Don’t Fear the Pho
Is it possible to fear chicken soup? If it wasn’t fear holding me back from making pho at home, it must have been laziness, or the sheer number of pho shops in Seattle. Yeah, that’s it, there was no reason to make pho at home, when you can get it anywhere, even out here in the ‘burbs.
Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup, most often made with beef broth, has always seemed like a dish to leave to the experts. You char the spices and ginger and the broth needs to simmer for hours to fully develop its flavor. Then Taylor Hoang of Pho Cyclo made pho ga, chicken pho, at TDCamp and it was so easy and so delicious I knew I had to make it at home.
Summer might seem like a funny time to make a hot bowl of soup. But in the midst of the gorgeous summer Seattle has been having, there was a blip last Saturday, where skimming a simmering pot of broth was the thing to do.
Hot or cold, sunny or gray, chicken soup needs to be in everyone’s repertoire. If you inherited your bubbe’s recipe, great, the Jewish chicken soup is covered. Branch out. Stop off at your Asian market for a few ingredients and add pho to the line-up. Trade in the thyme and bay for star anise, cloves and cinnamon and with about the same amount of work, you’ll have an entirely new bowl of chicken soup. Getting the fresh rice stick noodles*is* important, they cook faster (practically instantaneously) and taste better than the standard rice stick noodles.
The garnishes — Thai basil, jalapeno, a squeeze of lime — are important to the overall dish, but really should be a complement to what is an already delicious broth. I rarely use hoisin in my pho, chicken or beef, but it’s your call. A couple of dots of sriracha also add a nice heat.
- 3 lbs. chicken thighs, bone-in, skin-on
- 2 lbs. chicken breast, bone-in, skin on
- 6 quarts water, divided
- 2 2 in. pieces of ginger, skin on, pounded with a meat pounder
- 3 ½ T. kosher salt + more to taste
- 1 ½ T. demerara sugar
- 5-6 star anise pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 5-6 whole cloves
- ½ a medium onion, thinly sliced vertically
- 1 package of fresh rice stick noodles
- 1 jalapeno pepper, sliced
- 1 lime, quartered
- 1 bunch of Thai basil
- 1 package bean sprouts
- hoisin sauce
- In a stock pot, bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the chicken thighs, breast and 1 T. of salt. Bring it back to a boil and skim any foam and chicken bits that rise to the top, letting it boil for 5-10 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium and continue skimming. Simmer for 20 minutes, then remove the chicken breast. Set it aside to cool. Shred ~ ½ c. per bowl of soup you plan to serve.
- Add remaining quart of water and simmer for another 30 minutes. Add star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, remaining salt, sugar, onions and ginger to the pot. Simmer for another 30 minutes. Taste the broth and add additional salt to taste. Remove chicken thighs, onion, ginger and spices. If not eating immediately, let the broth cool, pour it through a fine mesh strainer and refrigerate.
- To put together the soup, dunk the noodles into boiling water for 5-10 seconds, per the package directions. Divide them up between 4 bowls and and pour 1-1/2 c. broth (or more to taste) over the noodles. Add the chicken. Garnish with bean sprouts, Thai basil and jalapeno. Add sriracha, lime and/or hoisin sauce, to taste.