I love pho, it is one of those foods I could eat every day, probably several times a day. The funny thing is I don’t eat my pho, meaning noodles in Vietnamese with noodles, I prefer it with extra vegetables and typically tofu. This is the second time I have made homemade pho. The first time was a beef flank steak and ox tail pho and it was delicious, minus the noodles. When you go to buy the noodles, there are lots of forms and they all cook really quickly. The broth and meat portion when I made it before was delicious but the noodles were an over cooked soggy mess. After a quick lesson from our friend Daniel, I learned to buy the correct, fresh version of noodles and to simply dip the noodles in boiling pho broth for about 5-8 seconds. For this second attempt I chose to make it with chicken because we try not to eat much red meat. Everything turned out really well this time. With a little more practice I may get the concentrated flavor of the po broth in a more ideal clear form- my new goal.
2 whole organic chickens
1 whole onion, unpeeled and cut in half
3-inch chunk of ginger, unpeeled
Broth spices: 2 tbl whole coriander seeds, 4 whole cloves, 2 whole star anise, 2 cardamom pods, 2 tbl fish sauce
Side ingredients (to be added as desired): Rice noodles, fresh bean sprouts, cilantro, lime cut in wedges, green onion, thinly sliced white onion, thai basil, jalapeno, Sriracha hot sauce, Hoisin sauce
1. Place ginger and onion on a small baking sheet. The top of the onion should be about 4″ from the oven’s heating element. Set to broil on high for 15 minutes. Turn the onion and ginger occasionally, to get an even char. The skin should get dark and the onion/ginger should get soft. After cooling, rub to get the charred skin off the onion and use a butter knife to scrape the skin off the ginger. Slice ginger into thick slices and slice onion into chunks.
2. In a large stockpot, fill with water and boil. Cut the chicken breast meat off the chicken and reserve. With the rest of chicken whacking hard through the bones to get sections about 3″ big. The more bone that is exposed, the more marrow that gets in the broth making it more flavorful. When the water boils, add chicken sections (not breast) and boil on high for 5 minutes. Foam should rise to the top. Drain and rinse your chicken of the scum and wash your pot thoroughly. Refill with about 4 quarts of clean, cold water.
3. Add chicken, chicken breast meat, onion, ginger and all of the spices (tied in a cheesecloth or use refillable tea pouches- I also like to roast the spices in a dry pan for a couple minutes to bring out the flavor) in the pot and cover. Turn heat to high – let it come to boil, then immediately turn heat to low. Prop lid up so that steam can escape. After 15 minutes, remove the chicken breasts, shred with your fingers when cooled and set aside (you’ll serve shredded chicken breast with the finished soup). With a large spoon, skim the surface of any impurities in the broth. Skimming every 20 minutes ensures a clear broth. Simmer a total of 1-1/2 hours. Taste and adjust seasoning with more fish sauce or spices.
4. Strain the broth, discard solids. Prepare noodles as per directions on package. Ladle broth, add shredded chicken breast and soft noodles in each bowl. Have side ingredients set at table for each person to add to their bowl.