Chicken Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

I’m tempted to make a “good pho’ what ails you” joke … and I just did.

Pho is Vietnamese noodle soup (it should have a little squiggly line over the “o,” and it’s pronounced “fuh”).  I was introduced to it while living in Philly and once when I was sick, a friend brought me a big bowl of pho, telling me, “It’s like Asian chicken noodle soup, comfort food when we’re sick.”  Since then, I’ve craved pho when I was sick.  It has all the comfort of traditional chicken noodle soup (though I think pho is generally beef), but it’s lighter and fresher.

Yesterday, I was sick with a cold, as was JR, Titus also has a cold, and my mom was in bed with the flu all day.  Sounds like a pho day to me.

Did you know that there’s supposed to be something in chicken soup that helps clear mucous out of your system? And don’t forget how ridiculously good for you homemade chicken stock is anyway.  Add in some other things that are good pho’ what ails ya as well as the delicious flavor combination, and this is a great soup in sickness and in health.

Here’s the recipe upon which I based my soup.  I didn’t intend to deviate from the recipe much, but circumstances required some changes.  First, I didn’t have time for the crockpot method (had something to do with being sick), so I started with a pot full of water and added all the broth ingredients.  I bought a whole chicken and after cutting off most of the breast meat I decided I didn’t have the patience to remove more meat when I really needed to get the stock cooking.  So I cut off all the skin and dropped the whole chicken in; about an hour later, I pulled off most of the (now-cooked) meat and dropped the carcass back into the stock.  In an ideal world, I would have let this cook longer to get more goodness out of the bones.

Other changes:

  • I added a dash of apple cider vinegar because I’d read that helps with leeching minerals out of bones in stock making.  It didn’t change the flavor.
  • I couldn’t find star anise, so I used 2 tsp of anise seed.
  • I simmered this on low for just over 3 hours.
  • I used green onions as a garnish (instead of red onions), because I think they’re delicious.

One last comment, this is a perfect soup for the gluten-intolerant among us!  You might check to make sure your fish sauce and hoisin are gluten-free; mine were both labeled as such right on the jar.

Chicken Pho
adapted from Jaden Hair/Bon Appetit

INGREDIENTS

1 whole chicken, breasts and other meaty parts cut off (you don’t have to use all of the meat; I reserved some of the cooked chicken for another meal)
1/2 onion
3-inch chunk of ginger, sliced
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 tsp anise seeds
2 tablespoons sugar (I used muscovado/unrefined sugar )
2 tablespoons fish sauce
small bunch of cilantro stems, tied in bunch with twine

1 pound dried rice noodles (about 1/4″ wide)
1/2 pound chicken meat (breast or thigh), thinly sliced
2 cups bean sprouts, washed
handful of cilantro leaves
1 sliced green onion per bowl
1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha hot sauce (optional)
Hoisin sauce (optional)

PREPARATION

1. Combine in a pot the chicken carcass, onion, ginger, coriander seeds, cloves, anise, sugar and fish sauce. Fill with water to near the top of the pot/slow cooker. Turn slow cooker to high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours, or simmer on stovetop over low heat for 3-4 hours. Remove all chicken, strain broth through cheesecloth. Taste and adjust with additional fish sauce and sugar if needed.

2. Soak rice noodles in cool water for 5 minutes. Drain. In the meantime, bring a big pot of water to a boil and then turn to low. Add the chicken slices and let cook for 1-3 minutes or until cooked through–timing depends on how thin slices are. Remove the chicken slices. Next, add the rice noodles to the water and cook for 1 minute. Remove noodles and divide amongst 4 serving bowls.

3. Fill each bowl with chicken slices, noodles, broth and a sliced green onion.  Let guests garnish with bean sprouts, cilantro leaves, lime, Sriracha and hoisin.