Chicken pho sounds like it would be bland compared to beef pho, so I was skeptical when my friend Katharine Shilcutt talked me into joining her at Pho Ga Dakao, a Vietnamese restaurant on Bellaire that specializes in chicken noodle soup. I was very glad I tagged along, though—the flavor of the chicken broth here is extraordinary. Katharine told me they only use free-range chickens.

You can get the soup with plain, ordinary chicken meat if you want. It comes with a condiment plate that includes limes, basil, bean sprouts, sawtooth herb (culantro), and a ginger sauce. Sriracha, hoisin, and fish suace are customary additions.

If you want something a little more adventurous, order the item called "Dakao chicken rice noodle soup special" on the menu. You will get a large bowl of soup with white and dark meat, hearts, gizzards, tripe, and unborn chicken eggs. It's sort of like a chicken innard stew.

Either way you get the stunning broth, which is just as complex as beef pho broth, though the spices are slightly different. Chicken pho broth calls for star anise, cinnnamon and ginger, just like beef pho. But it also calls for a lot of cloves, with are studded into an onion. The spices are wrapped in cheesecloth and later removed and discarded along with the clove-studded onions—a familiar French technique. Refrigerating the broth overnight and discarding the grease that solidifies on top is a recommended step.

Here's a photo-illustrated recipe from Wandering Chopsticks.

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