This simplified version of pho (pronounced “fuh”), the famous Vietnamese soup, is flavourful and nourishing. Barley is substituted for vermicelli noodles and a ready-made chicken broth is used instead of homemade. Be sure to add the spices and lemon for authentic pho flavour.


  • 6 cups (1.5 L) no-salt chicken broth
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) pearl or pot barley
  • 5 whole star anise
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) whole coriander seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick, about 3 inches (8 cm) long
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 1/3 cups (325 mL) bean sprouts
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • 4 lime wedges
  • Sriracha sauce, to taste (optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine broth, soy sauce, onion and barley. Wrap anise, cloves, coriander seeds and cinnamon in a piece of cheesecloth or an emptied, unused tea bag, or place in a tea infuser; add to broth. If necessary, break up cinnamon stick so it fits, or add it to broth as is. Add chicken thighs to broth.

Bring broth to boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Remove thighs and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Cover saucepan; continue simmering until barley is cooked, about 15 minutes, then remove spices from soup. Meanwhile, once thighs have cooled briefly, cut into bite-sized pieces.

To serve, divide chicken pieces and bean sprouts between four serving bowls; ladle soup overtop. Garnish with basil and serve with lime wedges and sriracha sauce, if desired.

Makes 4 servings (about 1 1/2 cups/375 mL each).

Nutritional Information (per serving): Calories: 297; Protein: 26 g; Carbohydrate: 27 g; Fibre: 5 g; Sugars: 5 g; Fat: 11 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Trans Fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 91 mg; Sodium: 300 mg; Potassium: 345 mg