Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Soup)
If you've ever ordered pho ga at a restaurant, you've probably found it to be an under-flavored, pale shadow of the classic pho bo (beef). Instead, try making it at home, where you can crank up the flavor and have as much garnish as you want! This is especially good if you are cooking for a crowd. There's a lot of prep, but it's worth it in the end. I recommend using a pressure cooker to speed up the process.
1 whole chicken
(optional: add extra chicken backs, feet, or necks for more flavor)
2 2-3" cinnamon sticks (ideally Vietnamese cassia type)
6 pieces star anise
2-3 onions (save 1/2 for the garnish)
4" piece of ginger
6 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
6 whole cloves, separated and slightly crushed
4 Tbsp. fish sauce, divided
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
ground black pepper
Slice the onion into halves and do the same to the ginger root. Place them in the bottom of your stockpot, with no oil. Bring the heat to medium to roast the ginger and onion so they start to turn almost black in places. Meanwhile, roast the cinnamon, anise, cloves, and peppercorns in a small dry pan until they begin to release their aroma--but don't let them burn! Add the chicken, garlic, and roasted spices to the stock pot and cover with cold water. Add 2 Tbsp. of the fish sauce and the brown sugar. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 1.5-2 hrs, or pressure cook for 35 minutes.
Drain the stock off, set the chicken aside to cool, and throw away the used seasonings. Before serving, heat the stock back up to a low boil. Add the remaining fish sauce, some ground black pepper, and adjust the flavor with salt. Make the broth a little stronger than you'd like, since the noodles will need a lot of flavor.
If you are going to serve it all immediately, add in some green onion and cilantro from the garnish (see below). If you are going to freeze some of the stock for later use, do that before adding the fresh herbs.
Use whichever fresh ingredients you like. The top items in the list are the most essential.
rice stick noodles (ban pho)
red onion, thinly sliced
green onion, sliced
cilantro, stems removed
mung bean sprouts
When cool enough to handle, remove the chicken from the bone and shred it with your fingers.
Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling water for ~5 minutes, until al dente. Drain off the hot water, then add cold water (you may need to repeat the draining and filling) until the noodles are cool enough to handle. Pinch up a scoop of noodles between your thumb and forefinger, and wrap the noodles around your fingers to form a birdsnest shape a little smaller than your fist. Place the noodle bundle in a colander to drain. This way, when the noodles cool down and stick together, they will be in serving-sized bundles instead of a big congealed mess.
Place into each bowl a noodle bundle, sliced onion, green onion, cilantro, and chicken. Add plenty of broth (the noodles will absorb some). Garnish with beansprouts, additional herbs, and sauces until desired flavor is reached. Enjoy!