Chicken Pho

13 May 2014

Post image for Chicken Pho

A fragrant and soul-soothing beef pho is often what I crave when only a steaming bowl of noodle soup will do. But when time is sparse and I don’t have 3 hours to potter about in the kitchen, a chicken pho is a rather wonderful alternative.

According to Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl in their delightful new cookbook on Vietnamese cuisine, Real Vietnamese Cooking, chicken pho was invented during the Japanese occupation of Vietnam in the 1940s when beef was in short supply. The broth is lighter and sweeter, but with a familiar nod to the traditional beef version, thanks to the use of the same fresh herbs and spices.

I make chicken soup at home quite frequently; it’s almost my default menu when I don’t have a lot of time to cook because I can just let the chicken simmer gently on the stove while I’m tending to something else. At other times, I simply stick the chicken in the oven to roast. But if you are in the habit of frequently making your own chicken soup or stock, turning it into a pho is a nice way of varying the menu a little. I often do the same when I have homemade beef stock to hand, and you can get some ideas on how to turn a simple stock into a pho broth in my recipe for Frenchy Pho.

chicken pho 2

The recipe below is adapted from Real Vietnamese Cooking, a fabulous collection of home-style Vietnamese recipes written by Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl, two Australians who are passionate about the culinary scene in Vietnam. And so extensive is her knowledge of Vietnamese cuisine that Tracey Lister is also one of the directors of the successful Hanoi Cooking Centre and helped to set up KOTO, an Australian-Vietnamese charity which trains disadvantaged youths in Vietnam to cook and serve.

Something unusual about their recipe for chicken pho is the addition of thinly sliced kaffir lime leaves upon serving, alongside the more commonly used herbs. Kaffir lime leaves are not widely used in Vietnamese cooking, and especially not when serving pho. However, they do add a lovely citrus note to the dish and their addition is likely to be a regional variation.

chicken pho 3

While it’s hard to beat a chicken noodle soup in any form, I’m rather impartial to the Vietnamese version. I made a double batch of this chicken pho and felt smug throughout the week just knowing that a big, comforting bowl of noodle soup could be assembled for dinner in minutes.

Chicken Pho
Recipe adapted from Real Vietnamese Cooking by Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl
Serves 4


Cook’s Notes

You will need roughly 200 g (7 oz) of fresh rice noodles per person, but use more or less as you wish. If you cannot find fresh rice noodles, you can also use dried rice noodles and rehydrate them as per the packet instructions. Make sure they are the thin and flat noodles.

To ensure that you have a flavourful broth, use a pot which will comfortably fit the chicken and pour in enough water so that it is only just covering the chicken. If you later find that the broth is too concentrated, simply dilute with some water. It is much harder to fix a broth which is too weak if it has been made with too much water in the first instance.

For more details and information on serving pho, please see my post on Beef Pho.

Kitchenware Notes

The beautiful round wooden board used in the above photos is made by Sophie Conran for T&G Woodware which you can purchase online here.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Gourmet Getaways 14 May 2014 at 9:06 am

Simply irresistible! I like the way you photographed this dish and the manner the recipe was scribbled.They say hot noodles are best for the cold weather. Well, hot or cold, I’m gonna make my bowl out of this great recipe. Thank you!

Gourmet Getaways


Eat, Little Bird 14 May 2014 at 6:17 pm

Thank you, Julie! I often crave a bowl of noodle soup when the weather is cold, but I eat noodle soups just as often in hot weather too! I always find it so nourishing. Hope you will enjoy this recipe.


Cecilia 14 May 2014 at 12:22 pm

I do love Vietnamese food, although I don’t cook it so often. It is a little difficult to find all the ingredients here in rural France. When I lived in San Francisco, my favourite place was a little Vietnamese cafe not far from our home and they made great pho. The best ‘pick-me-up’ food, I know. As always, a terrific and inspiring post. Thank you!


Eat, Little Bird 14 May 2014 at 6:22 pm

Ooh I agree – pho is such great “pick-me-up” food! But then, I have a soft spot for any type of chicken noodle soup. It used to also be a bit difficult to find Asian ingredients in Zurich, but I think the Swiss have become more adventurous or there is now more demand, so I can now easily find most items. However, where my family live in Brittany and Normandy, it’s virtually impossible to find coriander, chillies, fish sauce, soy sauce … anything Asian!


Jo 14 May 2014 at 4:39 pm

This really looks wonderful Thanh. And so light and fresh. I’ve just put the ingredients on our shopping list – it looks just the ticket to help us get back on course with healthy eating having ever so slightly derailed in the past couple of weeks. Beautiful post :)


Eat, Little Bird 14 May 2014 at 6:24 pm

Thanks Jo! This dish is 100% healthy :-) But maybe not if you eat as much as I do in one serve … ;-)


Paula 14 May 2014 at 5:30 pm

Even if it’s not my favorite type of food, I really like this dish!!!! So great flavors, and I want to try rice noodles!!

I’ve never tried them, my mother has told me that they’re delicious. But I thinks her recipes with them are not as adventurous as yours :P

Have a nice week, Thanh!!! :D


Eat, Little Bird 14 May 2014 at 6:25 pm

I need to somehow convert you to noodle soups … I think I need to cook for you one day! ;-)


Rushi 14 May 2014 at 9:42 pm

Oooooh chicken pho. I love chicken based soup and this seems so appealing. A no fuss dish that’s bang on flavour :) These are the times I wish that you lived next door…..


Eat, Little Bird 17 May 2014 at 10:09 pm

Almost next door … ;-) Hope you are well and that someone is making chicken soup for you!


Tracey Lister 20 May 2014 at 4:32 am

Hi. Yes, the addition of lime leaf is new. It started appearing in Hanoi about 6 years ago and I’ve become quite addicted to it. I have a Pho Ga for lunch most days. The lime leaf in Vietnam is a little different to kaffir lime leaf, but a very similar perfume and taste, so kaffir can be used.
Loving the blog and the photos. Best Tracey


Eat, Little Bird 20 May 2014 at 12:44 pm

Hi Tracey,
So lovely of you to pop by and leave a message! That’s very interesting to hear that the use of lime leaves have become more popular in Vietnamese cooking, especially in the north. I suppose it makes sense, considering that the neighbouring countries use it quite frequently in their cooking. Here in Switzerland, lemongrass can sometimes be tricky to find, so I sometimes substitute with kaffir lime leaves from a little plant which I have been nurturing at home for a few years. Of course, it’s not the same, but I love the fragrance and citrus flavour from the kaffir lime leaves and can see how it would work well with pho. I’m looking forward to sharing more recipes from your lovely book :-)


mycookinghut 30 June 2014 at 4:58 pm

Pho is my all time favourite and I never get bored of eating it!


Eat, Little Bird 9 July 2014 at 6:08 pm

I’m so happy to see you pop by my blog! I never get bored of eating Pho either … I really wish I could have a bowl for dinner tonight! P.S. I love your cookbook :-) I have the French version and love the recipes.


Danielle Nguyen 22 October 2014 at 4:31 pm

Hi! I love your blog. I just discovered it today and have been pouring over your posts and photos. Everything is so beautiful. I do have one question, though. Is there a specific type of chicken you use in this recipe. I remembered that my mom would use a ga di bo or “walking” chicken to make Pho Ga. I wasn’t sure if you have any thoughts on that?


Eat, Little Bird 27 October 2014 at 7:27 am

Hi Danielle,

Thanks for popping by my blog :-) I know what you mean … my mum uses a similar chicken when making Vietnamese chicken soups, and especially chicken congee. I think she calls the chicken something else, but it is essentially an older, free-range chicken which gives the broth a stronger flavour. It also has tougher meat than “normal chicken”. Here in Zurich, it’s possible to buy something similar called a “boiling chicken” which is an older chicken which comes with the neck and feet attached. While I prefer the flavour of the broth when using these chickens, I’m not a fan of their tough meat. So I would usually only use such chickens when making a plain chicken broth and when I don’t need to use the meat, although I do feel it is a waste to throw away the cooked meat.

As a compromise, I often use a good-quality organic chicken. I think they give a good flavour to the broth and the meat is firm but still tender. On the other hand, non-organic supermarket chicken will impart a much weaker flavour to the broth, and their meat is often very soft.

Whenever my mum couldn’t go to an Asian butcher for her preferred chicken, she then often had to resort to the supermarket variety (when I was growing up, supermarkets didn’t sell organic chicken), and would then always complain afterwards that her soup didn’t taste nice because the chicken was inferior. As a child, I couldn’t really tell the difference! But now the difference is much more noticeable to me. Sometimes you can’t avoid using non-organic supermarket chicken, but I always try to buy organic when I can.

So that’s my two-cents’ worth ;-)


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