To me there is nothing quite like a big warming bowl of soup on a chilly autumn day. From classics such as chicken noodle to Korean jjigae and simple blended soups, I love them all. One soup that sits on my top 5 favorites is Vietnamese Pho. This soup has a clear broth that is made from aromatic spices and either beef or chicken bones. There are many variations but most commonly the broth is served with rice noodles, fresh fragrant herbs, chili peppers, been sprouts, limes wedges and sliced or shredded meat. In the case of beef pho, it is thin raw slices of beef that are served on top of the soup. Chicken pho is topped with cooked and sliced or shredded pieces of chicken.
The first time I tasted pho was on a cool spring day in Paris. We had been out exploring the famous Latin Quarter and were in need of food to warmup our bodies. After weaving through quiet streets away from the tourists we stumbled upon a quaint Vietnamese restaurant. Had it no been for a small window, where we could see a young girl enjoying a big bowl of soup, we might not have noticed the door lead to a restaurant. I had never eaten Vietnamese food but my husband had and he was eager to have me try a new cuisine. Of course I didn’t hesitate and was rather excited to try it out.
It is safe to say that with that first sip of pho I fell in love. I like it so much that for a period that’s all I wanted to eat when we ate out. My poor husband got so burned out on pho that I had to give up eating it for a few months. Luckily now I know how to make my own pho so whenever the craving strikes I can whip up a huge pot. Here’s my recipe and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
- 1 chicken carcass
- 2 chicken wings
- 2 chicken breast, skinless
- large pot
- 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half and do not peel
- 1 large piece of fresh ginger, do not peel
- 1 tsp. coriander seed
- 2 green cardamom pods, bruised
- 1 whole star anise
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 5 whole cloves
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp. fish sauce
- rice noodles cooked according to package instructions
- lime wedges
- fresh cilantro leaves
- fresh mint leaves
- scallions sliced
- sliced chile
- bean sprouts, I don’t usually add them
- Place chicken pieces and water in a pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Use a colander to drain the chicken and discard the broth. Set the chicken pieces aside. Rinse/wash the pot out or have a new clean pot ready to use. Next rinse off the chicken pieces then place back inside the pot.
- The ginger and onion need to be charred. Place them both over an open flame/gas stove flame, or on top of a very hot griddle, or they can also be charred under the broiler setting in the oven. Turn the onion and ginger to char evenly throughout. (I used an open flame and it took me about 8 minutes.) Set aside to cool down.
- In a clean pan dry roast the spices to bring out the scents and flavors. Roast for 2 minutes stirring often to prevent burning. Remove from pan and set aside to cool.
- Peel the onions, and using a knife gently scrape away the charred ginger skin. Cut the ginger into 4 chunks and use the flat edge of the knife to bruise the ginger.
- Place the ginger, onions, cooled spices into the pot with the chicken pieces. (Alternatively the spices may be placed inside a spice bag before putting in pot.) Add 4 liters or 8 cups of water to the pot. Then add the 1 tsp granulated sugar and 2 tbsp. fish sauce. Cover and bring to a boil, once boiling reduce heat down to medium low and leave a small crack to allow steam to escape. Simmer the soup for at least an hour, longer if time allowed. I simmer my pho for about 2-3 hours. The longer the better.
- Once the soup has finished simmering, strain and discard the spices and carcass — NOT THE BROTH. Thinly slice or shred the chicken breast. Add some cooked rice noodles to the soup bowls then ladle the chicken broth over the noodles. You can either serve the additional garnishes on the side so everyone can add their own or top the soup with them.
Don’t be intimidated by the long ingredient list and steps involved, it’s much easier than it looks in the recipe. Once you’ve done it you’ll see how fast and easy it is. The most effort on your part will be having to wait until the broth has finished simmering. But trust me it’s worth the wait.
Have a great day and stay warm with a big bowl of pho!