Thursday 8 March 2012

Phở Good

Vietnamese is the new Thai.  Restaurants such as Pho Cafe and Bahn Mi 11 are popping up everywhere. With their use of lots of fresh vegetables and herbs, the food is somehow even cleaner, fresher and zingyer than Thai.  From the Goi Cuon (Summer Rolls), which are like a salad, rolled up in rice paper to the" Pho", Vietnam's national dish, a delicious broth with flat rice noodles,  flavoured with spices and finished with loads of fresh herbs and chilli, it is all really exciting and vibrant.  

Phở (actually pronounced fuh) is traditionally a beef based broth made with left over bones including leg bones with plenty of marrow, charred onion, charred ginger and spices including cinnamonstar aniseblack cardamomcoriander seed, fennel seed, and clove. The broth takes a few hours to cook and is finally served with lots of accompaniments including flank steak, beansprouts, spring onions, fresh coriander, mint, Thai basil, fresh chillis and finally, a squeeze of lime.  These garnishes are added by the dinner, which is what keeps the whole dish so fresh and lively. The Vietnamese are also fond of adding the famous "Rooster Sauce" (to use it's more polite name), to their Pho, as well as Hoi Sin Sauce which seems a bit of a shame considering the lengths they go to to make their super tasty stock. But what really attracted me to this dish in particular is that it was so good at using up left-over bones.  Roast chicken is a family favourite in our house. A good medium free-range bird is about £5.00 and can still feed my family, with two smallish kids, very generously.  But the thought of getting another meal out of the scraps, always makes me happy.  My mother of course, would have religiously made Chicken Soup with any left-overs and don't get me wrong, nothing can beat it, but sometimes you fancy a change.  

Every culture seems to have a variation on making the most of an expensive luxury, such as meat and in our current situation of economic downturn many of us are looking at ways to make the pennies go further.  With a hint of spring in the air, I am pining for cleaner, fresher flavours but still needing a damn good kick of heat to warm me up, in this somewhat bracing start to March and take my word for it, nothing is more perfect than Pho.

Phở Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)
Makes enough for 4
1 left over organic free-range chicken carcass plus any bones
1 large onion peeled and cut in quarters
1 large head of garlic, cut in half
Very large knob of fresh ginger, sliced in half lengthwise
roots and stems of 1 bunch of coriander
2 whole star anise
8 cloves
1 stick of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
3 Black cardamon pods
1 teaspoon palm sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
salt (or to taste)

for serving
16 ounces dried phở noodles
4 spring onions, chopped
Large handful of beansprouts
Coriander, freshly chopped
Mint, freshly chopped
Thai Basil, freshly chopped
Fresh Red and Green Chillis

Sriracha hot chili sauce
Hoisin sauce (optional)

Pick of all the nice bits of meat from your chicken and shred it up. Put into the fridge. Place the onion, garlic and ginger in a roasting tray and put under a full grill, turning often. You want the surface to be partly blackened as it adds a wonderful smoky flavor to the soup without making it bitter.  Just before they are ready, add all your spices and toast lightly.  Place the chicken bones into a large saucepan.  (You can use a slow-cooker set for 8 hours on slow). Add all the other ingredients for the soup around the chicken. Add water until the top of the bones are just covered. Bring to a boil over high heat. When the water comes to a boil turn right down and cook very slowly for 3 hours. Soak the dried pho noodles in warm water for about 30 minutes to rehydrate them. Chop up your condiments and have them ready. When your broth is done, strain it through a fine mesh sieve and skim off any excess fat. Taste the soup, add more fish sauce if necessary and then check for salt. Add more as necessary.

Drain the noodles and add them to the hot soup. Split the noodles between 4 bowls and top with the chicken and then ladle on the hot broth.

Serve this all the accompaniments and everybody just helps themselves.


Tales of Pigling Bland is hosting Fuss Free Flavours' "Frugal Food Fridays" this month.  I thought this was a perfect recipe.

Being so green, I thought it fitting for an entry at Very Good Recipes for a Saint-Patrick's Day Challenge.


  1. It does sound and look so clean and fresh. I have not yet tried any Vietnamese dish - but this looks like a good place to start.

  2. that sounds lovely! I'm in london now but I grew up in southeast asia, and noodle broths like this are a big part of my meals. and it may sound a tad exotic to some, but because I love cooking with flavours from home, I have all these in my kitchen now. minus the chicken, but that can be easily remedied (:


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