Chicken Pho

Kanchan KoyaBy Spice Spice Baby  , , , , ,

February 20, 2016

It was during my first trip to Vietnam in 2014 that I saw star anise in all its glory, proudly displayed in restaurants, at pho street carts and local spice markets. Star anise is the distinctly Vietnamese aromatic that makes the classic noodle soup dish known as pho what it is (pronounced "fuh" like "huh"). I have modified the classic to make a kid-friendly version that's also perfect for the family table.

  • Yields: Serves a family of 4


NOTE: Quercetin is a beneficial compound found in the outer layers of red onion. When peeling, try not to remove any layers beyond the thin skin!

250 g (about 1/2 lb chicken), preferably thigh or leg on bone

1 medium red onion, quartered

1 inch ginger root thinly sliced

2 star anise

1/2 teaspoon white coriander seeds (optional)

8 cups water

4 fistfulls rice or buckwheat noodles

1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional)

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

salt to taste

1 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro (optional)

1 lime quartered (optional)


In a small skillet or non-stick pan, dry roast the star anise and coriander for 30-60 seconds on medium heat until aromatic but not burnt.

Place the spices, chicken, onion, ginger, and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium for a gentle simmer. Skim the foam as it arises checking every 20 minutes for more foam. Allow the broth to simmer for 1 hour.

Once the broth has been simmering for 50 minutes, remove the chicken pieces using tongs. Shred the meat off the bone and set aside.

Cook the noodles in salted boiling water. Drain and set aside.

Add the fish sauce to the broth and salt to taste. Strain the broth into a fresh pot.

Ladle the broth into serving bowls. Add noodles and some chicken. Serve with lime and cilantro on the side and steamed broccoli for the perfect, balanced kid-friendly family meal.

Science Corner 
Shikimic acid from star anise is the starting material for the pharmaceutical industry's most successful anti-viral drug, Tamiflu. Shikimic acid when combined with the natural compound quercetin is a potent anti-viral. I took star anise and ginger as sources of shikimic acid and combined them with red onions that are a rich source of quercetin to make a chicken broth for our pho that is an anti-viral powerhouse and delicious to boot.

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