Food - Vietnam - Pho Ga

Man, man, man. This is about the best that local cuisine has to offer. Everything, absolutely everything about this dish is perfect. The flavours make total sense, the colours are perfectly matched, the fragrance is overwhelming... And did I mention the healing properties of this soup? Heart and soul-warming.

The very first thing I ate in Vietnam was pho. And mine was a pho ga. And it couldn’t have been a better choice.

Scooped out of a mega casserole dish, served in a giant bowl with a spoon and chopsticks, eaten while sitting on one of those many plastic mini-chairs, at a curb in Hanoi. Life's good... life's good!

I have many pictures of myself while eating in Vietnam (obviously), but none with pho. So, instead, here’s one of a curb and a mini chair ...

I won’t lie: making a good pho is hard work but it is a very rewarding job, so... take some time and do it! The recipe below is for pho go (go = chicken).

What you need:
  • For the broth:
    • 1 chicken, skin and bone, and some chicken wings and chicken feet
    • salt and peppercorns
    • 100g ginger
    • rice noodles
  • For the garnish:
    • fresh coriander, roughly chopped
    • fresh mint and/or basil, roughly chopped
    • 3 spring onions, chopped
    • 100g bean sprouts
    • the holy trinity: hoi sin sauce (sweet!), 3 chilli peppers, chopped (spicy!) 6 lime wedges, unpeeled (sour!), fish sauce (salty!)

How to make it:
  • The broth: put the chicken in a pot and bring to a boil with about 2 litres of water. Add peppercorns and salt. Turn the heat to low and let it simmer softly. Scoop off foam occasionally so the broth remains clear. Also add half the ginger (thick slices).
  • Finely chop the rest of the ginger; this will be part of the garnish.
  • In the meantime, soak the rice noodles (follow the instructions on the package for the exact time) and set aside. Don’t overcook them.
  • After about 40 minutes, the chicken should be cooked (depending on the size of course). How to check: Remove the chicken from the bowl and jab the leg. If clear juice comes out, the chicken is done. Set aside to cool. If you have more time, leave the chicken for a few hours, this will improve the flavour.
  • Scoop off the fat that floats on the broth and pour it over the finely chopped ginger. Allow to penetrate. Excellent for the flavour! This will be part of the garnish.
  • Strain the broth, bring to a boil and scoop off foam again if necessary.
  • We’re almost there; ready to finish off.
  • Briefly dip your noodles in the broth (with a sieve for instance) to warm them up. 
  • Take a large soup bowl and add some chicken meat and put the noodles on top. Fill the bowl with the hot broth. Finish with a spoonful of that blissful ginger mix.
  • Serve with garnish in separate bowls so everyone can create their own piece of heaven!

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