Enjoy Pho the healthy way by making this Spicy Chicken Pho Bowl. Made with brown rice noodles and low sodium broth, you wouldn’t need to save this for a cheat day. It would be saved for lunch instead!


Sunday was my birthday! Another year older and 5 years wiser. I had an amazing birthday weekend with my good friend Teen because we spent the weekend in Niagara on the Lake. We literally spent the entire weekend wine tasting at 6 different wineries and also went on a tour at a chocolate factory! I will share all the fun details of my birthday weekend below. But first, a little tale about my love of pho and the making of this recipe.


I love pho, and I mean I love it to bits. Even when I may have to pay a little extra to have mine with shrimp instead of chicken or beef, Its totally worth it. I made this Spicy Chicken Pho Bowl for a good friend of mine and the reviews were quite pleasant. Given that this was my very first time making this recipe, I was quite impressed with the turnout! Now I can’t wait to make a seafood version so that I can add it to my lunch list!

For those of you who haven’t had pho before, you need to try it! It’s basically a fancier and upgraded version of chicken soup. After all, since we are already in the cold and flu season, spicy chicken pho is a good idea. Now for those of you who love pho or are slightly more obsessed with it like I am, I’m going to share with you the key ingredients to making this spicy chicken pho bowl a success.

If you intend to make this recipe, which I encourage you to do, the key ingredients you need are star anise, cinnamon sticks and fresh ginger. Star anise is a spice that is literally shaped like a star as you can see in the photos above, and depending on where you live, they can be tricky to find. Star anise has a very fragrant licorice flavor with hints of cinnamon and they are a key ingredient that most chefs use to make their sweet or savory recipes unique and amazing. Now if you do not have star anise or are having a hard time finding it, there are substitutions available! You could either use anise seeds which are available at your local grocery store, or anise extract. Here’s an amazing substitution chart I found on Gourmet Sleuth:

Substitute for Star Anise
For each star anise called for; substitute 3/4 tsp crushed anise seed 
OR 1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
OR 1 tablespoon anise or other licorice liqueur
Or 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon anise extract
1 teaspoon anise seed = 2 crushed star anise
1 whole star anise = 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise


The ginger and the cinnamon sticks also give the broth a spicy fragrant touch which works really well with this recipe. You basically get the warm spice flavor from the star anise, cinnamon and ginger while you get the heat from the jalapeno. Believe me when I say this chicken pho bowl isn’t overbearingly spicy! It’s perfection.

Ingredients: yields 3 servings:

2 cups brown rice noodles (cooked)
2 baked large chicken breasts (shredded)
half a red onion (chopped)
1 4inch piece of ginger (unpeeled)
3 cups low sodium chicken broth (or veggie broth)
3 cups of water
4 or 5 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
4 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
olive oil


Fresh cilantro
2 cups fresh bean sprouts
2 small jalapeno peppers (sliced)
chopped scallions
sliced lemon or lime


1. Place a large pot over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add chopped onions and the 4-inch unpeeled ginger and cook for about 5 minutes. Add broth, water, star anise and cinnamon and stir until incorporated. Cover the pot and simmer on medium low heat for about 20 minutes.

2. Add fish sauce, salt and pepper to the broth and simmer for another 5 minutes. When ready, discard star anise, cinnamon and ginger and remove the broth from the heat.

3. Assemble brown rice noodles and toppings in 3 small bowls. Pour the cooked broth into each bowl and serve.

Now, let me tell you about my birthday experience! My good friend Teen and I have our birthdays so close together. So we decided to try something we had never tried before! That is how we ended up in Niagara on the Lake. The original plan was to go to one winery which I had a Groupon for. However, our airbnb host was so nice he gave us an additional 5 coupons to go wine tasting for free! So to make things easier, here’s a chart of how our coupons worked:

Each coupon we received for a winery gave us access to 3 complimentary glasses of wine + 1 complimentary glass of ice wine + complimentary food and chocolate pairings. So with that said, here we go!

Our first stop was Lailey’s Winery, which was the winery I got a Groupon for. There are over 40 wineries in the Niagara region, so there are several wineries that I still need to visit! Lailey’s Winery uses oak to produce their wine because oak gives wine a vanilla okay flavour. The food pairings were also delicious.




Our second stop was Peller Estates. This was definitely my favourite! We got so much free chocolate it was insane. I even got a souvenir!






Our Third stop was Jackson Triggs Winery.


Our fourth stop was Reif Estate Winery, which is also a very big winery.


Our fifth stop was Joseph’s winery, which was a smaller but cute establishment.




Our final stop was Inniskilin Wineries because we wanted to save the best vineyards for last.

And finally, we ended the weekend touring a chocolate factory!



This was definitely one of the best birthdays i’ve had in a long time because I got to try something new and exiting!


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