Chicken Pho (Pho Ga) Posted by: | April 11, 2011

Today I am introducing to you the Pho as I know it. Not the famous Pho you’d find in those Hanoi Old Quarters with their traditional sweet bone broth (and also the infamous amount of MSG they use), but the Pho I grew up with in my home, made by my Mom on those lazy weekends when we wanted comfort food on the table within a flash. Yes. Contrary to many people’s believes, Pho doesn’t always have to be a time-consuming affair with a long list of spices you have trouble finding in the local store. At home, we opt for Chicken Pho as opposed to Beef Pho. It takes much less time to cook, requires less spices, and still gives you that warm fuzzy comfort that a bowl of Pho does so effortlessly. When the boiling Pho stock fills up your kitchen with its transcendent smell, that is when I am most contented to be home. I don’t even bother to eat Pho when I’m overseas, as it will merely scratch on the surface of my crave for authentic, home-made Pho. When I was a kid, Mom would always let me munch on the chicken wing & thigh bones once she takes them out of the stock. There is hardly any meat left on the bones, but it’s still oh-so-sweet and juicy. Until today, I still demand for the right to “clean up” the bones and Mom would purposely leave some meat un-detached on the bones for me to munch on. Tell me which restaurant allows me to do that? And I don’t care if that makes me unlady-like.

Our home Chicken Pho recipe is also the healthiest Pho you can find, as we omit chicken skin, and skim out all the fats. We also avoid using those Pho stock cubes as it contains MSG, though it does make Pho broth so much tastier without much effort. If you don’t mind the MSG, go ahead and throw in a cube. You can also substitute the Pho stock cube with Chicken stock cube.

Yesterday Dad finally came home from a one-month overseas trip, and we thought we’d welcome him back from his late, long flight with hot, steamy Chicken Pho. He finished 2 full bowls within minutes, despite having eaten Korean Air’s generous meal servings. And I am actually watering in my mouth right now, just recalling the bowl of Pho we had yesterday. Nobody can resist Pho. And there is never a wrong time for Pho. You will understand what I’m talking about once you have tried my Mom’s Chicken Pho.

So here it is, our traditional yet simple Chicken Pho recipe. Get ready to be hooked (Warning: If you live outside Vietnam, you will no longer get the kick out of the Pho in your local restaurant once you have started making your own Pho).

Chicken Pho (Pho Ga)

(Mom’s recipe)


(serves 4)

  • 1 whole chicken (with bones, washed & cleaned with salt water and rinsed under running water)
  • 400g dried Pho noodles
  • 1 chunk of ginger (about 50g), cut into 2 halves
  • 2 – 3 shallots
  • A big bunch of spring onions
  • A big bunch of cilantro leaves
  • Fish sauce and salt.
  • 1 lime, quartered


1. Heat a deep pot of water (about 3 liters of water) with the Chicken fully immersed. Add a pinch of salt and 1 piece of ginger. Cook on medium high heat until boiling. When the stock is close to boiling, skim out the brown impurities on the surface until the stock is clear. Once boiled, bring the heat down to low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes until chicken is fully cooked. You can test the done-ness of the chicken by poking into the thickest part with a chopstick to see if there is any blood coming out.

2. Once chicken is cooked, turn off the heat, take it out of the stock and rinse into room temperature water for 10 minutes. This is a trick to help the chicken retain its moistures and also makes it easier to debone the chicken later on, similar to the vegetable ice-bath method. Remove the chicken from the cool water and start removing the meat from the bones. Slice the meat into thin pieces of about 2cm in length. If it’s still too hot, leave it to cool a little longer. Throw the bones back into the stock and continue simmering on low heat.

3. Grill the shallots and remaining piece of ginger until the skin is slightly charred, making sure not to burn it. We put them really close to the gas fire under the stock pot to grill them, the Vietnamese kitchen way.

4. Once grilled, smash the shallots and ginger until flat to release their flavors and throw them back into the simmering stock. Cook for 30 minutes and season with fish sauce & salt to taste (you can start with 2 tablespoon of fish sauce and adjust from there). If the stock seems to have reduced in volume, you can add more water and season to taste accordingly.

5. While waiting for the stock to cook, chop the cilantro leaves and spring onions. Leave the white parts of spring onions for garnishing later.

6. In another pot, cook your dried Pho noodles according to package instructions. Divide the Pho noodles into bowls, distribute the chicken, cilantro and spring onions on top. Pour the stock into the bowls and give each bowl a squirt of lime juice from a quarter piece of lime. You can add fresh chili or chili paste if you like it really hot. I personally enjoy the soup just the way it is.

And there you have it: heaven in a bowl. Dive in. And savor it.

I am submitting this entry to the Delicious Vietnam April 2011 blogging event, founded by A Food Lover’s Journey and Ravenous Couple and hosted by Anh from A Food Lover’s Journey this month. This monthly blogging event celebrates the wonderful Vietnamese Cuisine being cooked and blogged by Vietnamese food lovers around the world.


10 Responses to “Chicken Pho (Pho Ga)”

  1. NICE! I’ve gotta make Pho from scratch one day. This looks delish!

    • Chi Anh says:

      Yeah it doesn’t have to be as intimidating as we think. Just good old chicken broth and fragrantly grilled ginger & shallots!

  2. Thank you for sharing this special recipe with us, how lovely. It looks absolutely gorgeous!
    Heidi xo

  3. Anh says:

    Lovely! My pho ga is a bit more elaborated, but you know, nothing beats a bowl of simple pho made with love at home. Fresh ingredients, and in Hanoi. Awesome!

  4. Phuong says:

    You make me so want to make some Pho right now. In fact. I’ve always wanted to make Pho cuz my hubby loves to have it for breakfast, but yea I’m intimidated by having to make it from scratch. I don’t know why I love to try new dishes but when it comes to Pho somehow i’m scared that it may go wrong. Hopefully I won’t screw it up this time

    • Chi Anh says:

      I totally know what you mean by that “fear” to make Pho at home. There are just too many good traditional Pho out there, and you are too afraid to make it yourself as people would judge your Pho as “unauthentic”. But hey, nothing can go wrong with a good pot of chicken stock plus some grilled ginger and shallots. Stir in lots of love and you’ll have a good bowl of Pho in no time. Enjoy!

  5. [...] Chicken Pho (Pho Ga) from Door to my kitchen [...]

  6. Vi says:

    Do you have any recommendations for how to adapt this recipe if I don’t have access to a flame on which to grill the ginger and shallots? My stove is electric, and I can’t have a grill in my apartment.

    • Chi Anh says:

      Hi Vi,
      Sorry for my late reply! If you don’t have a gas stove, you can still “grill” your shallots by putting it directly on the stove and “sear” it until it is charred on all sides. My mom used to do that with our old electric stove and it works too :) Good luck!

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