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.  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. Darth Vadar

    It needed a bit more salt for our taste. We added fish sauce to the point of swimming with the fish, and then added salt. Great foundation recipe. Thanks.

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  3. Amy

    Okay so clearly I did something wrong because the broth wasn’t as yummy as I have had at restaurants. I roasted the chicken first and then used the bones with meat left on it and it just wasnt as good. Does the uncooked chicken make a huge difference in flavor?

    Yes. Absolutely! You’ve got to start with uncooked chicken. ~jaden

  4. Doreen

    I always cook my chicken in a colander inside the pot.
    helps keep the bones and scraps out of the broth.

  5. Kirsten

    Hello there! Thanks for the yummy Asian receipes! I am wondering if you are able to find the recepie for another Vietnamese chicken soup. I think it is like a congee and it has rice and shredded chicken, and you top it with cilantro? I have been trying to find this recepie forEVER!!!

    Here’s a Chinese version using turkey

    and beef

    and Andrea Nguyen just posted this:
    not exactly what you’re looking for, but still a great chicken rice soup dish

  6. Tony

    Your recipe gave life to my unplanned creation of Vietnamese soup. The spices you gave in your recipe made all the difference from a so-so soup, to a great soup. Thank you


  7. Susanna

    Thanks so much for your brilliant recipe. My boyfriend and I are now officially Pho zombies – we can’t go a whole week without making Pho!!
    I wanted to ask you why your recipe suggests simmering the broth UNcovered? Does it effect the flavor some how?
    Thanks again…

    Susanna and Zack

    Simmering uncovered uncovered concentrates the broth, since some evaporates. You can cover, just leave a crack open (I usually prop the lid up with chopsticks. ~jaden

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  10. Jason

    Do you know how to make the spicy soup. BUN BO HUE, the spicy sauce that we can add to the pho soup?

  11. lah

    great recipe, and relatively easy to make.

    wondering if you have any thoughts on adding more star anise/clove/coriander seed to the broth? any reasons not to? was thinking that more spices = even more flavor but curious if that’s not the case here.

    No necessarily true – those spices are very strong spices and more can overpower the entire chicken soup ~jaden

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  22. lex

    Just wondering why you boil the chicken, then dump the water and boil again?

    to clean the chicken of all the grime, guck, bits and blood. Produces a cleaner broth. jaden

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  28. Adrian Larose

    Follow to a “T” and it turned out delicious for a special anniversary dinner. The ginger doesn’t APPEAR charred after 15 mins (to my eye), but the flavour is something else and the skin comes off easily. I added probably 1 tablespoon more fish sauce and a handful of salt at the end as it tasted a bit thin. Well-liked by all, and my first time making a from-scratch broth! Thank you for sharing.

  29. Jeanne

    I am in process of making the Pho Ga. Your instructions are good and tips about Fish Sauce appreciated and very helpful. It would be helpful to edit your instruction to suggest placing the anise, coriander in a herb bag. Otherwise, it is very difficult to skim the top at any time because the coriander is floating at the top. I knew better, but didn’t think it through. I am excited to finally have a source of recipes that will help me learn to cook in the Vietnamese way. My husband and I have two favorite Pho’s in our city of Chula Vista, CA and notice the food attracts folks of many ethnicities. It is just plain good and healthy.

  30. LANE

    Loved reading about your pho recipes! Informative and fun. We have a relatively new ‘Asian Bistro’ restaurant in my Tucson neighborhood (Hot Wok), and last week I tried their pho w/chicken–I swear they must put in a whole chicken breast!–and this week I had it with chicken AND vegetables. Have tried to ‘figure out’ the array of flavors and was glad to see, thanks to your recipes, that I was right about the anise. I think I have a new favorite food! I love soup I can eat with a FORK; that’s how thick this is. Huge bowl: I eat my fill there and come home with enough for two more times! For $6.95, if you can believe that!

  31. Lindsay

    We tried this recipe out last night. Made the broth on the first day and enjoyed the soup on the second day. Turned out truly amazing! Thanks for your tips! We posted a link to you on our blog!! Best wishes!

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  35. dizzi

    My question is about discarding all the lovely chicken meat from the thighs and the legs. I really love the sound of this recipe but i find this to be such a waste – does it really not taste very good anymore after all that cooking, or is there some other reason for chucking it?

  36. Sarah

    Thanks for the recipe! I love pho and even more when I have a cold–great how it clears up my sinuses and leaves me feeling so much better. Can’t wait to try it!

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  40. JD

    Hi! I’m making the soup right now and your recipe wasn’t really clear on whether or not to take the skin off the chicken (maybe it is… I have a very fuzzy head right now, lol). I did – I hope I am right!!! It looks delicious, can’t wait till it’s done. Both my baby girl and I have a nasty summer cold and I have always found vietnamese soup to be a cure all!

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  44. Jade

    Hi, I see you wrote back in 2007 about writing a revised version to include dark meat. I don’t see that anywhere, my family prefers dark meat as well. Could you just let me know how to go about using the dark meat to actually put in the bowls & not discard. That is the part of the chick I would like to eat.

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  46. TuyetHoaTienTu

    Yeah! I’ve eaten this pho too! Unfortunately for me, I eat Pho Ga in a the instant bowl one, not the fresh one. T_T I would love to try and make this! Thanks for another great recipe! 🙂

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