Chicken Pho, My Kind of Chicken Noodle Soup

Pho

I am a huge fan of pho. Pho could have its own fan club here in Chicago. On the mention of it, my friends go “mmm, when’s the next time you want to do pho?” You see, one doesn’t just eat pho. Pho is an experience best shared with others. Pho fills the tummy and feeds the soul.

If you’re not part of the fan club yet, what exactly is pho? Pho, pronounced fuh, is a Vietnamese noodle soup usually of the beef variety. And when I say variety, I mean it. At my favorite Chicago pho restaurant, Pho Xe Tang better known as Tank Noodle, they have at least 20 varieties of beef pho cooked with different parts of the cow to make the broth. Some varieties include tripe (cow’s stomach). I rarely eat beef, so I am left with the one chicken pho on the menu, but it is equally delicious. Your steaming hot bowl of pho is served with a plate pilled high with thai basil, culantro, bean sprouts, hot peppers and sauces to dip your meat. I explain this because the first time I ate pho I sat and watched everyone until I could figure out how it all worked. Unfortunately, Argyle street is about an hour’s trek on public transit. So, when I found this recipe for a quick Vietnamese noodle soup on Love and Olive Oil, I couldn’t wait to try it. I had my doubts as to whether it would taste like the real thing, but as soon as I opened the lid of the simmering soup I instantly smelled that authentic pho smell. Even better, it tasted authentic.

This recipe says you can make this soup with either homemade or store bought chicken stock. I’ve tried it with both, and I would have to say that using store bought is not an option here. You just won’t receive the complexity of flavor with store bought stock, homemade really does make the difference. Not sure how to make your own chicken stock? Tomorrow I’ll be posting my favorite chicken stock recipe.

Quick Vietnamese Chicken Pho
adapted from Love and Olive Oil via Steamy Kitchen

1 lb dried rice noodles
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts homemade chicken stock
2 chicken breasts, whole
1/2 onion, whole
1 3-inch chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1-2 tablespoons sugar
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce

Side Accompaniments
2 cups bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
fresh cilantro tops
thai basil
1/2 cup shaved red onions
1/2 lime, cut into wedges
sriracha chili sauce
hoisin sauce
sliced fresh chili peppers

To make the broth, heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves, and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately remove from pan to avoid burning.

In a large pot, add spices, chicken stock, chicken breast, onion, ginger, sugar, and fish sauce. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently. Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and thinly slice the meat, discarding the bone (if you used a bone-in breast).

Taste broth and add more fish sauce or sugar if necessary. Strain the broth and discard solids.

Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.

Ladle the broth into bowls. Divide the sliced chicken breast and noodles evenly into each bowl. Top with bean sprouts, cilantro, red onion, and other accompaniments as desired and enjoy.

{photos by Avocados and Pancakes}
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