Vietnamese Chicken Phở is comfort food at its best… A warming, flavoursome noodle broth, topped with tender chicken, a selection of carefully paired vegetables, herbs and spice. Gluten free and dairy free.
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Vietnamese Chicken Phở and a desire to travel…
Something a little bit different today… I made Vietnamese Chicken Phở! It’s delicious, so I’m sharing the recipe with you. But it also made me realise how long it’s been since I travelled anywhere… Too long. I love experiencing other countries and cultures… The more different from my own culture the better… And yes… I still pore over each and every treasured passport visa and entry stamp from time to time, to remind myself of how much I have actually seen in my life…
Vietnam is somewhere that’s been on my travel list for years. And with a new stage of life on the horizon (it won’t be long before my daughter heads off to university and retirement beckons), perhaps I can start tentatively planning a trip. And maybe this post is the start of my getting there…
What is Vietnamese Phở?
Phở (pronounced ‘fuh’) is a Vietnamese soup which is made with spiced broth and rice noodles at the base… piled with meat and a variety of veg toppings, herbs and optional Asian sauces. It’s healthy and warming and (in my opinion) the ultimate bowl of comfort.
Phở is (surprisingly) a relatively recent addition to the culinary delights of Vietnam (only becoming popular in the 1950’s). However, it is now considered to be the country’s national dish. It’s popular both as street and restaurant food and is also made fresh at home. And is enjoyed all day… including as a perfect breakfast!
Although traditionally made with beef, Phở is also popular with chicken, prawns or as a vegetarian dish.
The process for making Vietnamese Chicken Phở
My recipe for Vietnamese Chicken Phở is really straightforward. Even better, the broth base can be made ahead of time, meaning you have a super-quick meal ready in minutes. Here’s how it works…
- Dry fry the spices to release the flavour. Set aside.
- Fry the ‘aromatics’ (onions and ginger) for a couple of minutes, to char and enhance.
- Pop the spices, broth ingredients and chicken back in the pan and simmer for about 40 minutes before removing the chicken and draining the broth of ‘bits’.
- When ready to serve… Heat up the broth… Cook the noodles (less than 5 minutes)… Top with the chicken, veg, herbs etc and enjoy.
Although the ingredients are naturally gluten free, double-check the labels for hidden gluten and risk from cross-contamination… The most likely suspects are the noodles (be sure they are specifically rice noodles); Fish sauce (although I have yet to find one that has been a problem); soy or other sauces for topping.
Why Vietnam?… It’s not just about Chicken Phở
It’s not just my love of Chicken Phở (or Asian food in general) that pulls me towards Vietnam. I simply love visiting places with a complex history and rich heritage. From Cuba to East Berlin (when the wall was still up)… Egypt to Russia (before Putin came to power)… Over the years, these places have fascinated me… The landscapes, politics, history and cultures. Honestly… it’s not just the hopes of another visa… (yeah… I used to love ‘collecting’ them 😂). But joking aside…
Vietnam is one of those places that allures… A long, narrow country located in Southeast Asia with a border stretching 4,550 km from China in the North, past Laos and Cambodia on one side and the South China Sea on the other. From mountains and beaches, to incredible cities and vast swathes of rural simplicity. It’s also one of the world’s last Communist states… A political fascination in itself. And with its history of French colonialism and still fresh in the memory American occupation, the influences on its culture (not to mention food) add to the intrigue.
A traveller or a tourist?
Whether we define ourselves as travellers or tourists is a subjective thing. I absolutely count myself as a traveller. The prospect of an all-inclusive sitting on a beach fills me with dread… It’s essential (for me) to immerse myself in the local culture and community… To be with the people, eating authentic local food and experiencing their way of life.
Getting off the beaten track is part of that experience… And Vietnam offers countless opportunities. Top of my list?
- Experiencing the craziness of Asian city life… whether Hanoi in the North or Ho Chi Minh City in the south and all they have to offer… Both the back streets and more frequented tourist sites.
- Visit the vast food basket and farmlands of the fertile Mekong Delta.
- Seek out as much safe gluten free street food as I can… And yes… that includes experiencing plenty of Vietnamese Chicken Phở at source.
- Explore the cobbled streets and colourful architecture of Hội An (a UNESCO world heritage site).
- Discover hidden hill tribes while trekking in the mountains of North Vietnam.
- Visit the white sand dunes desert of Hòa Thắng.
- Try out fishing with a traditional cast net in the Thu Bon River Delta.
Coeliac eating in Vietnam… How easy will it be?
Whenever I travel anywhere, I do an extraordinary amount of thinking about where I will eat… Being Coeliac, it can become a bit of a focus to know that when reaching a destination, there will be plenty of local delicacies that are SAFE to eat.
But I’m also a serious foodie… And while I could just pack my suitcase with safe ‘packet’ fodder from home, I’m never satisfied unless I get to enjoy food that is truly local and culturally genuine. So I go out of my way to research it and then hunt it down. It’s a rule… ‘Know what the locals eat before you travel!’ And I always start with a lengthy google search.
So what have I found out about eating gluten free in Vietnam (other than Chicken Phở)?
Much as I could happily live on Chicken Phở for an entire trip, there is evidently so much more great gluten free food to experience in Vietnam. From snacks wrapped in rice paper rolls and rice crepes… Or bowls of tapioca and rice noodles… To the freshest of seafood and tastiest of seasoned grilled meats.
And when starting any search for safe gluten free food, you can guarantee that someone else has been there before. As I have yet to experience Vietnam directly, I’ve searched out the most helpful and informative guides as a start point.
- From Legal Nomads, I found a great gluten free guide to Vietnamese food and an amazing guide to Saigon Street Food.
- There are also some lovely finds over at the Diary of a Middle-Aged Back Packer.
Wherever you travel though… I always recommend carrying a Coeliac explanation card in the language of the country being visited. It’s an essential tool for gluten free safety and as important as making sure you have the right visa and travel documents. Here’s the link for the Vietnamese Coeliac Restaurant Card. And my advice and tips on Travelling Gluten Free.
Do I need a Visa to travel to Vietnam?
The answer to this question depends on where in the world you come from and how long you intend to stay. Currently, British passport holders (and a number of European nationals) can visit the country for up to 15 days without a visa… After that, a visa extension is required. As a country with so much to offer, I’m definitely considering 3+ weeks.
A tourist visa is required for citizens of America, Canada and Australia, regardless of the length of stay.
It’s easiest to apply for a Visa for Vietnam online ahead of the trip. You can apply for an e-visa using an online application form (which I use when I travel). If unsure how to go about it, you can watch this handy video.
And so to Vietnamese Chicken Phở…
My Vietnamese Chicken Phở needs no bells and whistles. No fancy explanations… It may be ‘exotic’, but it’s a straightforward dish. The recipe I have shared is the simplest process I can create that nonetheless stays true and authentic.
The broth can be made in about 45 minutes… (and well ahead of time). After this, you just need to cook the rice noodles before assembling the Phở in individual bowls.
We have lots more travel-inspired recipes on the blog. From Greek Baked Feta… to Fish Bolognese from the Maldives and even Japanese Fried Tofu. Why not check them out? Or for all our other recipes, our main Gluten Free Recipe Index is the place to start…
Happy Cooking and Safe Travelling
Vietnamese Chicken Phở – An Easy Recipe
- chopping board
- sharp vegetable knife
- large saucepan with lid
- serving bowls
- 1½ tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 pods star anise
- 2 onions peeled and halved
- 30 g fresh ginger chopped into chunks
- 2 to 3 tsp sunflower oil
- 1 kg chicken thighs bone in and skin on (6 large thighs)
- 1½ litre boiling water
- 2 tbsp Asian fish sauce
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- 400 g flat rice noodles (Phở noodles)
- 3 spring onions trimmed and cut into thirds – Shred or chop the green parts. Leave the white parts in lengths.
- 250 g bean sprouts approx weight
- 20 g fresh coriander leaves and/or Thai basil
- 2 red chillies finely sliced
- 1 red onion finely sliced
- 150 g mange tout trimmed
- 2 lemon or lime cut into 6 wedges
- Sriracha (hot chilli sauce); or Tamari (gluten free soy sauce); or Hoisin sauce (check gluten free)
Spices – first
- Heat a dry pan until hot, then add all the spices.
- Fry off until lightly browned and aromatic.
- Remove the spices from the pan and set aside.
- In the pot that you intend to cook the Phở (a very large saucepan), heat the oil until hot.
- Place the onions flat side down in the pan and scatter the ginger. Fry for 3 to 5 minutes until the underside is charred.
- Turn the onion and ginger over and continue to fry to char the other side.
- Add all the broth ingredients to the pot with the aromatics and the browned spices.
- Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer.
- Simmer (with the lid on, open a crack to let out steam) for about 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked and tender.
- Once cooked, remove the chicken from the broth and set aside (covered with foil). Leave the skin on until ready to eat, to keep the chicken moist.
- Strain the broth into a clean pan and discard the onion/ginger/spice remnants. The broth should be at a volume of about 1⅓ litres. If significantly more than this, simmer for a little longer, to reduce. If it is much less, add a drop of boiling water.
- Taste the broth for saltiness and adjust if necessary.
- Set the broth aside with the lid on.
Assembling the Phở and cooking the noodles
- When ready to eat, re-heat the broth (if necessary).
- Remove and discard the skin and bones from the chicken.
- Shred or slice the chicken into pieces ready to serve.
- Cook the noodles as per packet instructions and then drain well.
- Immediately portion the noodles into serving bowls.
- Arrange the chicken on top of the noodles and ladle on the broth so that the chicken is almost covered.
- Arrange or sprinkle with toppings (of choice) and serve. (Or place bowls of toppings at the table for people to help themselves).
- For authenticity, serve in Asian bowls with wooden spoons and chopsticks.
© 2019-2023 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist
Vietnamese Chicken Phở shared with
- Fiesta Friday #465 with Angie
- What’s For Dinner #400 with The Lazy Gastronome
- Full Plate Thursday #622 with Miz Helen’s Country Cottage