Savoring Hanoi's newest delight: roasted chicken pho

By Tung Dinh   September 20, 2023 | 07:29 pm PT
A fresh take on the classic pho in Hanoi, topped with roasted chicken, is quickly winning over diners.
Savoring Hanoi's newest delight: roasted chicken pho

Pho, often considered the essence of Vietnamese cuisine, has evolved over time to cater to a wide range of tastes and preferences.

In Hanoi, roasted chicken pho is an unconventional and lesser-known delight. Around a month ago, Nguyen Xuan Kien, 49, introduced his roasted chicken pho at 116B6 Kim Lien Street, Dong Da District, and it quickly became a sensation within Hanoi's food communities.

Around noon, the kitchen buzzes with chefs hard at work. Each with a distinct role: some shred the chicken, while others blanch the pho noodles. There are those who pour the broth, and the team ensures seamless order-taking and impeccable service for the valued guests.

"I spent nearly a decade as a chef at the Kim Lien Hotel. Following that, I ventured into the restaurant business in 2009. Gradually, I delved into creating roasted chicken dishes. I've always been drawn to doing things differently. A few years back, the idea of combining traditional pho with roasted chicken struck me, and recently, it's been warmly embraced by many diners," said Kien (pictured).

Savoring Hanoi's newest delight: roasted chicken pho

The restaurant uses chickens from nearby Bac Giang Province. The chickens are raised for over 5 and a half months and weigh around 1.8 kilogram each.

The chickens are immersed in a mixture of 17 spices, which includes ingredients like pepper, Korean chili powder, and sugar.

What sets this dish apart is the use of Thai salt, as Kien noted, "Even if you accidentally add too much Thai salt, the dish will be rich in flavor, not overly salty like other salts in the market."

To complete the marination, a mixture of pink vinegar and honey is combined and slowly poured over the chicken to ensure even absorption.

Once marinated, the chicken is placed in an oven at 200 degrees Celsius for approximately 15-20 minutes. The perfect roasted chicken is characterized by an even cook, resulting in crispy golden skin and a tantalizing aroma.

Savoring Hanoi's newest delight: roasted chicken pho

"The taste of the dish was initially inconsistent, and I struggled to figure out how to maintain the chicken skin's crispiness over time. It took me nearly three years of experimentation to refine the dish to its current perfection," Kien said.

On weekdays, the shop sells over 100 chickens, and on weekends, it goes beyond 200 chickens, he said.

Savoring Hanoi's newest delight: roasted chicken pho

The most sought-after dish on the menu is mixed pho with roasted chicken. Pho noodles are placed in a bowl, seasoned with a sauce, and garnished with chicken and herbs. Diners can enhance the experience by dipping the dish in a sauce prepared with a medley of coriander roots, basil, garlic, chili, sugar, fish sauce, lime and kumquat juice.

Savoring Hanoi's newest delight: roasted chicken pho

The chicken is finely sliced and arranged atop the pho, accompanied by peanuts, fried onions, blanched bean sprouts, and herbs. Diners will relish the tender, marinated chicken pieces with their fragrant skin.

To combat any dryness, it pairs perfectly with a steaming bowl of the chicken broth. To create the broth, the owner simmers pork bones and chicken leg bones, adding salt, fish sauce, onions, and grilled ginger, stewing it continuously for 18 hours.

Savoring Hanoi's newest delight: roasted chicken pho

Diners can also order a bowl with full broth.

A bowl of mixed pho with full toppings costs VND50,000 ($2), while mixed pho with thighs or wings goes for VND35,000. A bowl of regular pho is priced similarly.

Savoring Hanoi's newest delight: roasted chicken pho

In addition to the VND30,000 ($1.20) roasted chicken pho bowl, the restaurant offers whole grilled chickens for VND160,000, intestines for VND50,000, blanched ovaries for VND100,000, and roasted chicken thighs for VND50,000.

Complementary sides include chicken cabbage salad and green mango chicken salad for VND60,000.

Savoring Hanoi's newest delight: roasted chicken pho

The restaurant provides a spacious, air-conditioned space with tables indoor and outdoor, and it's almost always bustling. If you plan to visit during the busy lunch hours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or in the evening from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., be prepared to wait for a table.

Phung Minh Chien, a customer, praised the roasted chicken pho, saying: "The flavor is rich, the meat is fragrant and tender, and I love the crispy skin dipped in the sauce."

Beo, a first-time customer, rated the dish a 9 out of 10. He said, "This dish is different from any chicken pho I've tried before. It all comes together perfectly, and the broth is aromatic."

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