Chicken Pho Ga is a traditional Vietnamese chicken noodle soup that has a rich and deeply flavored bone broth, and is topped with fresh, vibrant garnishes. Ready in just about an hour, this chicken pho recipe is the perfect light comfort food to make any day of the week.
A close friend of mine recently taught me how to make this traditional chicken pho ga recipe, which is a bit easier and less time consuming than the more well known beef pho.
Mary grew up learning to cook traditional Vietnamese food from her mom. She has grown into quite an amazing cook, and respects recipes, but also has the confidence and knowledge to stray off a bit to create a better version.
I feel fortunate for the opportunity to learn how to make one of my family’s favorite dishes from a real pro.
Why this pho ga recipe works
This chicken pho ga recipe is rather quick and easy to make, so you can have dinner on the table in under 90 minutes. The most time consuming process is prepping the broth so that it is rich with flavor. But you can simply leave it simmering away while you tend to other things.
This soup is also very family friendly and nutritious! Reminiscent of chicken noodle soup, but of course with a very unique and appetizing flavor profile that kids can’t resist! The bone broth is rich with vitamins and minerals so you can feel good about feeding your family a nourishing meal.
It’s also fun to experiment with a wide array of toppings. Fresh basil and bean sprouts add texture, while hoisin sauce creates an even more complex flavor. Finish it off with the tang and spice of lime or jalapeno.
Pho ingredients can be found at most Asian markets for a very affordable price, or a specialty foods store should have everything you need. Here are some notes on a few of the key ingredients:
- Whole chicken – ask your butcher to go ahead and cut it up into pieces for you, or purchase a fryer pack. Make sure it is bone-in and skin-on for maximum flavor.
- Rock sugar – a staple for pho, it can be found in most Asian markets and is irregular lumps of crystalized, refined sugar. It’s not as sweet as granulated sugar so it won’t overpower the broth.
- Fish sauce – fish sauce is now quite easy to find; Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods often carry Red Boat brand, but a lot of other markets routinely carry the brand Thai Kitchen. The fish sauce adds another level of umami and is a key component for this recipe
- Coriander seeds, fennel seeds, cardamom pods, cloves & star anise – these pungent and earthy herbs and spices enhance the flavor with a great blend of spicy sweet.
- Rice noodles – look for narrow rice noodles, the size of linguine or fettuccine. Larger sizes are better suited for stir fry.
Step 1 – You’ll first need to make the homemade chicken stock. To do so, char the ginger and onion on the stove in a foil-wrapped package. Once charred, you should be able to easily peel both.
Step 2 – While the ginger and onion char, toast the spices in a dry skillet to release their fragrance. You can also add a couple of cinnamon sticks for added depth of flavor. Wrap them up in a cheesecloth afterwards.
Step 3 – Cut up the chicken and brown each piece on all sides in a large stock pot or Dutch oven. Work in batches if need be.
Once all pieces are browned, add them all to the pan and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until chicken releases its juices, about 20 minutes.
Step 4 – Increase heat to high; add 3-4 quarts water along with the breast pieces, rock sugar salt, fish sauce, and cheesecloth pouch of spices. Return to simmer, then cover and gently simmer until chicken breasts are cooked and broth is rich and flavorful, about 20 minutes.
Step 5 – Remove all chicken pieces from broth; set aside. When cool enough to handle, remove skin, then remove meat from bones and shred into bite-size pieces.
Using a fine mesh sieve, strain broth; discard onion, ginger, and spice pouch. Add more salt and fish sauce to the broth according to your taste.
Cooking the Noodles
Step 1 – Place the dry noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Soak until the noodles have softened and are pliable.
Step 2 – Cook them in a pot of almost boiling water for about a minute.
Step 3 – Drain the noodles, then assemble your bowls of chicken pho ga!
Pho Ga is a Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup. “Pho” means rice noodles and “ga” means chicken. So let’s put those two together and you get “chicken rice noodle soup.”
Pho Ga is definitely a great healthy soup option. This soup is a great source of protein, but pho ga is also known for reducing inflammation and improving joint health.
Of course as is the case with any dish, portion size is always key to watching calories and sodium intake.
You should be able to have this soup on the table from start to finish, in just under 90 minutes. While it may not be as quick to cook as some other soups, the unique and complex flavors definitely makes the longer cook time worth it!
- Hack Into Those Bones! This allows the rich marrow to transfer into the broth.
- Soak The Noodles In Warm Water first before cooking and adding them to the pho.
- Adjust fish sauce – If you’re new to cooking with fish sauce, you will notice it carries a pungent scent and intense flavor. Add the amount indicated in the recipe, then taste. Add more, for a richer flavor.
- Peel Onions Over A Bowl. Charring the onions and garlic in tin foil makes for quick & easy work, but it can still be a bit mess. I definitely recommend peeling the onions over a bowl.
Traditional pho ga toppings
Pho toppings can vary, but if you are aiming for traditional, then definitely pick up bean sprouts, basil, jalapeno and limes. For added intensity of flavor, don’t forget the sriracha and hoisin sauce as well.
If you need more inspiration, here are our favorite pho garnishes:
- Bean sprouts
- Thai basil
- Sawtooth herb
- Hoisin sauce
- Lime wedges
How to serve pho ga
To serve your Vietnamese chicken noodle soup, first place the noodles in the bowl, then chicken. Add the warm broth, and finally place your garnishes on top.
By adding the noodles before the broth, it can gently work to separate the noodles if they’ve become stuck together.
Serve with a big spoon and a pair of chopsticks or fork. To get both noodles and broth in one mouthful, I usually wind my noodles in my spoon, dip the spoon in to get some broth, and then enjoy. I hope you love this pho ga recipe as much as my family does!
Traditional Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)
- 1 yellow onion , unpeeled
- 1 three-inch piece of ginger , unpeeled
- 2-3 Tbsp oil
- 1 whole free-range chicken (about 4 pounds), breast removed and cut into 4 pieces, remaining chicken cut into 2-inch pieces
- 3-4 quarts water
- 1 inch chunk of rock sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce
- 10-12 cloves
- 1 Tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 Tbsp fennel seeds
- 2-3 cardamom pods
- 4 star anise pods
- 1 package rice noodles (banh pho)
- 1 tsp oil
- pinch of salt
- Bean sprouts
- Thai basil
- Sawtooth herb
- Scallions , thinly sliced (green part only)
- Cilantro , chopped
- Onions , thinly sliced
- Hoisin sauce
- Sriracha chili sauce
- Limes , quartered
To make the broth:
- Wrap the onion and ginger in a large piece of foil. Place directly over open flame on a gas stove and cook for 15 minutes until soft and charred. Turn over at half-way mark. Remove from flame. Once cool, peel both the onion and ginger removing any charred layers. With the onion, trim off the root end then cut into it halfway, as if cutting it in half but still leaving it in tact. Bruise the ginger with the broad side of a cleaver or chef’s knife. Set both aside.
- While cooking the onion and ginger (step 1), toast all the spices (last 5 ingredient items) in a dry pan for 2-3 minutes to release their fragrance and heighten their aroma in the broth. Allow to cool, then wrap in double layer of cheesecloth and tie securely.
- Heat oil in large soup kettle, stock pot or dutch oven. When oil shimmers and just begins to smoke, add the chicken breast pieces; brown on both sides, about 5 minutes total. Remove and set aside.
- Add the remaining chicken pieces to the pot; sauté until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. (Do this in batches if it does not all fit into the pot without overcrowding). Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until chicken releases its juices, about 20 minutes.
- Increase heat to high; add 3-4 quarts water along with the breast pieces, rock sugar salt, fish sauce, and cheesecloth pouch of spices. Return to simmer, then cover and barely simmer until chicken breasts are cooked and broth is rich and flavorful, about 20 minutes.
- Remove all chicken pieces from broth; set aside. When cool enough to handle, remove skin, then remove meat from bones and shred into bite-size pieces; discard skin and bones.
- Using a fine mesh sieve, strain broth; discard onion, ginger, and spice pouch. Add more salt and fish sauce to the broth according to your taste.
To prepare noodles:
- Place the dry noodles in a large bowl and cover it with hot water. Soak for about 10 minutes until the noodles have softened and are pliable. Drain water and rinse noodles until water runs clear. Drain and set aside.
- Fill a large pot with water and heat. Just before it comes to a boil, add oil and salt, then noodles. Turn off heat and stir noodles for 30-60 seconds. Pour noodles into colander and drain. Shake out excess water and toss with chopsticks to prevent clumping.
To assemble your bowl of pho:
- Start with noodles, add the meat on top, then ladle in boiling broth. Condiments are usually Sriracha, chili sauce, and hoisin sauce. Then squeeze a quarter section of lime, add bean sprouts, basil, sawtooth herb, onion slices, scallions, and cilantro.
- Hack Into Those Bones! A few helpful techniques I learned from Mary was to really hack into the bones of the chicken with a knife, allowing the rich marrow to transfer into the broth.
- Soak The Noodles In Warm Water. And soaking my noodles in warm water just a bit, before adding them into my pho.
- Adjust To Your Liking. When we made our batch of Vietnamese pho soup, she was a bit conservative on the fish sauce, not sure how intense I would like my flavor. But I would say you could easily add another 1-2 tbsp to your broth, only to its benefit.
- Peel Onions Over A Bowl. And when heating the roasting the onions, her stovetop foil-wrapped method was nothing short of genius, although it does make a bit of a mess during peeling, so I suggest doing it over a bowl or your sink.