If you’re looking for a simple pho recipe, you’ve come to the right place… and if you’ve never heard of Vietnamese Pho, be prepared to be impressed. The unique, rich, aromatic broth is what makes this dish so amazing, but this noodle dish is much more than just a soup: it is a hearty bowl of chicken, noodles and vegetables that adults and kids enjoy.Vietnam is a long and skinny country, south of China in Southeast Asia that shares a peninsula with Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. It is mountainous and tropical, its long coastline offers pristine white-sand beaches dotted with fishing villages. The diet is extremely healthy, and common ingredients include lots of fresh vegetables, herbs (such as Thai basil, mint, cilantro, green onion), rice, fish sauce, and, meats.
Phở Gà is a typical chicken and noodle dish eaten by everyone from street vendors. Not many people in Vietnam actually cook this at home, because of its wide availability: cheap and tasty pho is on every street corner. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, thousands of Vietnamese left the country and immigrated to North America (especially California, Houston, TX, and Quebec), Western Europe (especially France, Germany, Czech Republic, UK), and Australia. As many immigrants do, the Vietnamese newcomers began to cook pho in their homes to maintain their culture and heritage. Pho restaurants began popping up in these major hubs and both the Vietnamese customers and the diverse clientele helped to spread the popularity of this delicious home-cooked, comfort food, that is so much more than just a chicken or beef noodle soup.
I chose this pho recipe because for a kid, this dish doesn’t look intimidating. Most kids like noodles and a bit of shredded chicken, and the toppings are served separately so everyone can choose to add or omit as they wish. While the kids may not appreciate the depth and layers of the dish, the parents will savor the broth and complex flavors and everyone can enjoy a healthy, new dish from a new cuisine.
Broth (the most important part!)
2 unpeeled yellow onions
1 thumb-sized chunk of ginger, unpeeled and cut into pieces
1 whole chicken, with skin and bones
Extra chicken bones (you can use chicken wings or necks). The more bones means more marrow soaking into the broth, and the more flavorful the broth.
1 T salt
1 T sugar
1/4 c fish sauce (can purchase it at most supermarkets or Asian grocers)
Any combination of the following spices:
fennel seeds, cinnamon stick, cloves, star anise, coriander seeds
Square, thin rice noodles (bánh phở) (Asian grocers)
1) The broth takes the longest, so get this started a couple of hours before planning to eat (or it can be made up to 3 days before). Rinse the chicken and place in a large stockpot filled to the top with water. Boil for 5 minutes, and then throw out the water and rinse chicken again. This step gets rid of the impurities. Another way to ensure a clear broth is to consistently skim the top of the broth as it cooks. Refill the pot with water, the chicken, fish sauce, salt, and sugar. Start with more water than you think; it is not advisable to add water once it begins cooking, because it will dilute the rich taste. The chicken will only need about half an hour to cook in the broth. When it is finished, remove the meat and set aside (keep the bones in the broth).
2) While this is boiling, roast the onions and ginger, turning occasionally, either over your gas range, on your grill, or broil in the oven. Remove them from the heat when they are slightly blackened. Once cool, remove the skin of the onions and place the ginger and onions into the broth.
3) Another addition to the broth are toasted spices. Place your desired flavors into a dry pan and heat them until you can smell their aroma (3-4 minutes). Don’t let them burn! Once they are activated, add them to the broth.
4) Once you have the roasted roots and spices in the boiling broth, work on the noodles. Place the bag of noodles into a bowl, and pour boiling water over them until they are submerged. Allow them to soak for 30 minutes until they are soft.
5) While the noodles are soaking, chop up your garnishes. Your chicken should have been removed and cooling, and you can now shred it. The bowls can be prepared with a large ladle of noodles placed in the bottom, and some shredded chicken on top. Once the broth is finished, generously add some to each bowl and have your kids top with their favorite toppings. Do not forget to squeeze lime over the bowl!
Voilà- Vietnamese Phở Gà. To read more about this dish, its history, and to see additional pho recipes, check out the web site Vietnamese Pho Noodles: Pho Noodles for the Pho Lovers.