Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup

posted on: Monday, February 3, 2014

In lieu of mocktails this week, I'm sharing my coveted recipe for Turkey Neck Pho to continue the celebration of Lunar New Year. Noodles have long been revered during this festive occasion to symbolize a life of longevity and prosperity. We were invited to enjoy so many amazing dishes this weekend, and noodles definitely made an appearance each time. I hope you enjoy!

Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup | via Chandara Creative

It's hard to realize that I've never blogged about my infatuation for Vietnamese pho because if you have ever eaten with me, you'll know just how much I love my noodle soups. Whenever there's a savory broth and some rice noodles involved, rest assured that you'll find me salivating as I hold out my bowl for seconds. This pregnancy has been a bit tough because not only does my gestational diabetes bar me from sweets, but along the same lines, I am also forced to curb my carbs which will eventually turn into sugar that cannot be absorbed by my body.  During my initial consultation with my dietitian, when others were probably getting upset over not being able to eat cookies and cakes, all I could think about was, "Wait! I have to give up my rice and pho? Awe man...this is going to drive me nuts!"  So, in lieu of rice noodles, I've managed to substitute these carbs with my glass vermicelli noodles because they're made from mung beans instead of rice, so while it's not entirely void of starch, it still contains less of it than rice. But you go ahead and knock yourself out with the real deal. I won't hold it against you.

Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup | via Chandara Creative

Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup | via Chandara Creative
Soaking your jalapeño peppers in an ice bath ensures that it's crisp when served alongside your pho

When it comes to pho, there are so many variations of this traditional Vietnamese noodle soup.  Every family has their tried and true "secret" recipe. So, what exactly is Turkey Neck Pho, you ask? Well, the recipe came to me one fine day when I was craving pho, but had no beef knuckle bones in my fridge, but simply a ziploc bag of turkey necks that I had lying around after making gravy from Thanksgiving.  It's coincidentally one of the richest, but oftentimes overlooked cuts of the turkey that you'll ever find to make pho because not only does it impart amazing umami to your broth, but it only takes up to 1.5 hours to simmer before you can produce a hearty broth versus the tedious 3+ hours it takes to really get the flavor profile from simmering beef bones for pho.  The result is a light, but extremely savory pho broth that will leave you wondering why you never thought of it for yourself.  Trust me, I had the biggest critics in my family give me the crazy eye when I first cooked this pot of pho, but since their first slurp, they haven't looked back and neither will you. 

Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup | via Chandara Creative
Chinese celery is smaller but much more fragrant than traditional celery, thus making it perfect for flavoring your pho broth
Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup | via Chandara Creative
Glass vermicelli noodles gracing my bowl alongside some rice noodles for you
Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup | via Chandara Creative
Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup | Photography via Chandara Creative

Turkey Neck Pho Noodle Soup
Serves 4-6

Ingredients - Turkey Pho Broth
• 2 large (1-2 lbs) turkey neck bones
• 1 package meat balls (your choice of pork, chicken, or beef)
• 2 chicken breasts, boneless & skinless
• 1 yellow onion, halved & charred
• 2 cinnamon sticks, toasted
• 5 whole star anise, toasted
• 5 cloves, toasted (optional)
• 3 stalks Chinese celery (may also sub with 2 stalks regular celery, chopped into 3" pieces)
• 1/4 cup fish sauce, preferably Phu Quoc "Flying Lion" brand, adjust according to taste
• 1 oz rock sugar
• 3 slices ginger root, charred
• 2 tbs salt, adjust according to taste
• 6 quarts water + 2 cups for prepping pho noodles

Ingredients - Pho Condiments
• 1 lime, sliced into wedges
• 5 sprigs fresh Thai basil
• 2 handful fresh bean sprouts
• 1 jalapeño or 1-2 Thai bird chills, thinly sliced & soaked in ice bath for 10 minutes to retain crispness
• 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
• 1/2 bunch green onions or scallions, chopped
• 2 packages (about 2 lbs) pho rice noodles (fresh or dry)
• Sriracha sauce
• Hoison sauce
• Optional:  Fried garlic slices, hot chili oil, chili sambal, crushed peanuts, fish sauce, black pepper

  • Instructions:
  • 1. Prepare the Aromatics:  Begin by charring the onions & ginger over an open flame, and lightly toasting the cloves, star anise, and cinnamon sticks in a pan.  Also wash your celery stalks and cut into 3" lengths. This will serve as the base that will perfume your broth. 
  • 2. Cook the Broth:  Fill a large stock pot with water, fish sauce, rock sugar, salt, aromatics, turkey neck bones, and chicken breast and allow to boil over high heat. Once broth is boiling, lower to medium low heat and allow pot to simmer for 1.5-2 hours, or until neck bones are fully cooked. Chicken breasts will cook within 40-45 minutes, so once cooked, remove from pot and allow to cool before shredding into bit-sized pieces. After removing chicken breasts, place meat balls in the pot and allow to cook for 15 minutes.  After which, you can simmer the meat balls in the broth.
  • NOTE:  Unlike traditional pho beef broth which requires parboiling to remove the scum and blood from the bones, turkey neck bones are usually much cleaner and therefore, when boiled, releases very little scum to the broth. You will occasionally need to skim the surface of the broth to remove the small amounts of scum that rises to the top. This is normal and when done right, ensures a clear, rich tasting turkey pho broth. 
  • 3. Prepare the Pho Noodles:   In a separate smaller pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Working in batches, place fresh or dry pho noodles in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, or until it softens to your liking. Set aside and portion into individual bowls.
  • NOTE:  If you are using dry rice noodles, you will need to soak it in warm water for at least 30 minutes to soften it before boiling it. If you are using fresh noodles, you can skip this step if you feel that the soft texture is already to your preference. 
  • 4. Optional in lieu of noodles if you are carb-conscious: Soak glass vermicelli noodles in warm water for 20 minutes. It will be somewhat al-dente until you ladle the broth over it. 
  • 5. Prepare to Serve the Pho:  Once you're ready to serve, bring the broth to a rolling boil. Fill each bowl with your desired portion of pho noodles, meat balls, chicken breast meat, and fresh herb condiments. Ladle heaping spoonfuls of boiling broth atop each bowl. Garnish bowls with extra herbs, sauces, and condiments. Serve immediately and Enjoy!


  1. What a great idea to use turkey necks as the soup base for your pho broth! It looks and sounds delicious. The vermicelli and rice noodle combo looks great too. Thanks for sharing and have a great day! :)


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