Chicken Pho

As you may know, one of my New Years Resolutions was to try to cook more meat. And so, I recklessly decided to make homemade pho, which required me to butcher a whole chicken. Making homemade Vietnamese food? Hacking apart a whole chicken? Why not. If you’ve got the time and energy, this recipe is delicious, but be prepared to put aside a whole afternoon or some time on two days.


This chicken pho recipes if from one of my favorites, Smitten Kitchen.

2 unpeeled yellow onions, quartered
Three ½-inch-thick slices of unpeeled fresh ginger, smashed
4 quarts cold water
3 pounds chicken bones or chicken wings
One fresh 3 ½-pound chicken, quartered
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
Additional spices (optional): Cinnamon, star anise, black cardamoms, coriander seeds, fennel seeds or cloves (I used cinnamon, star anise, and cloves. I followed commenters comments on how much of each to add. For me, it was a shake of cinnamon, 4 star anise, 5 cloves.)
¼ cup Asian fish sauce
1 pound dried rice noodles, a linguine shape (bánh phở) if you can find them

1 large scallion, thinly sliced
1 pound mung bean sprouts
½ cup torn basil leaves, Thai basil if you can find it
½ cup cilantro leaves
2 limes, cut into wedges
2 jalapeños, thinly sliced
Asian chili-garlic sauce
Hoisin sauce
Crispy shallots, recipe follows (I didn’t make these, because by the end, I was tired! But you should check them out at the recipe link above.)

Char onions and ginger: Heat the oven to 400°F. Put the onions and ginger on a lightly oiled baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned. [Alternate idea suggested in the comments: If you have a gas range, just char them a bit over a flame. It would save a lot of time.]–I did the gas range option. You really just plop them on the burner range until they char on various sides.

Cook the chicken: Fill a large stockpot with the water and bring to a boil. Add the roasted onions and ginger, and the chicken bones or wings, quartered chicken**, salt, sugar and any of the optional spices and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to moderate and simmer until the chicken is cooked, about 30 minutes.

**Note, quartering a chicken is not easy. I watched a youtube video as I did it for directions. But at different stages, I had to break off part of the chicken’s spine and break open the rib cage which was hard physically and …emotionally? Let’s just say it was unsettling. But with more practice and just more experiences, I don’t think it would be as hard. 

Remove the chicken and finish the broth: Using tongs, transfer the quartered chicken to a plate and let cool slightly. Remove the meat from the bones and refrigerate. Return the skin and bones to the stockpot and simmer for 2 hours longer. Strain the chicken broth into a large soup pot and cook over high heat until reduced to 12 cups, about 15 minutes. Stir in the fish sauce; adjust to taste.

*Prepare noodles: In a large bowl of warm water, soak the noodles until pliable, about 20 minutes. You can also prepare the noodles according to the package instructions, if they differ. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Drain the noodles, then add them to the saucepan and boil over high heat until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well. Divide the noodles between 6 large bowls and sprinkle with the scallion.

Finish and serve the soup: Add the reserved chicken to the broth and simmer until heated through. Ladle the broth and chicken over the noodles. Serve with the bean sprouts, basil, lime wedges, jalapeños, chili-garlic sauce, hoisin sauce and crispy shallots.

I ate my pho with bean sprouts, Thai basil (regular basil is cool if you don’t have an asian market in your town), hoisin, sriracha, and lime.

Also, like it lists earlier, this easily made six big servings. So invite friends, prepare for left overs, or freeze the broth!

Note: Phan has you cook the noodles separately in water, so they can be drained and used as needed. I believe he’s concerned about them overcooking in the soup pot. Theoretically, you could of course save time by cooking the noodles in the broth pot while the chicken reheats, however, the noodles are likely to make the broth cloudy, when ideal pho usually has a pristinely clear broth. [Thanks to everyone who mentioned the clouding issue in the comments.]

Do ahead: The broth can be made ahead and refrigerated for two days, a great way to divide up this recipe.

Be brave! Give it a try!


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