Pho is Vietnamese comfort soup, think noodle soup with an extra kick. The fragrant broth, either chicken or beef is seasoned with coriander, cloves, star anise and the secret ingredient, fish sauce. Before eating one will garnish the soup with bean sprouts, cilantro, chili peppers, limes and an assortment of other delicious sauces.
I remember the first time I Pho, it was with my old roommate, Lily. Lily and her boyfriend at the time, a guy from Laos, took me to this little hole in the wall in the tenderloin. We were in our twenties and had clearly overindulged the night before and he promised this would be the ultimate cure for what ailed us. We sat down at this big circular table and a small frail woman gave us 3 very tall coffees that were sweetened with creamy condensed milk. Next, she sat down platters of fresh basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, limes, chilies, mint with little bowls of different sauces and finally a very hot bowl of broth with rice noodles and another platter of thinly sliced beef. We spent the next hour slurping noodles and ladling spoonfuls of warm broth into our broken bodies and he was right, we felt so much better afterward. That was my first introduction to Pho.
Lenny and I both love Pho, in fact, every time we go out to Vietnamese food, which is often enough, it is a must. I have always wanted to make it at home but have just never gotten around to it. Over coffee last Sunday, I decided to see what the Daring Cooks were up too, I figured before even signing in, that I would not have time to do the challenge this month but wanted a peak. When I saw that it was a bowl of steamy Pho, I was pleasantly pleased as I was coming down with something and this would be the perfect treatment for what ailed me.
Since I was not feeling well, I decided to go the shortcut route and use prepared chicken stock. Normally, I would have made my own stock but since I was under the weather, this was the last thing on my mind. Jaden’s recipe was fairly simple and straightforward. I simmered a very succulent organic/cage-free chicken breast with the broth and spices, over a very low heat for about 45 minutes, which left me with an amazingly moist and juicy breast. The soup was very flavorful with the addition of fresh chilies, cilantro, limes and hoisin sauce. One addition that I have never had with Pho is slivers of red onion, this a nice and refreshing surprise, when slurped up in an entanglement of noodles, and chicken. The recipe made enough for us to have leftovers for lunch, I just packaged the broth and noodles separately from the veggies and reheated the next day – it was even more flavorful.
Thank you, Jaden for being our hostess this month and for picking the perfect fall meal for dinner. We will be adding this to our regular “must” eats! Be sure to check out how the other Daring Cooks made their Pho.
Quick Vietnamese Chicken Pho Ga
For the Chicken Pho Broth:
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of the knife
1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce
1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)
2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice
To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.
In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.
Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
Have the accompaniments spread out on the table? Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.