Daring Cooks Challenge: Vietnamese Pho

Vietnamese Pho

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

Whee! What a great excuse to make chicken stock! The details of that are in another post, but what I wound up with were 3 quarts of dark amber roasted chicken goodness. Good stock is essential as pho is very simple though endlessly variable.

Pho Accompaniments

I haven't had much from Southeast Asia and I've never had pho from a Vietnamese cafe, only from American cafes. We do have a "Little Saigon", so to speak, in Salt Lake, but honestly, I haven't had much occasion to trek down there and try the establishments. But, I did stop at a little market there a while back and picked up some rice stick noodles for some future dish -- looks like it was my lucky day to mix 'em up!

My homemade chicken stock, like all of my stocks, was very lightly salted, almost to the point of being unsalted. I do this because if I want to reduce one of my stocks for a sauce, I don't want it to be oversalted at the end. It also gives me more room to play with how I want that salt to be added. In this case, I opted for soy sauce to bring the needed salt and add a bit more flavor.

I'll be honest, though. I didn't have high hopes for this recipe at first. You see, it combines two flavors my husband absolutely hates: ginger and anise. He was a good sport about it and willing to try it. I promised him a pizza if he hated it (he demurred and said he'd cook something up for himself if he couldn't eat it). But when I tasted the broth, it didn't taste overwhelmingly gingery. It tasted really good -- which my husband confirmed!


When all was said and done and served, the verdict was as follows: Without reservation, this is fantastic and absolutely worth making. I will make this again. My husband wants me to make the broth again soon so that he can have it to drink with buljona pīrādziņi! He loved it! I loved it too -- it's a very clean, rich and intensely flavorful broth. (I will, however, take partial credit for this, as the broth was based off of a homemade chicken stock.)

We weren't given much license to play around with this, though I still managed a few little tweaks. :) I admit I didn't use anywhere near the quantity of noodles she called for because there's just only so many noodles I can handle.

Rice Noodles

The other half of the challenge, where we had full rein to play will be posted shortly.

Vietnamese Pho [printable recipe]

Courtesy of Jaden of the Steamy Kitchen
Serves 4

For the Chicken Pho Broth:

  • 2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) chicken stock
  • 1 whole boneless chicken breast
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 200 grams dried rice noodles (about 1/4 inch/6 mm wide)


  • 2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
  • Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems), finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams/~2 ounces) shaved red onions
  • 1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
  • Sriracha chili sauce or chili-garlic sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice

To make the Chicken Pho Broth:

Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately remove. Add the chicken and lightly brown it.

In a large pot, add the chicken, stock, spices, onion, ginger, sugar, soy sauce and fish sauce, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming if necessary. Taste.

Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.

Cook the noodles by package directions. Mine asked for 3 minutes in boiling water, which was pretty darn easy, so I put the broth back on the heat and boiled my noodles in there. (Why make more dishes?)

Ladle the broth into bowls then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.

Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.