Fall is for Pho


Make a bowl of pho with the recipe below or enjoy a bowl from Lotus Cafe this fall.


With the arrival of the recent cold front, and the first true feelings of fall, I find myself drawn toward the cozier of creature comforts. Those dishes that can warm my house and my belly are particularly appetizing this time of year.

Unfortunately, fall has also been riddled with a “back to school” feeling my entire life. Though I am many years out of school and without children of my own, this time of year inevitably feels busy. There are appointments to make, holidays to plan for, organizing to do and summer clothes to put away for the long winter.

For these reasons, I am attracted to meals that are not only hearty but quick to prepare and light on my checkbook. Soups, it seems, have fit this bill recently, and with a pot on the stove for a cool evening, along with some crusty bread, I’m a happy camper.

I will be the first to admit, however, that I am ordinarily not soup’s biggest fan. Sure, I like it dressed up with some gooey grilled cheese, or on a freezing cold night, but I’m pickier than I should be when it comes to what goes in the pot.

I prefer a textured soup: chili, stew, minestrone or a noodle soup, and possibly credited to my time spent in Southeast Asia, I particularly love a steamy bowl of pho. Though a little time-intensive to make on a weeknight, I’ve found pho easy enough to prepare for a Sunday night feast. Once you’ve pulled the ingredients for the broth together, it really just needs to sit on your stove for a few hours, building flavor while you relax by a fire or read your book.

I have shared a recipe that works for me below and hope that you’ll give it a try one of these chilly weekends. When time is not on my side, however, and a bowl of noodle soup is just what the doctor ordered, you can find me, wrapped in a scarf, slurping down the delicious pho at Lotus Cafe. Their intoxicating five-spice broth is balanced and rich and filled to the brim with perfectly cooked rice noodles. Served as a vegetarian option for $11 or with beef, chicken, fish, tofu or tempeh for $15, the dish is served with traditional accompaniments: mung bean sprouts, thin-sliced white onion, green onion, lime, chile, and fresh basil, mint and cilantro. Lotus also serves their pho with the creative addition of a house-made hoisin sauce.

Dig in at Lotus, or try the recipe below. Happy fall!

Chicken Pho (Vietnamese Rice Noodle Soup)


  • Makes 16 cups of broth (serves 6-8 people)
  • Ingredients for the Broth:
  • 4-pound roasting chicken, innards removed and cut into several pieces (wings, thighs, breasts, etc.)
  • 3-inch piece of ginger, unpeeled
  • 1 large white onion, halved and unpeeled
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 8 whole star anise pods
  • 5 whole clove pods
  • 1, 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Ingredients for the Garnish:
  • 1 pound rice noodles
  • 2 bunches of green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 cup Thai basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup mung bean sprouts
  • 3 large limes, cut into wedges
  • Sriracha paste or sliced Thai chilies to taste
  • Hoisin paste to taste (figure 1/8 cup per bowl)


  • Place the cut chicken into a large stockpot and fill with enough water to cover the meat by a few inches. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Leave, simmering uncovered and skim any scum that rises to the surface.
  • In the meantime, place the ginger and onion halves on a tin foil-lined cookie sheet and place in an oven set and pre-heated to broil. Char the onion and ginger to the point where they are blackened on the exterior; you will need to turn them halfway during cooking. When they are out of the oven and cool to the touch, scrape the blackening off and add them to the simmering broth along with 1 tablespoon of salt and the fish sauce.
  • At this point, your chicken meat should be nearly cooked. Once you determine that it is done (20 minutes or so depending on the sizes you’ve cut it into), pull the meat from the bones and store in a container to be added to the soup later. Add the bones back to the pot.
  • Cut a small piece of cheesecloth and add to its center the star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick and bay leaves, tie this spice packet into a bundle using kitchen twine and add to the stock pot. Depending on the freshness of your spices, you may choose to slightly toast your spices before adding them to the cheesecloth as it enhances and helps draw out their flavor. Let the broth simmer, uncovered for about 4 hours, skimming the surface of scum occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, prepare your rice noodles according to package directions and prep your garnishes. When the stock is reduced a bit and richly flavored to your liking, remove the chicken bones. Portion your rice noodles to your liking in individual bowls and ladle the broth over them. Serve with the garnishes.



About Author

Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Molly learned two things about life: that she didn’t want to spend the rest of it in a city, and that she couldn’t live without diverse, vibrant and delicious food within an arms reach. So, she started cooking. A lot. Then she moved to the mountains. A Jackson resident for 5 years now, Molly is continuing to learn to balance a life of playing in the outdoors, owning multiple pets, growing her own food, working the 8-5 office job and cooking up a storm. She loves toast, campfires, being underwater, fresh tomatoes, Patsy Cline, playing in her garden and capturing every last bit of each seasons.

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