Daring Cooks - Vietnamese Chicken Pho

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

I was quite excited about this challenge. It was my first daring cook challenge, and I immediately decided i was going to do the long version of the recipe. Which included chopping up a chicken carcass and making my own chicken stock. Two things i had never done before. Especially chopping up the chicken was going to be a challenge. I hate bones, I cant stand the feeling of bones on my teeth, and the cracking noise bones make when you break them gives me shivers down my spine. But I was going to try anyway, its called daring cooks for a reason right?

So there I was, standing in the kitchen with a sharpened big knife. Looking at the chicken, and wondering where to start. I got the chicken breast off with some help of my boyfriend in the end. Next was chopping it up... It took me some time to find the courage to start chopping. It even took my boyfriend to show how to do it and tell me I could do it to start! But in the end it was all good and I'm proud that I did it.

So what is Vietnamese Pho? Well, it’s a delicious noodle soup popular in Vietnam. The broth is simmered for hours and hours with either beef knuckle/leg bone or with a whole chicken. Other accompaniments include ribbons of rice noodles, fresh herbs like cilantro or basil, a wedge of lime or lemon, fresh bean sprouts and fresh sliced chilies if desired.

What makes Pho so different than any other type of noodle soup is the spices that go into the simmering broth. Warm spices like coriander, star anise, cloves and fresh ginger transform an ordinary broth into a very authentic Vietnamese Pho.

Our challenge focused on Chicken Pho, or “Pho Ga” in Vietnamese. By the way, the correct pronunciation of Pho is “fuh?” Yes, you say the word like it’s a question!

Some of the secrets to making great Chicken Pho is:
1) Toast the spices and char the onion and ginger. This brings out the flavor and fragrance of these ingredients!
2) If you’re cooking the longer recipe make sure you’re pre-boiling the chicken first – give it a hard boil for a few minutes to get rid of the scum and stuff in the chicken. This will help you create a crystal clear, clean broth.

The spices for Chicken Pho is whole coriander seeds, whole cloves and whole star anise – they should be easily found in your grocery store.

An essential component of Pho is fish sauce. Make your best effort to find fish sauce – your local Asian market should carry it. And if not, visit your local Thai or Vietnamese restaurant and see if you can buy a bottle from them. Soy sauce is a poor substitute for fish sauce, but if you can’t find fish sauce, then go ahead and make the sub.

I used this recipe http://steamykitchen.com/139-vietnamese-chicken-noodle-soup-pho-ga.html. Below is the recipe for if you don't want to make your own stock

Vietnamese Chicken Pho (recipe Source: Jaden of Steamy Kitchen from her new book The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.)
For the Chicken Pho Broth:
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
½ onion
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce
1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)

2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice

1. To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.
2. In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
4. Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.
5. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
6. Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
7. Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
8. Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients. Enjoy!


  1. Pho looks delicious.

    Great job on your first challenge and welcome to the daring Kitchen.

  2. Congratulations on your first challenge! Welcome to Daring Kitchen.
    Thank you for your nice comments on my blog. I loved your Pho, too. It looks really delicious.
    Where are your Wontons?

  3. I didn't do the Wontons as I didn't have any time. I will do them when I have time again.

  4. Congrats on your first challenge!! The pho looks amazing =D.

  5. Congrats on your first challenge! You did a fantastic job!

  6. Nice job on the pho- it looks great and I love the photo with the star anise and herbs on the side!

  7. Congratulations on this being your first daring cook challenge! You did such a wonderful job on your pho and I love how you got encouragement from your boyfriend.

  8. Congrats on you first DC challenge! Your pho (fuh?) looks so delicious!

  9. Your pho looks like it turned out yummy! Congrats on successfully completing your first challenge =)

  10. Welcome to the Daring Cooks! I'm so impressed that you found the courage to cut up the chicken yourself. Great-looking pho, and your photo is styled beautifully.

  11. welcome to the daring kitchen! You did superb on your first challenge. hope to see more of you soon!

  12. What a gorgeous bowl of Pho - caught my eye in the DK forum! Congrats on a first DC challenge very well done! :)