Pho is all about the broth, so you’ll need to start with a flavourful homemade chicken (or beef) stock. (Boxed or canned stock will not do this soup justice.)

Fresh rice noodles, available at Asian markets*, are a revelation! They have just the right texture and only need to be warmed in the hot broth. Don’t be tempted to omit the fish sauce; it provides a complex savoury flavour that’s essential to pho and many other Vietnamese dishes, including the recipes below. Fish sauce won’t make your pho taste fishy (despite its funky smell), and it lasts for ages in the refrigerator. I use Golden Boy brand.

Serve pho with chopsticks and spoons. Invite guests to first taste the aromatic broth before adding a spritz of fresh lime juice and a heap of sprouts, torn lettuce, and herbs. Mix the greens with chopsticks, then season to taste as desired with additional chili peppers, hoisin sauce, chili sauce, and crispy shallots.  

* Fairway Markets, in Victoria BC, has a great selection of Asian ingredients.

Chicken Pho

Serves 4 to 6


■ 2 boneless chicken breasts, skin removed
■ 8 cups homemade unsalted chicken (or beef) stock
■ 1/2 onion, sliced in two
■ 1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled
■ 2 star anise
■ 1 cinnamon stick, about 3 inches
■ 2 cloves
■ 1 tsp sugar
■ 2 tsp kosher salt (omit if stock is salted)
■ 2 tsp fish sauce
■ 1 package 19.3 oz (550 g) fresh rice noodles (or more as desired)

Garnishes & Condiments

■ 4 green onions, thinly sliced
■ 2 limes, sliced
■ 2 cups fresh bean sprouts
■ 1 bunch fresh mint
■ 1 bunch fresh cilantro
■ 1 bunch Thai basil
■ 4-5 leaves crisp romaine lettuce
■ 1 Thai chili, thinly sliced  
■ 2 Tbsp chili sauce, such as sriracha  
■ 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce  
■ 3/4 cup fried shallots, optional (see recipe below)

Cooking Instructions

Bring the chicken breasts to room temperature.

In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer.

Heat a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Place the onion and ginger in the dry pan until charred, turning them as necessary to ensure they are coloured on all sides. Add the star anise, cinnamon, and cloves, and cook until just fragrant, about a minute or two. Transfer the onion, ginger, and spices to the stock. Add the sugar, salt, and fish sauce. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste to check the seasoning, adding additional salt, if necessary.  

Use a slotted spoon or small sieve to remove and discard the onion, ginger, and spices.

Place the chicken in the simmering stock and gently poach until barely cooked, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil. (The residual heat will continue to cook the chicken.) When ready to serve, thinly slice the chicken against the grain.  (If the chicken is still pink in the centre, return the slices to the simmering stock until no pink remains.)

When ready to serve, pull apart the fresh noodles and, working in batches, place them in a small colander or sieve and submerge them in the simmering stock until warmed through. (You need to remove them quickly, otherwise they’ll fall apart.)  Distribute the noodles between the bowls, top with sliced chicken, and ladle stock over the top. Top with sliced green onions and allow guests to help themselves to fresh garnishes.

Crispy Shallots

Makes about ¾ cup. Can be made up to three days in advance.


■ 1 cup thinly sliced shallots, about 2-3 large
■ 3/4 tsp kosher salt
■ Vegetable oil for frying

Cooking Instructions

Spread the onions in a single layer on a paper towel. Sprinkle with the salt and leave for about an hour or longer. Blot the onions dry with a clean paper towel. You need to remove all the moisture before frying the shallots, otherwise they won’t crisp.

Heat about an inch of oil in a small saucepan. Place a slice of shallot in the oil to check the temperature—the oil should bubble when the shallot is added. Working in two batches so as not to crowd the pan, add the shallots. Cook until just browned, then quickly remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a clean paper towel.

If the shallots are not completely crisp, transfer to a parchment-lined baking tray and dry in a low oven (175ºF) until crisp, about 30 minutes.

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