April 2, 2020

Authentic Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)

When most people think about Vietnamese food, they're most likely picturing Pho or Phở. Whether it's Pho Ga (chicken) or Pho Bo (beef), this authentic noodle soup is delicious for any occasion. As an added bonus, it's great when it's cold out and as a recovery meal after a long night of partying. There are Pho restaurants all over the world now and in Vietnam they even have street vendors serving it.

Pho Ga consists of the broth, rice noodles, chicken, and herbs. Served with lemon wedges, basil leaves, bean sprouts, jalapenos, hoisin sauce, and sriracha. The main difference between the two types of Pho is that Pho Ga requires much less time to make. Instead of simmering your beef broth for 8-10 hours, you can have a flavorful chicken broth in about 2 hours.

If this is your first time making Pho, you'll notice that a lot of the ingredients are very uncommon in other recipes. Don't worry, things like cinnamon sticks, star anises, coriander seeds, and cardamom pods come in decent sized portions so you'll be able to store them to use for plenty of Pho batches in the future. For Pho noodles I like to use fresh noodles (Banh Pho Tuoi) from Sincere Orient Co. and Three Crabs Brand for fish sauce.

I included a bit of information below for those interested in chicken hearts and chicken liver. Completely optional, but a nice addition for those familiar with them.

Authentic Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time:  2 hours
Total Time:  2 hour  30 minutes
Yield:  7-8 servings

Ingredients for the broth:
-1 unpeeled yellow onion
-4" piece of ginger sliced into 1/4" slices
-1 whole chicken (about 3.5 lbs) OR have the butcher chop it into pieces for you
-1/2 cup Kosher salt (regular salt will work)
-1 piece of cinnamon stick
-3 star anise
-2 tbs coriander seeds
-1 black cardamom pod, cracked open
-2" rock sugar or 2 tbs sugar
-6 tbs fish sauce
-5 quarts water (20 cups)

Ingredients for the bowl:
-Pho Noodles
-Green Onions
-Lemon wedges
-White Onion/Hanh Dam
-Hoisin Sauce

1. Peel the first layer off the yellow onion and chop it in half. Peel the ginger and slice it into pieces. Roast the onion and ginger in the oven/toaster for 10 minutes on low broil until browned.

2. Fill a 12 quart pot or larger halfway with water. Set the heat on high to boil. While you wait, exfoliate the chicken by rubbing salt all over the chicken to clean the skin. Rinse all the salt off and chop the chicken into wings, drumsticks, thighs and breasts.

3. Add the chicken pieces into the boiling water along with 1 tbs of salt. Let the chicken boil for 5 minutes on high. Drain water into sink, using a colander to catch the chicken pieces. Rinse each piece with cold water. Clean the pot thoroughly to get rid of all the scum before returning chicken pieces to the pot. Refill pot with 5 quarts clean water and add the roasted ginger and yellow onion.

4. While you wait for the water to boil on high, prep the spice bag. Using a pan on medium low, add the cinnamon, star anise, coriander seeds, and black cardamom pod. Toast until fragrant, be careful not to burn. This process only takes a few minutes. Put spices into a spice bag/metal spice ball and add to main pot.

5. Once the water in the pot is boiling, turn the heat to low to keep it simmering. Use a skimmer to remove any scum that’s on the surface. Simmer chicken pieces for about 20 minutes. The chicken should be just cooked through. You can also use a meat thermometer to check that the internal temperature is at 165F.

6. Remove just the chicken pieces from the pot and put them into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.  Take the chicken out and separate the meat from the bones/skin (don't throw them). This should give you a nice sized container of chicken meat.

7. Add the bones and skin back into the main pot of broth that should still be simmering. Add the rock sugar and fish sauce at this point. Let broth simmer for another 1-1.5 hours for a more concentrated flavor. While you wait, prep the garnishes for the table. Strain the broth to remove the bones, skin, and spices before serving.

Preparing the bowl:
For fresh pho noodles, rinse them before using and put the desired amount in each bowl. Using a small pot on high heat, boil up some of your finished soup. Pour the boiling soup onto the noodles in your bowl and let it cook for 10 seconds. Pour just the soup back into the small pot to bring it back to a boil Add the desired amount of chicken to your bowl on top of the cooked noodles and finally pour the boiling broth over your ready to eat bowl. It’s ideal to boil a small pot of broth whenever you plan to eat instead of heating up the whole pot. Top everything off with the garnishes of your choice and enjoy!

Instructions for prepping chicken hearts and chicken liver for those interested. Very commonly used in Pho and they're a nice addition to your bowl variety.

Chicken Hearts
Rinse and cut in half before cooking in a small pot of water. Bring to a boil then simmer on low for 20 minutes. Add into bowl alongside chicken.

Chicken Liver
Rinse before boiling in a small pot of water. Bring to a boil then simmer on low for 10 minutes. Cut cooked liver into thin slices. Add into bowl alongside chicken.