I'm excited to introduce my Speedy Prawn Pho Recipe. It's one of the regulars on our weeknight dinner schedule because it's healthy, quick and brimming with flavour. I love how ridiculously easy it is to bring this dish together. Just add chillies, ginger, garlic and spices to high-quality fresh chicken stock and simmer, then strain out the bits, cook the red peppers and prawns for a few minutes and serve with some fresh coriander. That's it, a delicious dinner done in around 30 minutes.
I can't promise you the most authentic bowl of Pho you have had in your life, because you need to set a few hours aside for that. However, if you're after a tasty Vietnamese style noodle soup you can throw together at the end of a busy day then you will love this.
Key ingredients and possible alternatives:
- Fresh Chicken stock - you can use homemade stock or store-bought, but avoid using stock cubes. Check out my Instant Pot Chicken Stock recipe, for an easy and simple homemade chicken stock that is perfect for noodle soups.
- Raw king prawns - I recommend using raw king prawns. You can use a pre-cooked variety if you prefer but I find they are not as succulent.
- Rice noodles - traditionally thin rice noodles are used in Pho. I find most supermarkets stock them, so they should be relatively easy to get hold of. You can also opt for brown rice noodles. These are not as traditional but more nutritious.
- Bird's eye chillies - bring a fruity freshness as well as heat. One bird's eye chilli can be substituted for two standard long red chillies (the type most commonly found in supermarkets). Opt for long red chillies if you are sensitive to spice and of course, feel free to up the amount of bird's eye chillies if you want an even hotter Pho.
- Spices - star anise, cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns give the broth a traditional aromatic taste.
- Soy sauce and fish sauce - to add savoury flavour to the broth.
- Garlic and ginger - add traditional smoky flavours.
- Lime juice - is added at the end to provide a citrusy freshness.
- Red peppers - I always feel the need to add a veggie element to a dish. Peppers absorb the flavour of the stock well and bring a slight additional crunch.
- Fresh coriander - I add this before serving to bring a freshness to the Pho. You need fresh coriander here. Ground coriander will not work.
How to make Speedy Prawn Pho:
1. Butterfly and devein the prawns:
Butterflied prawns are better at absorbing the flavour of the broth and cook more evenly. Run a sharp knife along the back of each prawn and open the sides out. Make sure you remove the intestinal tract at this point. It's not harmful to eat this, but the thought of eating prawn poo is pretty unpleasant.
2. Season the stock and simmer:
Place a saucepan on a medium heat, pour in the chicken stock and add the garlic, chilli, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, peppercorns, star anise and cloves and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Cook the noodles:
Cook the rice noodles according to the packet instructions while the broth simmers. When they are ready, drain them using a colander and run them under cold water to prevent them from sticking together and cooking further.
Use a sieve to strain the broth. You want to enjoy your Pho without accidentally eating any whole spices. To save on washing up I strain the broth into the pan I used to cook the noodles.
5. Cook the prawns and peppers:
Add the strained broth back to the pan and add the lime juice. Bring the pho broth to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, add the peppers and cook for 5 minutes. Add the prawns and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until they are pink and opaque.
Divide the noodles between the bowls, then ladle in the broth with prawns and peppers. Finish with fresh coriander.
Tools and equipment:
- Knife - a sharp knife is key to making most dishes and is essential for prepping the garlic and chilies and butterflying the prawns.
- Saucepan - choose one that will hold the broth.
- Colander - for draining the noodles and running them under cold water to prevent them from over-cooking and sticking.
- Sieve - to strain the stock and ensure there are no unwelcome whole spices in your pho.
- Ladle - for serving.
- Bowls - the Pho is best served in noodle bowls. Standard soup bowls can also be used, but they are not large enough to hold a portion of Pho so you'll need to come back for a second helping.
Change it up:
- Add a different protein - Pho is great for using up any leftover meat you might have lingering in your fridge. You can swap the prawns for chicken and also add beef or pork, although I'd only suggest using beef or pork if you have them leftover as the broth isn't quite rich enough for them.
- Make it vegetarian - substitute the prawns for tofu and use vegetable stock instead of chicken
- Swap out the peppers - Pho is also good for using up the veggies in your fridge if you aren't hung up on making the dish too traditional. I'd recommend a vegetable that absorbs the broth well like pak choi.
4 top tips for yummy Prawn Pho:
- Butterfly and devein the prawns - butterflying the prawns helps them to absorb the flavour of the sauce. If the thought of chowing down on prawn poo is off-putting you should also devein them and pull out the dark vein that runs along the back of the prawn. Scroll up for directions on how to do this.
- Run the cooked rice noodles under cold water - this has 2 benefits. It stops them from overcooking and prevents them from sticking together.
- Strain the broth - highly recommended if you're after a relaxed eating experience without having to worry about picking out the whole spices.
- Do not overcook the prawns - prawns are cooked as soon as they turn pink and opaque, this only takes 2 to 3 minutes. If you continue to simmer them for any longer they will become rubbery and lose their juiciness.
Prawn Pho FAQs:
Absolutely, it's a great source of protein and the spices like star anise and coriander are good for boosting immunity. It's a good dish to make if you're trying to combat an oncoming cold. Make sure you include veggies to increase the nutritional content of the dish further.
Use chopsticks to eat the prawns, veggies and noodles and drink the broth straight from the bowl in-between mouthfuls and at the end.
The seasoned broth will keep in the fridge for 3 days so you can make it ahead of time. Make sure you make a fresh batch of noodles before you serve. They normally only take a few minutes and will be soggy and unpleasant if left in the fridge. I don't recommend storing cooked prawns in the fridge. These also only take a few minutes to cook and can grow nasty bacteria quite quickly if stored for too long.
I'd say this prawn Pho has a medium level of heat. The bird's eye chilli gives it a definite warmth but it isn't overpowering. If you are sensitive to spice use a long red chilli instead of a bird's eye. If you want to add the spice either incorporate more bird's eye chilli into the broth of top your bowl with fresh chillis when serving.