Famous around the world, pho is a traditional and typical dish of Vietnamese cuisine with a variation called chicken pho which has been around since the late 1930s. Though less well-known to international friends than beef pho, pho with chicken is still one of the special dishes of Hanoi in particular and Vietnam in general.
I - What is Chicken Pho?
Usually used for breakfast or as a light meal late at night, pho with chicken is a type of noodle dish with the main ingredients being pho, broth, and thinly sliced chicken. In addition to the spices that have been added from the broth-making stage such as cinnamon, coriander, star anise, and so on, when eating Vietnamese chicken pho noodle soup, you can also add sauces, pepper, lemon, chili depending or crunchy fried stick breadon your taste. In Southern Vietnam or a few other provinces, pho is served with some raw vegetables including basil or cilantro, unlike in Hanoi the vegetables would be put into the bowl of pho beforehand.
A chicken pho bowl with eye-catching color - Source: Noiphodienbinhduong.com
In addition to the white color of the pho and the bright yellow color of the chicken, a delicious bowl of “pho ga” is also adorned with the green color of green onions and the sparkles of the chicken pho broth. It is rich, clear, and carries a gentle taste, which blends perfectly with the sweet and fluffy rice noodles, and the chewy, crispy and fragrant chicken pieces, bringing a mouth-watering taste that is hard to describe.
One of the main ingredients is the white rice noodles, which are tough and flexible, with a soft and sweet taste. Normally, the chicken pho noodles are more than 20cm long, quite similar to the noodles in other dishes but flattened about 1.5mm thick, 3 - 4mm wide. After being carefully selected, the rice is soaked in water for a period of 4-5 hours, then taken out to dry and milled in a stone mortar. People create a mixture of rice flour and water, diluted and steamed into pieces, which after drying will be cut with a rolling pin into fibers.
Choosing the right type of chicken for pho is another important part to determine the quality of a delicious bowl of chicken pho, as it is also used in the broth-making process. Usually, pullets or pregnant hens will give soft and sweet meat, not dry like roosters meat, and raw meat is also of course better than frozen. After being boiled, the chicken is cut into bite-sized pieces and shredded, while the chicken bones are left to cook the chicken broth for pho.
Travelers are enjoying Vietnamese chicken pho - Source: VnExpress
The broth is the most important part to make this dish delicious. The traditional broth is to be simmered from chicken bones, helping the sweet part of the bones secrete slowly and create a richer taste. Different cooks and shops have their own secret chicken pho recipes, but in general, there are spices such as ginger, star anise, coriander, cinnamon, green onions,... During the broth-cooking time, you must also constantly skim off the foam to keep the pho broth clear.
In order to increase the quantity of noodles and reduce the effort of the workers, many places have now used automatic production lines or mini-making machines. But at some chicken pho restaurants or regions, people still use the traditional method to make rice noodles. Many families nowadays quite love the instant pot, also known as the pressure cooker pho because it doesn't take too long to cook this dish like the traditional way. In addition, on the market, you can also find instant pho packages, a product born based on the idea of instant noodles.
II - The chicken pho calories & nutrition facts
Below is a table of the nutritional ingredients of a bowl of Vietnamese pho ga in general, depending on different restaurants and recipes, the data will be different:
As you can see in the table above, the calories in chicken pho noodle soup are 343kcal, but some bowls with different ingredients and processes can go up to more than 480kcal. Meanwhile, according to the calorie table from the Vietnam Institute of Nutrition, the calories in instant chicken pho are 342kcal. In fact, that number on instant pho ga packages is much less, for example, De Nhat brand's public calorie count for their product is only 239kcal.
De Nhat instant pho - a famous brand in Vietnam - Source: Youtube
According to the data of the Vietnam Institute of Nutrition, the calories in beef pho are only 291kcal, much less than that in a bowl of chicken pho. Although each restaurant will use different amounts of ingredients such as rice noodles and meat, making the figures greatly fluctuate, in general, Vietnamese pho ga will load you with more calories. So, if you really want to eat this dish, you can add vegetables, reduce rice noodles, or exercise after eating to reduce the excess calories.
III - The authentic Vietnamese chicken pho recipes
There are so many different recipes in Vietnam that we can't list them all but only choose one, which is enough for 4 - 6 people to eat.
1 - Prepare the pho ga ingredients
- Chicken: 1 chicken (about 1.5 - 2kg)
- Rice noodles (dry or fresh): 1kg
- Ginger: 1 piece
- Onion: 1 piece
- Chicken pho spices: salt, pepper, monosodium glutamate, soup powder, rock sugar, fish sauce
- Dried onions: 5 pieces
- Cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, coriander seeds or coriander
- Green onions, cilantro, bean sprouts, basil, scallion, lemon leaves, chili
2 - #5 steps to make the best chicken pho
Indispensable ingredients to make pho ga - Source: VnExpress
Step 1: Prepare ingredients
- Use salt and ginger to rub inside and outside of the chicken, then wash it to remove odors.
- Wash the herbs and ingredients then let them dry.
- Grill ginger and onion until fragrant and then scrape off the burnt cover outside. Then the ginger is pounded and chopped, while the onion is sliced thin and big.
- Roast the cinnamon, star anise, cardamom, coriander seeds (coriander) to make the chicken pho broth
- Finely chop scallions, coriander, cilantro, and thinly sliced lemon leaves.
Step 2: Boil the chicken for pho
- Put the chicken in the pot and fill it with water, then put the scallion, red onion, and grilled ginger in the pot, add a little salt. Turn on the stove, lower the heat when the water boils and cook for about 15 minutes. Remember to remove the foam to clear the pho ga broth.
- After it has cooled, take out the chicken and cut or shred it into pieces while the filtered chicken bones are put back into the pot of water.
Step 3: Cook the chicken broth for pho
- Put the roasted ingredients for chicken pho and coriander into a thin cloth bag then tie the bag tightly, drop it into the pot of water.
- Add more water to the pot if needed, seasoning and tasting it to achieve the desired flavor.
- Cook with low heat for about 2 hours, gradually remove the ingredients while continuously removing the foam. In many Vietnamese chicken pho recipes, it is advised that you should strain the broth through a sieve or a thin cloth at the 1-hour mark, and then boil it on the stove again.
Step 4: Blanch the rice noodles
- If using a dry rice noodle package, before blanching, soak it for a while so that the rice noodle is soft, fresh, and not dry or sticky.
- If using fresh rice noodles for chicken pho, you just need to boil water, then blanch the noodles and drain them.
Step 5: Present and enjoy
- Put a sufficient amount of pho in a bowl, arrange chicken, bean sprouts, herbs, scallions, etc. and then add hot broth.
- Add a few strands of lemon leaves and a few slices of fresh chili if you like it spicy.
Seems like a dish that takes a lot of work, but actually making a bowl of Vietnamese pho ga is extremely simple. The eye-catching, delicious, and warm chicken pho is always a favorite breakfast of many people, especially on chilly days. If you have the opportunity to travel to Vietnam, you should not miss trying this unique Vietnamese dish.