Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup)
Growing up in a Vietnamese household, stereotypically you'd assume that I would get to eat homemade pho all the time. Contrary to that, it was pretty uncommon unless my parents went out to buy it. When done the right, traditional way, it can be very time consuming. From what my family would explain to me, shops in Vietnam would oftentimes start the prepping and cooking in the middle of the night in order to serve their pho for breakfast. The slow and long simmering is what helps bring out the flavors in the soup.
Naturally, I've always been intimidated to learn and make pho myself. My first attempt was Pho Tai (rare thinly sliced beef that is basically cooked in your pho soup). It was honestly really challenging for me, as I had a hard time figuring out how much of which beef bones to use. It was decent but definitely lacked depth.
Like everyone else right now, I am stuck at home and trying to keep myself entertained through cooking. I figured I'd give pho another go, but this time try the chicken version: Pho Ga. I have to say, I thought chicken broth was much easier than beef broth! Maybe it's because I've had to make chicken broth/stock for other dishes before, so I felt more comfortable with this process.
I spent a lot of time reading through all the different ways one can make Pho Ga. I ultimately gathered the common themes and ingredients and adjusted some of the content to mirror the taste I was after. Pho is one of those tricky dishes where everyone can have varying preferences. My mom, for instance, really likes white meat only and a clear soup base with a stronger taste in fish sauce. Me, on the other hand, prefer slightly fatty chicken and an aromatic soup.
Below is my work-in-progress version. I will definitely be fine-tuning this and will continue learning and reading more about pho in the next few months!
Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup)
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 1.5 hours (at least)
1 whole chicken
1 tsp cooking oil
3 pieces of ginger (approx. 3 inches in size) (peeled)
1 large shallot (chopped in large chunks)
1.5 white onions (chopped in large chunks)
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp coriander seeds
3 star anise pods
1/4 to 1/2 cup fish sauce
1 to 2 tbsp salt
3 to 4 packages of rice noodles (14 oz)
Toppings & Garnish Ingredients (exact amounts may vary depending on preference):
~1/2 white onion (cut into thin strips)
~3 stalks of green onions (chopped)
~2 bags of bean sprouts
~2 bunches of Thai basil
~3 jalapeños (sliced)
~2 limes or lemons (cut into wedges)
In a medium pan, grease with cooking oil on medium high heat. Add ginger, shallot, and onions. Let them sit for about 3-4 minutes or until bottom is brown and edges are slightly charred. Flip all pieces to repeat on the other side. Remove from stove and set aside.
In the same medium pan, add cinnamon, coriander, and star anise. Dry roast for about 1-2 minutes. Careful not to burn. Once fragrant, remove from stove and set aside.
Prep whole chicken by thoroughly rinsing under room temperature water. Remove giblets (discard or save).
Optional: Use sea salt to exfoliate skin for a smooth chicken skin texture. Do this by scrubbing the skin with sea salt, then rinsing again under water.
Place whole chicken in a large pot. Fill the pot with enough water to submerge the chicken (approximately 12-14 cups / close to 1 gallon). Turn up heat on high.
Add in the ginger, shallot, onions, cinnamon, coriander, and star anise to the pot.
Add in 1/4 cup of fish sauce and 1 tbsp salt.
Note: Save remaining fish sauce and salt. You may want to add more later once you're able to taste test the broth.
Once broth starts to boil, turn the heat down to low. Use a cooking skimmer to remove the scum and fat from the top layer of your broth.
Let the pot simmer for about 20 minutes or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Once it has, transfer chicken to a large bowl filled with cold water and ice. (This will prevent the chicken from continuing to cook).
Let the broth continue to simmer for at least another hour. The longer it simmers, the more aromatic the broth will become.
Taste test the broth. Add more fish sauce and salt, if desired.
While broth is still simmering, carve the chicken once it has cooled. You can use a knife cut the chicken meat into small pieces or use your fingers to shred them into small pieces. Set aside. Keep the carcass or large bones and put them back into the pot (to help bring out more chicken flavors for the broth).
Fill another large pot with water and bring to a boil.
Add rice noodles. Swirl them around but only let cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let sit for about 5 minutes. This first step is to prep and soak the noodles before actually cooking them.
After 5 minutes or when noodles are softened, drain the water.
Fill the pot with fresh water and bring to a boil again. Let cook for about 5 minutes or until noodles are soft and no longer al dente. (Timing may depend on how thick your rice noodles are).
Toppings & Garnish Directions:
Prep your toppings and garnish by cleaning and cutting them.
Bean sprouts, Thai basil, sliced jalapeños, and lime/lemon wedges can be arranged on their own plate.
Chopped green onions and white onion strips can be set aside separately.
How to Assemble and Serve:
Once all of your ingredients are ready to go, it's time to assemble and serve!
Place cooked noodles in a bowl. Then add chicken.
Add broth to the bowl (enough to fully submerge all ingredients).
Garnish with green onions and white onions.
Serve bowl of pho with plate of garnishes (bean sprouts, Thai basil, sliced jalapeños, and lime/lemon wedges).
Have Sriracha and Hoisin sauce readily available.
Add garnishes and sauces as desired before eating.