If you follow Swoon Food on Instagram you’ll know we recently went to Vietnam for our honeymoon. When friends ask what the best thing about Vietnam was it’s been hard to choose just one thing. Vietnam is steeped in culture with beautiful architectural buildings and houses, it has a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites including Halong bay which was absolutely breathtaking (despite the shocking amount of plastic floating in the water). The weather is lovely and hot and even though it was rainy season it mostly only rained at night, leaving lots of time to enjoy the beaches and lush tropical foliage.
But when we thought about it we kept coming back to the food. We had so many amazing meals and the food was consistently good no matter where you ate, not to mention very friendly on the wallet if you dined at local restaurants rather than hotels. Vietnamese cuisine is very fresh, vibrant, and full of flavour, and I love how they manage to incorporate fresh herbs into almost every dish.
One of the most famous Vietnamese dishes is their Pho (pronounced “fuh”, like “duh”, although somehow I never seemed to get it right given the confused expressions I received). Pho is essentially a very flavoursome clear soup served with flat rice noodles, slices of chicken (ga) or beef (bo), spring onions, bean sprouts, fresh herbs, chilli’s and lime. It’s a dish eaten anytime of the day in Vietnam, including breakfast, and the flavour differs slightly depending on the region.
The traditional way of making Pho is quite involved. A stock or broth is made from scratch using raw chicken or beef bones which must be parboiled first in order to achieve a clear broth. Onions, ginger, fish sauce, sugar, salt, herbs & spices are then added and the broth is cooked for a couple more hours, strained, and ideally left overnight for the fat to solidify so it can easily be removed the next day.
I realised pho was essentially another version of bone broth which has become very popular in the western world recently. Bone broth has been said to be a rich source of gelatine (the cooked form of collagen), and collagen makes up almost one-third of all the protein in our bodies. Traditionally, people would get a lot of gelatine in their diet through eating all parts of an animal, cooking in animal fat and drinking bone broths. Modern lifestyles have meant a reduction in the amount of gelatine in the western diet, especially if you’re vegetarian or vegan, and unfortunately the gelatine in marshmallows and gummy bears is counteracted by all the sugar and other additives.
Cooking a pho in the traditional way, however, doesn’t really appeal, and is quite time consuming. So I have created a more time friendly recipe using a store-bought organic, free range chicken broth. When choosing store-bought broth make sure you choose a quality one made with real chicken as opposed to stock cubes, no added sugar, and low in sodium so that you can control the amount of salt added.
This pho recipe doesn’t contain any added sugar or fish sauce (which also contains sugar) and I swapped out rice noodles for zucchini noodles because they contain a heap more nutrients and fibre! Another great option if you’re looking to reduce your refined carbohydrate intake would be bean thread or glass noodles, but it’s entirely up to you which option you take. If you’re a traditionalist by all means add the fish sauce and use rice noodles.
A big batch of this chicken pho with zoodles will usually do for one dinner and a couple of lunches. Just be just be sure to reheat it well each time before serving, and always add the fresh herbs and sprouts etc to your bowl at the end to ensure they stay lovely and vibrant.
And that is my easy Chicken Pho (Ga) recipe with zoodles. I hope you enjoy this simple soup as much as we do, and please pass it on to anyone else you think will love it too. Enjoy.
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Chicken Pho (Pho Ga) with Zoodles
Makes: Approximately 6 bowls
Prep time: 30 minutes Cook time: 30 minutes
1L Organic free range chicken broth (no sugar added/low sodium)
1L filtered water
2 brown onions, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 x 10cm piece ginger, finely sliced or grated with a microplane
2 free range chicken breasts, thinly sliced
himalayan pink salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 large zucchini, spiralised into noodles (or 1 packet bean thread/glass noodles, soaked in water for 15 minutes)
1 bunch spring onions, finely sliced
2 cups bean sprouts
1 handful fresh coriander
1 handful fresh mint leaves
4 limes, cut into quarters
1 red chilli, finely sliced (optional)
Place the chicken broth, water, onions, garlic and ginger into a large pot and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer and add the chicken slices. Add salt and pepper, I usually start with around 1 teaspoon of himalayan salt and a good grinding of pepper. When the chicken has turned white and opaque i.e. is cooked, taste the broth for flavour and adjust the salt and pepper. When you’re happy with the flavour add the zucchini or bean thread noodles and let simmer for a few minutes, before turning off the heat.
To serve, ladle the broth into serving bowls making sure each has a good portion of sliced chicken and noodles. Place a portion of bean sprouts into each bowl, followed by a sprinkling of spring onions, and top with fresh herbs. Serve the sliced chillies and lime on the side for people to add as they wish.
Store any leftover chicken pho in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 5 days. Be sure to heat it to a simmer before serving again and add fresh bean sprouts, spring onions and herbs to the bowls each time.
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