep without craving for this soup? I should have gone to bed two hours ago. Then i wouldn’t have to bump into this. πŸ˜‰

  12. wokandspoon

    You used to live in Hollywood! That is so cool! When I went on a big backpacking trip years and years ago back in my youth, I made a pitstop in Hollywood and loved it! Hehe- it was everything that I had seen in the movies πŸ˜‰

    Hmm, back to the Pho Ga – you’re so patient to make the soup for hours! The tips are great! One day, i’ll muster up the patience to try this!

  13. LunaPierCook

    Trust me, it’s no problem! 10 years online (less than one-quarter of my life) and counting … πŸ˜‰

  14. Ellie

    Pho! Oh how I love you!! This is my must-have dish when I go out for Vietnamese food, and though I’ve always wanted to try making it at home, the recipe I have for the broth sounds so time-consuming and tiring! I might have to give this a try though…being on holidays with plenty of time on my hands, what have I got to lose? πŸ˜€

  15. Alisha Knight

    Pho is my husbands absolute favorite food. I am going to try this recipe as a suprise for him. Wish me luck! and thank you for the beautifully inspiring photos. Pho never looked so good!

  16. Melinda

    It looks so good! I always say that; but it really does!
    Rasa Malaysia mentioned pandan leaves. I have been told this is a wonderful fragrant alternative to vanilla. Have you ever used it to make cupcakes/muffins? It is suppose to turn the batter bright green. Sounds cool and different.
    I think you are going to have sleeze around a Malaysian man or his grandma and get a recipe for me. OK? Thanks.

  17. MeltingWok

    If you like Pho Ga, you might want to try making Soto Ayam (Malaysian/Indonesian style), same technique you used like cooking the Pho Gac broth, with added cardamon and cinnamon sticks. Eaten with rice vermicelli, fall-off-the-bone shredded chicken meats, loads of bean sprouts, rich flavorful slow-cooked chicken broth and finish off with some sweet soy green chili paste..yumsssss !! πŸ™‚

  18. dwiana

    Hi I am new blogger… stopping by at your website oh may may I fall in love with your website. Those pictures are so beautiful which that encourage me to learn more of taking pictures. And also your food is so fabulous. I am adding your web on my website so I can visit more often.

  19. anh

    Confession: I am not a fan of chicken noodle soup. But yours does make my mouth water! Now I am dreaming of a particular shop that sells one of the best pho ga I have tasted.

    I also love Andrea’s book – the best so far about Vietnamese Cuisine!

  20. tigerfish

    I was just thinking about Soto Ayam when I read this, and MeltingWok gave it a word too. The shredded chicken meat, bean sprouts and noodles in a clear broth just made your Pho Ga almost like Soto Ayam. You don’t have to find a Malaysian lover to try Soto Ayam- I remember Rasa Malaysia’s site has a recipe for it πŸ˜€
    *Swooorp….swoorp*….eating like how a Japanese savors it’s ramen…yum!

  21. steeped

    PHO. You know, I didn’t even know what pho was until a two years ago when C (my boyfriend) and I decided to try out a little dive after a movie. I didn’t know how to pronounce it properly until a year ago. I called it “fo’,” as in “Let’s get some pho fo’ sho’.”

  22. SteamyKitchen

    BBO- so I still have my angelic aura of innocence?

    W&S- hollywood is exactly just like in the movies – even the tran svestite hook ers approach you

    LPC- you’re in denial phase

    Ellie- really really its not hard nor that time consuming. Let it simmer the evening before while you’re watching tv of something

    Retno- thank u!

    Alisha- good luck and i hope you post your photo/recipe. let me know when its up and i’ll link to it

    Melinda- I’ll be sure to tell my husband you encouraged me to have an affair!!! LOL

    MW- yes definitely i’ll have to try that. recipe pls?

    Dwiana- thank you and welcome to our crazy little crumb of the web

    Anh- Her book is absolutely the best – I am trying Bun Bo Hue next

    Tiger-next time I’m in CA, you are flying down for some ramen with Melting Wok, Rasa Malaysia and Wandering Chopsticks

    Steeped- pho-shizzle.

  23. LunaPierCook

    No, Jaden, I’ve not been to Egypt, so I’ve never been to de’Nile … πŸ˜‰

  24. Andy

    Can’t wait to try the Pho Ga! Modern Asian is a great idea. Our favorite recipe in that vein at the moment is Vietnamese Grilled Beef and Basil rolls (click my name above if you are interested). We substitute basil for the la-lot leaves that are traditional, since I have no idea where to get them.
    Is charring the onion and ginger a traditional technique? I have never tried it. Great site, and beautiful photos!

  25. Kim

    crazy! i was totally craving pho ga last week and made myself a batch too! it was my first time making it and i didnt’ think there was enough flavor so i threw in some dried chili peppers, anise seed, more cloves and garlic. not your traditional pho ga but still TASTY. guess i’ll have to post my recipe too πŸ™‚

  26. Lydia

    Oh my, this looks wonderful! I love eating pho, and have great memories of sitting on tiny stools at food stalls in Vietnam, having pho for breakfast. I use the same brand of fish sauce, by the way; I think it’s absolutely the best. Terrific post!

  27. Dr. Biggles

    I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, I love pho, OH YEAH I LOVE PHO !!!


  28. The Guilty Carnivore

    Beautiful presentation. Andrea Nguyen’s book is really tops, I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly.

    The rock sugar is essential here, or at least that’s what Mom bludgeoned me with growing up. Also, she would stud her onion with cloves prior to roasting it over the flame of our gas range.

    Also, one time I covered a chicken with a five-spice rub (basically 5-spice powder, fish sauce, and a bit sweetened Chinese black vinegar), roasted it, then stripped off all the meat (reserving the shredded breast meat to garnish the soup – I ate the legs and thighs when it came out of the oven, of course), and then used the carcass as the kick start for the Pho Ga stock. It was an interesting diversion, with a dark, complex broth.

  29. Pingback: Turkey Congee (Rice Porridge) | Jaden's Steamy Kitchen

  30. mimi

    I love your blog, the pictures are so vibrant! I love pho and I’ve considered making it but it always seems like so much work and at 5 bucks a bowl, it seems like the work outweighs the cost of getting it at a restaurant. One question: boiling the chicken and discarding most of the meat seems like such a waste to me! Any suggestions on how to use the meat that is discarded?

  31. WeekendChef

    I looked all over the Web for a Pho Ga recipe and ended up cooking this one. Your directions were very clear. The soup was FANTASTIC. One issue: once we char the onion and ginger we added it to the broth to simmer, but that isn’t clearly stated in the recipe. Since making this I’ve browsed your blog and enjoy it very much. Thanks!

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  33. connie

    hello this recipe look very good but the A and B are thoes the steps in doing the pho? im confused

  34. Pingback: Ellzey.Org » Blog Archive » Pho Ga

  35. mary

    I have been looking all over the net to find this recipe. Now i found it, thanks so much. I can’t wait to try this recipe. This is my husband’s favorite Vietnamese dish next to the charboiled pork.

  36. Pingback: Cooking by the Seat of my Pants | Chicken Chorizo Soup with Cilantro and Egg Noodles

  37. tastyeatsathome

    YUMYUMYUM I love PHO. I remember years ago, soon after I first tasted pho and wanted to find out how to make it, I wandered into the Asian grocery, and having no idea what was in pho, I found this *gasp* pho boullion cube and tried to make the broth. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what it tasted like. Anyway, this weekend, years later, I tried this recipe and YUMYUM I was a happy girl!

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