Slow Simmered Vietnamese Noodle Soup

Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 4 hr
Serves: 12

Making pho soup in a slow cooker is a smart move. Perfumed broth is the soul of this soup and in a slow cooker it can simmer and deepen in umami flavour all day – without your involvement. In Asia where the broth is typically simmered all night, people greet the day slurping noodles. Here there is no more comforting dinner soup to come home to. Fortunately it takes about 10 minutes to put together so you can put it on before heading out to work. If you’re like me, however, measuring anything beyond scoops of coffee in the morning is too taxing, so instead of prepping the soup in the morning you can prep it the night before and refrigerate. Using chicken on the bone and in big pieces cuts down on the chance they’ll overcook. Put it on in the morning before heading off and after simmering all day, finish the soup by skimming out the chicken and shredding, then drop the noodles into the hot broth. In 20 minutes they’ll be tender – and dinner’s done.


3 to 4 chicken breasts
8 thighs, preferably bone-in
3 legs with thighs attached
12 cups (3 L) chicken broth
1/3 cup (75 mL) fish sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) sugar, preferably brown
10 slices fresh ginger
8 to 10 star anise
3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp (5 mL) dried chili flakes or hot-garlic chili sauce (optional)
2 inch (5 cm) wide bundle of dried stick rice noodles, about 80 g
1 cup (250 mL) roughly torn basil and mint leaves
Garnishes - green onions, cilantro, lime wedges, thai basil leaves and mint leaves, thinly sliced thai bird chilies or dried red pepper flakes, fresh bean sprouts


1 Turn slow cooker to high. Remove skin from chicken if you like. Leaving it on will give flavor. Leave pieces whole so they don’t overcook. Add broth to slow cooker along with fish sauce, sugar, ginger, star anise, cinnamon and dried pepper flakes. Add onions, separating into rings as you add. Submerge chicken, bone-side up, in broth as best you can.
2 Cover and cook 4 hours on high for bone-in chicken or 3 hours for boneless. Then remove chicken to a bowl. Break noodles in half. They should loosely fill a 4 cup (1 L) measuring cup. Add to simmering soup, separating as you add. Cover and cook until softened, 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the noodle. Stir occasionally to keep separated.
3 Meanwhile, shred or slice chicken into bite-size strips, discarding any skin and bones. When noodles are almost done, fish the cinnamon sticks, ginger slices and star anise from soup and discard. You can leave them in if you like. Stir chicken back into the soup. Just before serving stir in the basil and mint. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with green onions and cilantro. Soup will keep well in refrigerator at least 3 days.