The weather in Baltimore changed quickly from grueling heat to a quiet cool. Autumn is my favorite season to indulge in various obsessions, most importantly cooking and running. The pantry begins to fill with dried noodles, beans, fermented sauces and broths. Soup is the ultimate comfort food on a cool day.
During yesterday’s ten mile run I had one thought in mind: eating pho. At mile eight I was pleading with the reaper to take pity on me. My only savior was a bowl of steaming hot Vietnamese noodle soup that would be slurped up ravenously while plopped on the couch watching an episode of No Reservations. What a delightful contemplation.
Traditionally pho is beef based, its delicate broth made by simmering beef bones, charred onion, charred ginger and spices, and taking several hours to prepare. If I owned a pho restaurant and had all the time in the world, nothing would stop me from sticking with tradition. Sometimes, a girl has to cut a few corners without giving up flavor. This recipe does just that.
Remember, the broth is god and the sides are goddesses. Without these simple changes you would simply have chicken noodle soup. Good pho broth is concentrated in flavor and not cloudy. Parboiling the chicken is important to achieve an attractive, clear broth. Charring the ginger and onion is vital to the depth of flavor.
Pho Ga Ingredients:
1 whole onion, unpeeled and cut in half
3-inch chunk of ginger, unpeeled
2 tsp. Chinese five spice
2 TB sugar
3 TB fish sauce
1 small bunch of cilantro
1 package dried ¼” rice noodles
fresh thai basil
1 sweet onion, thinly diced
sriracha hot sauce (to taste)
hoisin sauce (to taste)
- Set your broiler on high. On a sheet pan, cook the onion and ginger until they are evenly charred; about 10 – 15 minutes. Cover in a heat safe bowl with saran wrap until cool. Rub off the charred skin with hands or a knife (don’t wash them off as you will wash off the flavor!)
- In a large stockpot, bring chicken stock (or water) to a simmer. Add chicken and poach for for 10-15 minutes until chicken is opaque and cooked through. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Strain the broth and return liquids to the pot.
- Add charred onion and ginger, cilantro, sugar, five spice, salt, and fish sauce. Cover loosely and let it come to a boil then reduce the heat. Simmer the broth for 90 minutes. With a large slotted spoon, skim the impurities that float to the surface; repeating when necessary.
- Strain the broth and discard the solids. Return to the stockpot on low heat. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Prepare the chicken by removing the breasts from the bone and slice thinly.
- Prepare rice noodles per package directions.
- Have all of your sides set up in an assembly line for each person to choose what they like.
- In a large serving bowl, ladle hot broth over a serving of noodles, 5-6 slices of chicken and your choice of sides.