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How to make Vietnamese chicken pho

Traditionally served as a breakfast soup, pho is one of the national dishes of Vietnam. This chicken pho uses a whole chicken and plenty of spices and aromatics to give the broth a really rich depth of flavour. Don't forget to screenshot the ingredients list at the bottom before you head to the shops.

  1. Poach the chicken

    Put a 1.5kg whole chicken in a very large saucepan. Add 5ltr of cool water and slowly bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 mins, then skim off any fat and scum from the surface. Turn the heat down further, to low, and simmer for another 35 mins. 

    Poach the chicken
  2. Prepare the spices

    Meanwhile, make the spice bag. Chop a small cinnamon stick into pieces and add to a small frying pan with 7 whole cloves, 1 tbsp black peppercorns and 4 whole star anise. Toast for 1-2 mins on a medium heat, until fragrant and darkened, but not scorched. Remove from the pan and lightly crush the spices (with a pestle and mortar or bash with a rolling pin), tip into the centre of a 25cm muslin square and tie into a secure bundle with kitchen string. 

    Prepare the spices
  3. Scorch the onions

    For the aromatics to flavour the stock, use the flame of a gas ring to scorch 3 unpeeled onions and a 6cm piece of ginger all over. Using tongs, hold each item directly in the flame one by one, keeping hands away. Or place under a hot grill, turning the veg to blacken evenly. Cool on baking paper, then peel and discard the blackened skin. Roughly slice the flesh.

    Scorch the onions
  4. Simmer and reduce

    After the 45 mins cooking time, remove the chicken from the pan and leave to cool for a few mins. Remove the skin and pick the meat from the bones, chilling the meat until needed. Put the bones and skin back into the cooking water along with the prepared spice bag, onions, ginger and 1 unpeeled bulb of garlic. Simmer over a low heat for about 2½ hrs, skimming regularly.

    Simmer and reduce
  5. Strain the broth

    When the broth has reduced by half, season with salt to taste, then carefully strain into a large bowl through a sieve or colander before returning to the rinsed-out pan. Bring to a simmer over a low heat, then add 1-2 tbsp fish sauce and 2 tbsp light brown soft sugar. 

    Strain the broth
  6. Build the bowls

    To assemble each pho you will need the cooked chicken meat, 600g flat rice noodles (cooked or straight-to-wok), 75g beansprouts, 5 spring onions, 2 bird's eye chillies and a handful of fresh coriander. Shred the cooked chicken, trim and finely slice the spring onions and slice the chillies. Divide all the ingredients evenly between 8 large serving bowls.

    Build the bowls
  7. Serve

    Ladle over the hot broth. Serve with extra coriander, 2 quartered limes, extra fish sauce and chilli sauce on the side, so that everyone can add to taste. 

    RFO Hero 636x418 PhoStep6 mini

  8. Freezing and defrosting guidelines

    The broth is suitable for freezing. Cook as instructed and allow to cool completely. Then transfer to an airtight, freezer-safe container, seal and freeze for up to 1-3 months. To serve, defrost thoroughly in the fridge overnight before reheating. To reheat and serve, place on medium heat, stirring occasionally until it is heated through.

  9. Delicious spins

    Seafood: Bring 3ltr fish stock to a simmer, then follow steps 2 and 3. Add 1 tbsp fish sauce and 1 tbsp sugar. Simmer for 20 mins, then leave to steep for 30 mins. Strain. Add 350g defrosted cooked seafood (prawns, mussels and squid) and 200g scallops or diced haddock and simmer for 5 mins. 

    Pork: Simmer 1.4kg pork ribs for the stock in step 1, for 2 hrs. In step 5, add 250g sliced pork tenderloin; cook through. 

    Vegetarian: Simmer 3 ltr vegetable stock with the spice bag and aromatics for 20 mins; set aside for 30 mins to infuse. Strain, then simmer 320g tofu pieces until piping hot. Add 1 tbsp soy sauce. 

  10. Expert tips

    When simmering the stock in step 4, top up with water if it looks like it’s reducing too quickly.

    By the end of the stock cooking time (step 5), the stock should have a rich, deep flavour. Taste, then leave to cook a little longer if it doesn’t. 

    Use a metal spoon or ladle to skim the stock (step 4), sweeping it over the surface gently to remove excess fat and scum. Put the melted fat in a bowl and chill until solid before discarding.

    Don’t skip the charring stage for the onion and ginger (step 3); it imparts a sweetness and extra depth of flavour to the broth.

    You can carry out steps 1-5 in advance, then shred the chicken, cool and chill overnight, or for up to 48 hrs. When ready to eat, reheat the stock and chicken gently until simmering, then serve as per steps 6 and 7. 

  11. Ingredients

    We've prepared a simple shopping list so you can get everything you need for this comforting soup. Take a screenshot before heading to the shops.

    1.5kg whole chicken
    1-2 tbsp fish sauce, plus extra to serve
    2 tbsp light brown soft sugar

    For the spice bag
    7 whole cloves
    1 tbsp black peppercorns
    4 whole star anise
    1 small cinnamon stick, cut into pieces

    For the stock aromatics
    3 onions, unpeeled
    6cm piece ginger, unpeeled
    1 garlic bulb, unpeeled

    To serve
    2 x 300g packs flat rice noodles
    75g beansprouts, blanched
    5 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
    2 bird’s eye chillies, sliced
    large bunch coriander
    2 limes, quartered
    chilli sauce

    Serves 8

    Each serving contains

    • Energy

    • Fat

      19g 27%
    • Saturates

      5g 25%
    • Sugars

      6g 6%
    • Salt

      0.6g 10%

    of the reference intake
    Carbohydrate 35g Protein 26.9g Fibre 1.2g