I’m a co-chair for planning the cooking classes at church. We try to bring in teachers from throughout the congregation to teach their unique foodie talents. Occasionally I, or the other girl in charge, will teach a class about something we are excited about. Last night I got to share/teach a small group about Vietnamese Pho (pronounced FUH) Soup so I’m going to share here what I know and love about Pho Soup. I KNOW, I’m not even Asian. But seriously, anyone can/should make and enjoy this soup!
There are four parts to a bowl of Pho.
1. The rice noodles
2. The meat — either chicken or beef
3. The full-flavored broth ladled on top of the noodles and meat
4. The fresh toppings and the sauces. Toppings include: fresh basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, jalapenos, mint leaves, limes. The sauces include hoisin sauce and hot sauce and fish sauce.
There are many variations to a pho soup recipe – chicken or beef version. Some recipes start with a base of chicken broth and add to it, some only use water as a base to the broth. Some recipes use cinnamon and others use whole cloves or coriander. Most all recipes I’ve seen use star anise and ginger. No matter the slight differences in the recipe, the common common elements to a good pho soup is a clear broth with a full, savory flavor. Good broth flavor starts by BLACKENING the onion and ginger, and some TOAST the spices. A good flavor also comes from the BONES. A beef pho recipe calls for ox tail and sometimes beef tendon balls. For chicken pho you cook the whole chicken, bones and everything. You can even score the chicken bones to release some of that inner bone goodness.
Chicken Pho Soup
1 whole chicken
about a 3” piece of unpeeled ginger
6 – 7 cans chicken broth (14 oz. each)
7 star anise
3 – 4 cinnamon sticks
1 – 2 Tbs sugar
Package of rice noodles
chopped fresh basil
To make the broth:
Pound the piece of ginger to smash it up a bit. Peel the onion and cut it in half. Blacken the onion and ginger in the pan in a little bit of oil. Remove excess skin from the chicken and then add the whole chicken to the pot, with the chicken broth and enough water to cover the chicken. Add the star anise, cinnamon sticks and sugar. Bring it all to a full boil and then turn the temperature down and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 25- 30 minutes. Remove the chicken. Cool the chicken until you can remove the meat from the bones. Shred or cut up the chicken and set it aside. Add what’s left of the chicken back to the broth, for a more flavorful broth. Simmer broth for as long as you’d like up to an hour or two. Remove and discard the bones, and strain the broth through a fine sieve.
Follow the directions on the package to prepare the rice noodles.
To serve the soup: Place noodles in bowl. Add meat and then ladle the broth over the top. Add toppings and sauce and ENJOY!!
Tips for clearer broth:
1. Leave the skins on the onion and blacken both the onion and the ginger in the oven or over an open flame. Remove the skins and peel, rinse and then add them to the pot.
2. Parboil the chicken. Bring the whole chicken to a full boil and boil for 34 minutes. Remove the chicken and rinse it. Rinse out the pan. This step helps to remove impurities from the chicken that would darken the broth. Then put the chicken back in the pot and begin making the broth.
3. Skim foam and other impurities from the broth as it simmers.