I’m not sure when exactly it became cool to eat pho — the iconic Vietnamese dish of thin rice noodles in beef (Pho Bo) or chicken (Pho Ga) broth perfumed with spices. Nowadays, you’d be hard-pressed to walk down the street without running into a pho restaurant with a bad pun in its name.
What I learned when I made it the first time? Pho is essentially a Vietnamese chicken soup. Here are a few tips to making this delightfully aromatic chicken soup.
First, see how moist and tender that chicken is? The secret is to separate your chicken. Chicken bones and parts for the broth; and chicken breasts reserved for slicing, poaching and eating with your Pho added at the end. If I had cooked the chicken-for-eating in the slow cooker, it would be flavorless and tough. All of the flavor would have transferred into the broth….and chicken cooked for hours on end in a slow cooker ends up chewy and tough. The chicken bones and parts go into the slow cooker to make the soup.
Second, many recipes suggest using a handful of chicken wings to make the broth as the wing tips are the most flavorful, although not much meat. Which of course isn’t important until the end.
Third, regarding the cooking of the rice noodles. Soak the dried noodles in COOL water first then DRAIN. This helps makes them pliable, soft and cook better. To cook the noodles, bring a pot of water (or use the chicken broth–see below) to boil and then put the cool drained noodles into the hot water and simmer for 1 minute. After 1 minute — the noodles are DONE!!! That’s it. Don’t overcook the rice noodles, they’ll get too soft and soggy.
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
2 whole star anise
1 T pepper
2 onions, halved
2 leeks and/or shallots
3-inch chunk of ginger, thickly sliced
2 t sugar
2 T fish sauce
A bunch of cilantro, stems and all
1 pound dried rice noodles (about 1/4″ wide)
1/2 pound chicken meat (breast or thigh), thinly sliced
2 cups bean sprouts, washed
Handful of cilantro leaves
1/2 cup shaved red onions
1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha hot sauce (optional)
Hoisin sauce (optional)
- Sliced spring onions
- Bean sprouts and bok choy
- Bibb lettuce and spinach
- Mint leaves and basil leaves
- Fried, blackened shallots
- Sliced jalapenos
- Fish sauce
- Sweet red chilli sauce and/or sambal
- Hoisin sauce
- Peanut sauce
- Lime wedges