It’s frightening how quickly the weather can turn. Last week, it was so hot we initiated a mojito-of-the-day routine. This week, we’re putting on our boots and slushing through the rain.
And with that, we’ve officially embrace cooler weather, the umbrella and a free car wash. To celebrate the splash, we’re offering a bowl of my mom’s chicken pho. For me, nothing beats this on a cold and rainy day. Sometimes chicken, sometimes beef, but always brimming with the aroma of ginger, anise, clove and cinnamon.
A brief excerpt on chicken pho from Andrea’s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen:
While beef pho may be the version that most people know and like, chicken pho is also excellent. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in “pho ga” within the Vietnamese American community, and a handful of restaurants are specializing in the delicate noodle soup. Some of them use free-range “ga chay” or “gia di bo” (literally, “jogging chicken” or “walking chicken”), yielding bowls full of meat that has a flavor and texture reminiscent of traditionally raised chickens in Vietnam. If you want to create great chicken pho yourself, take a cue from the pros and start with quality birds. – Into the Vietnamese Kitchen (2006), p. 206
The only drawback to this soup is that about 20 minutes into the cooking time, you start to smell the ginger, and the anise… then the clove… and the cinnamon. Combined with the smell of chicken, it’s a little hard to resist sneaking into the kitchen for a snack. If I had to make a confession, it’d be that I only get 7 servings out of this pot, because the 8th is lost to multiple sneaks into the kitchen for “tasting” purposes.
What’s your rainy-day soup of choice?
- Where to find ingredients:
- 2-3 lb. chickens: If your go-to markets don’t carry small chickens (mine don’t), you can find them at Asian markets.
- Star anise: If your market has a Mexican foods section, you can usually find a packet of whole star anises in a bag for about $0.99. Note: You can also get cloves and cinnamon sticks in the same section… usually for a fraction of the price of spices sold in the standard baking aisle… in the same market.
- Fish sauce: Try an Asian market. Look for an orange bottle with flying fish on it. It’s the best.
- Rock sugar: Also at an Asian market. A whole box with a pound of sugar is usually in the $1.00-range.
- Ingredients for Broth:
- • 6 quarts water
- • 2 2-3 pound whole chickens
- • 2 medium yellow onions
- • 6 whole cloves
- • 1 4-inch piece of ginger
- • 5 star anise (40 robust points total)
- • 3-inch cinnamon stick
- • 1 ½ tablespoon kosher salt
- • ¼ cup fish sauce
- • 1-inch chunk rock sugar (about 1 ounce)
- Ingredients for Bowls:
- • 1 ½ lb. fresh small flat rice noodle
- • 1 yellow onion
- • 3 scallions
- • Chicken pieces (from whole chicken used to make broth)
- Ingredients for Garnish:
- • 1 cup bean sprouts
- • 3 sprigs Thai basil
- • Handful cilantro leaves
- • 2-3 limes
- • 2-3 Serrano chilies
- Minute 1: Preparation for Broth: In a large stock pot, heat up water. Rinse whole chickens clean and add to pot. Quarter onions, pierce them with the cloves (to prevent cloves from floating around in the broth) and add to pot. Minute 5: With a knife, slice the ginger about every quarter-inch to expose more surface area to the water. But don’t slice all the way through, so it’s still in one piece when added to the pot. Add the star anise, cinnamon stick, salt, fish sauce and rock sugar.
- Minute 10: Bring pot to a boil, then bring heat down to a simmer for 45 minutes. As needed, skim off the top of the broth.
- Minute 60: After 45 minutes, remove the two whole chickens and let cool for about 20 minutes. Using bare hands, pull of the chicken meat and place meat into bowl. Cover bowl. Return chicken bones to pot.
- Minute 80: Preparation for Bowls: Peel and cut an onion into paper-thin slices. Then submerge into bowl of water and set aside.
- Minute 120: About 2 hours into the cooking time, strain the broth to remove all the solids, and return broth to pot.
- Minute 125: Begin assembling pho bowls. Cook fresh small flat rice noodles according to package directions (usually by submerging in boiling water for 10 seconds). Chop scallion into thin slices. In each bowl, you need the following:
- 3 oz. fresh small flat rice noodles
- 1 tablespoon chopped scallions
- 3 oz. chicken meat
- Minute 145: Assemble garnish plate: Pull off cilantro leaves from stem. Quarter limes. Add to garnish plate, along with bean sprouts and Serrano chilies and Thai basil leaves.
- Minute 150: Immediately before serving, ladle hot chicken broth over soup bowls- enough to cover the rice noodles. Serve immediately.
Nutrition content per serving: 365 calories, 53g carbs, 32g protein, 3g fat, 0g fiber
Cost per serving: $2.40 – $2.52
Source: Rustic Garden Bistro, with assistance from RGBistro Mom and Andrea (via Into the Vietnamese Kitchen)
Updated photo from May 10. 2013: