A very easy-to-follow recipe that can guide you to successfully make the most authentic Vietnamese chicken pho from scratch. Compared to its sister version, beef pho, this pho ga has a clearer broth, lighter fragrance, and is quicker to make.
There are two versions of pho that are incredibly popular and can be eaten every day by most Vietnamese: chicken pho and beef pho. Between the two, I always prefer a bowl of chicken pho because I like that not-to-heavy aroma from the chicken broth.
Back in the day, people usually eat chicken pho (pho ga) as a breakfast. But now, they pretty much it this Asian version of chicken noodle soup at any time.
Like any other Asian-style soups, such as bun bo Hue, bun mam, bun Rieu, or duck noodle soup, it takes patience and secret to make the best version of homemade soup. Keep reading; you'll figure out how to make the best authentic homemade chicken pho from scratch.
Why you will love this authentic recipe
- Made from scratch: with super easy-to-follow and detailed instructions.
- Kids friendly: kids will love this chicken pho with its subtle flavor and light aroma.
- Make ahead: you only need to make one big pot to feed the whole family for more than two days.
Essential ingredients in pho ga
For pho broth
This authentic homemade chicken pho broth is made of Asian spices. The spices' fragrances combined have created fantastic flavor and aroma for this world-famous soup.
- White onion: this needs to be lightly charred; it can be cut in half or left whole.
- Star anise: it's a brown star-shaped spice widely used in Southeast Asian cuisine.
- Cinnamon stick: just 1 or 2 sticks is enough. Please don't go crazy with this spice; thus, it can make a whole pot smell like cinnamon easily.
- Whole nutmeg: has a wood-like texture and oval shape. The flavor of this spice is solid and sweet, so you only need 1-2 nutmeg to do the magic.
- Coriander seeds are round and have a distinctive sweet flavor and intense aroma. Though deprived of cilantro plants, coriander seeds taste and smell different from cilantro.
- Fresh ginger.
For sides and garnishes
- Pho noodle: the star of this authentic chicken soup is pho noodles.
- Condiments: Lime wedges, hoisin sauce, and sriracha sauce are the must-haves for eating pho.
- Fresh herbs: an assorted amount of fresh herbs are always found next to a bowl of pho (regardless of what type it is): culantro, Thai basil, and rice paddy herb (see: Canh Chua tom).
- Bean sprouts: I like my bean sprouts par-cooked before adding to the soup. Some people like bean sprouts to stay fresh to enjoy their crunchy texture.
- White onion, cilantro, and green onion.
- Fried shallot: you can find the instructions to make fried shallot in this pork ribs macaroni soup recipe.
- Chicken bouillon: to make the best authentic chicken pho is to have chicken bouillon seasoned in the soup broth.
- Fish sauce: we're all falling in love with this brand of fish sauce.
- Salt and sugar: people usually skip the sugar when cooking. I don't use a lot of sugar in my recipes either (except for baking recipes). But for the best chicken pho, you need to have sugar together with salt to create that subtle flavor.
How to make authentic homemade chicken pho from scratch
Heat over medium-high heat to sear the spices swiftly in a dry saucepan. When their fragrance starts to release, turn off the heat immediately. Then secure them tightly in a sachet.
Use the same pan to char/sweat an onion. Ensure the onion doesn't turn completely brown, or the chicken pho broth will become very dark like beef pho broth.
Make the broth
In a large stockpot, bring 7 quarts of water to boil, then add the whole chicken, charred onion, and sachet of spices. Wait until the jackpot reaches boiling point again, then immediately lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Carefully skim away any impurities formed on the surface. Do not stir the pot.
Prepare an ice water bath. When the chicken is fully cooked, carefully remove and submerge it entirely in the water bath. Let the chicken stand for 10-15 minutes, then remove it from the water. Pat dry with a paper towel. Then pull the chicken meat away from the bones and shred the meat with your fingers.
Discard the white onion and spice sachet. You don't need to strain if you don't stir the pot and skim impurities gradually (I didn't). If the broth is too cloudy, you need to strain it through a fine sieve mesh carefully, then return the chicken broth to the pot. Bring the broth back to boiling point.
Meanwhile, add all seasoning ingredients in a small mixing bowl
Ladle about 1 cup of hot pho broth into a seasoning mixture and mix until everything is well incorporated.
When the stockpot reaches boiling point, reduce the heat immediately to simmer the broth. Then carefully add the seasoning liquid to the pot. Then simmer for another 15 minutes.
Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Remember to dilute any seasoning with hot pho broth first, then add it back to the pot. The broth is supposed to taste just a little bit salty; if you do find it so, don't add more sugar in; it'll be just fine while serving with pho noodles and add-ons.
How to keep the broth clear
- Make sure the chicken is clean, especially inside the chicken carcass. If in doubt, you can always blanch the chicken in a smaller pot for 5-10 minutes before cooking it directly in the pho pot with spices and onion.
- Make sure the water reaches boiling point before adding anything into the pot.
- Keep the heat high enough for pho broth to simmer, not hard-boiling.
- Don't stir the pot. Only skim impurities that float on the surface.
- Don't over-sweat the white onion, or it will make the broth turn dark like beef pho.
- Mix seasoning with a little bit of hot broth first, then add them to the pot. If you add seasoning mixture directly to the broth, they'll make the broth cloudy.
Secrets to make the best chicken pho in town
- Don't use store-bought chicken stocks because they are sometimes salty or seasoned with ingredients that are not suitable for pho taste.
- Don't skip the spice. Some recipes skip the spice part. DON'T. The aroma from the spice is what the best chicken pho should have.
- Balance the flavor by combining chicken bouillon, fish sauce, salt, and sugar. Try not to skip or switch over any of the seasoning ingredients. For example: if you're using too much fish sauce, you can make it overpower the spice fragrance.
- Make the pho broth one day before eating day; the broth has time to steep in the seasoning, and it'll develop more flavors the next day.
How long does the broth stay good for?
- The pho broth can be made ahead of time. It will be good in the freezer for up to 1 month. Thaw frozen pho broth overnight in the fridge before reheating.
- Or it can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat the broth gently on medium-high heat before serving.
Can I use different part of chicken in this pho ga recipe?
You can use chicken thighs or chicken leg quarters to make pho broth. Keep in mind the broth will taste fattier compared to the original recipe.
You can also use chicken breast; the broth will be leaner in contrast. And it'll also take a shorter amount of time to cook chicken breast (probably around 10 to 15 minutes). If you decided to use the breast only, you would want to continue simmering the broth with spices and white onion after taking the fully cooked chicken breast out.
Authentic homemade chicken pho
- 1 whole chicken about 2 - 2.5 lb
- 7 qt water
- 1 large white onion peeled and cut in half
- 4 small star anise
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- 2 whole nutmeg
- 5 pieces ginger cut into 2x3 inches size
- 1 tsp coriander seed
- 3 tbsp chicken bouillon
- 1 tbsp Kosher salt
- 1 tbsp granulated white sugar
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
Sides, toppings & garnishes
- 1 package dry pho noodle
- 1 large Lime cut into wedges
- 1 tbsp Sriracha for each person
- 1 tbsp sweet Hoisin sauce for each person
- bean sprout as needed
- Thai basil as needed
- rice paddy herb as needed
- culantro as needed
- ¼ tsp fish sauce per serving
- 1 medium white onion thinly sliced
- 5 stalks green onion chopped
- 5 stalks cilantro chopped
- 1 dash ground black pepper per serving
- ½ tsp fried shallot per serving
Make pho broth
- In a dry sauce pan, heat over medium high heat to quickly sear the spices. When their fragrance start to release, turn off the heat immediately. Then secure them tightly in a sachet.4 small star anise, 1 small cinnamon stick, 2 whole nutmeg, 5 pieces ginger, 1 tsp coriander seed
- Use the same pan to char/sweat an onion. Make sure the onion don't turn completely brown or the chicken pho broth will become very dark like beef pho broth.1 large white onion
- In a large stock pot, bring 7 quart of water to boil, then add the whole chicken, charred onion, and sachet of spices.7 qt water, 1 whole chicken
- Wait until the pot reaches boiling point again then immediately lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Carefully skim away any impurities formed on the surface. Do not stir the pot.
- While waiting for chicken to cook, prepare an ice water bath.
- When the chicken is fully cooked, carefully remove and submerge it completely in the water bath. Let the chicken stand for 10-15 minutes then remove it from the water.
- Pat dry with paper towel. Then pull the chicken meat away from the bones and shred the meat with your fingers.
- Discard the white onion and spice sachet. If you don't stir the pot and skim impurities gradually, you don't need to strain (I didn't).
- If the broth is too cloudy, you need to carefully strain it through a fine sieve mesh then return the chicken broth back to the pot. Bring the broth back to boiling point.
Season pho broth
- Add all seasoning ingredients in a small mixing bowl.3 tbsp chicken bouillon, 1 tbsp Kosher salt, 1 tbsp granulated white sugar, 2 tbsp fish sauce
- Ladle about 1 cup of hot pho broth into a seasoning mixture and mix until everything is well incorporated.
- When the stock pot reaches boiling point, reduce the heat immediately just enough to simmer the broth. Then carefully add the seasoning liquid to the pot. Then simmer for another 15 minutes.
- Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Most likely you don't need to because I had already tested the taste carefully.
- Remember to dilute any seasoning with hot pho broth first, then add it back to the pot. The broth is supposed to taste just a little bit salty; if you do find it so, don't add more sugar in, it'll be just fine while serving with pho noodle and add-ons.
Assemble chicken pho
- Cook dry pho noodle according its package's instruction. Then divide the rice noodles evenly among 4 bowls.1 package dry pho noodle
- First, add ¼ tsp of fish sauce to pho noodle and mix well.¼ tsp fish sauce
- Then top each bowl with a desired amount of shredded chicken meat, white onion, cilantro and green onion.1 medium white onion, 5 stalks green onion, 5 stalks cilantro
- Ladle the hot chicken broth over the top. Sprinkle with black pepper and fried shallots.1 dash ground black pepper, ½ tsp fried shallot
- Serve hot immediately with limes, herbs and condiments on the side.1 large Lime, 1 tbsp Sriracha, 1 tbsp sweet Hoisin sauce, bean sprout, Thai basil, rice paddy herb, culantro
- Make sure you read all of the sections above in order to make the best chicken pho
Disclaimer: this chicken pho recipe was originally published on May 8, 2020.