Pho is the national dish of Vietnam, it has complex, deep flavors and is the perfect comfort food. Warm, hearty, and refreshing – it can turn even the coldest nights into amazing food memories.
Refering to Pho as a “noodle soup” should be a punishable offense. In american culture soup is often a side dish. In Vietnam, pho is the dish. The best part of Pho is that it tastes so different from kitchen to kitchen. You can customize the recipe below to suit your tastes and it will never not be pho.
The Key Points
Even tho pho can vary from kitchen to kitchen, there are a few things that make a bowl of Pho legit for me.
- Broth: The broth has to be packed with flavor: star anise, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, cloves…you should want to drink the broth with nothing else.
- Accoutrements: sliced jalapeno, fresh basil, plum sauce, cliantro, bean sprouts and the ubiquitous bottle of Sriracha. Allowing people to customize their bowl is part of the fun of pho.
- Noodles: I’m avoiding carbs nowadays but the noodles can’t be overlooked here. Udon, Vietnamese flat noodles, ramen noodles, whatever you want to use, your pho should have noodles or your missing out.
The Perfect Pho Ga
This is admittedly a very american take on pho. The addition of the carrots and celery are a throw back to the memories of my mothers chicken noodle soup and even beef stew.
Also, if you’re like me and are doing a ketogenic diet (or you are a diabetic and don’t want to add tons of sugar/noodles to your recipe) just substitute your favorite sweetener for the sugar and add more bean sprouts in place of noodles.
- 2 chicken breasts, fat trimmed off (you can also use boneless chicken thighs)
- 10 cups of Vegetable Stock
- 1 red onion, sliced thin
- 1 leek, sliced thin
- 1 cup of sugar (used in batches to sweeten the broth)
- 2 cups of mushrooms, sliced – I prefer shitake and oyster for soup, but buttons or baby bellas will work too, experiment!
- 2 carrots sliced
- 2 stalks of celery, sliced
- 1 serving of your favorite noodles pre-cooked (slightly less than how you normally like)
- 5-6 leaves of basil, chopped
- 1/2 cup cilantro chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, fine dice
- 1-2 tbsp of chili garlic paste
- 3 tsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- A large stock pot
- yer mitts
Heat up your stock pot with the olive oil in it on medium heat until the oil is ready. Sprinkle some tap water on it, if it sizzles you’re good to go. If your oil is smoking, it’s too hot! Back down the temperature until it stops smoking and re-test.
Once the oil is ready throw the garlic, red onion and chili garlic paste into the pot. Let that cook until the onion is almost cooked (2-3 minutes), then add your chicken stock, basil and stir the pot to release all the flavor from the bottom.
Bring the pot to a boil and then add the chicken breasts. Cook the chicken for ~30 minutes, then remove and place in a bowl to cool. Add your leeks, mushrooms, star anise, cinnamon and carrots. Bring to a boil and cook for another 30 minutes.
While the chicken is still hot, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. It should be 165 degrees fahrenheit, or 73 celsius.
While the vegetables are cooking, shred or cut your chicken into bite-sized pieces. I usually use my hands for this, but it can be pretty hot. Once the vegetables are done, reduce the heat to medium and taste your soup and add the juice from the lime, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, kosher salt and pepper to taste.
If your soup tastes too spicy or too acidic, add more sugar (in small amounts), if it tastes too salty you can add some peeled, uncooked potatoes to the soup, cook them for 10 minutes and then remove them, the will remove a lot of the salt so re-taste and season.
Next add your celery and chicken and let that get warm (don’t boil) for about 10-15 minutes more. Now it’s time to plate. Assemble the basil, jalapeno, cilantro and sprouts on a separate plate. These are your accoutrements, and should be served alongside the soup.
Now, get your favorite bowl and laddle the soup into it and garnish with some of those fixins. I usually add some Sriracha at this point to give the soup a good kick.
That’s it, you’ve got the perfect bowl of chicken soup sitting in front of you, now it’s time to relax and enjoy!