Pho has always been my comfort food for as long as I could remember. It’s a quintessential food of Vietnam, as ramen is to Japan. Growing up, I ate pho bo (beef noodle) because beef was a commodity. I didn’t really appreciate pho ga until my husband introduced me to Pho Ga An Nam in San Jose when we first dated. It was the best pho ga in town, almost two decades ago. From then on, I begged my mom to cook more pho ga instead of pho bo. She always uses free range chicken because the meat remains firmer after cooking. The spices used in pho ga are similar to pho bo and lend a fragrant and intoxicating broth. During cold weather and rainy seasons we find ourselves gravitating toward pho ga. Each family has their own variation but most of the ingredients are very similar. We hope this will become your go to pho ga recipe!
Pho Ga (4-6 servings)
1 3-lb free range chicken
2 lbs of chicken carcass
12 cups of water
1 medium yellow onion
2 thumb sized pieces of ginger
1 cinnamon stick
5 star anise
½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsps fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 16-oz package of rice noodles (pho noodles)
For the garnish
1 bunch of Thai basil
½ cup of chopped cilantro
½ cup of chopped green onion
1 green jalapenos pepper, sliced thinly
2 cups of mung bean sprouts
1 lime cut into wedges
Freshly ground pepper for serving
Hoisin sauce for serving
Sriracha sauce for serving
1. Char the onion and ginger pieces on both sides over a gas stove. If you don’t have a gas stove, broil them for a few minutes in the oven. Set aside.
2. Roast the spices in the oven at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes until fragrant. Place the coriander seeds, fennel seeds, star anise, and cloves in a piece of muslin/cheesecloth and tie with butcher’s twine to secure. Set aside.
3. Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the chicken carcass, chicken, onion, ginger, and spices and let everything simmer over medium-low heat. Occasionally remove any scum from the surface.
4. Prepare a large ice-water bath 30 minutes into cooking. When the chicken is done, remove it from the pot and immediately submerge it in the water bath to stop the cooking process and give the meat a firmer texture. Let the chicken stand for 15 minutes until it’s cool enough to handle.
5. Remove the chicken meat from the bones. Set aside. Throw the bones back into the stockpot.
6. Continue simmering the broth for another 90 minutes. Season with salt, fish sauce, and sugar to taste. Add a little more water if too much water has evaporated during the cooking process.
7. While the broth is simmering, bring a small sauce pan to a boil.
8. Add the noodles and cook for about 2-3 minutes or just until al dente. The noodles will finish cooking in the broth.
9. Prepare the plate of garnishes with Thai basil leaves, mung bean sprouts, lime wedges, and jalapeno peppers.
10. In a small sauce bowl, add the Hoisin sauce and the Sriracha sauce for serving.
11. Chop the green onion and cilantro.
12. To assemble divide the noodles between soup bowls. Top with chicken meat, scallions, and cilantro. Ladle the hot stock over the top, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, and serve immediately with the garnishes.
Cook's note: for a less fatty broth, make the broth a day ahead and leave the broth in the fridge overnight. Remove the layer of fat at the surface before rewarming the broth. For a cleaner broth, strain it before serving.
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