Pho Ga Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

Pho Ga, Vietnamese Noodle Soup

Chicken Soup – it’s so familiar to so many cultures – I had to try my hand at Pho Ga. Rich golden stock and rice noodles make the backbone of the soup, but it’s the garnishes that make the meal.

Pho Ga Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup
Pho Ga, Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

Whole chickens were on sale for dirt cheap and my baby Sis has been going on about the wonderful Vietnamese foods she’s been having while traveling. This one’s for you, Sis, and you can have it right at home.

I combed recipes and came up with a basic outline, then tweaked it again and again. I tried to stay as true as possible using grocery store ingredients – a bit of brown sugar can sub for rock sugar and Thai basil was passed over in favor of what I had growing in my herb pot – but search out the ingredients if they’re available to you. Many restaurants use plain old basil & jalapeno as garnishes, by the way.

Here’s a couple of things I learned that made a big difference:

  • First of all – use the best stock possible – a rich, clear stock is the hallmark of good Pho Ga.
  • Many cooks do a traditional short cut version of the stock, hacking it up a chicken and then going to a lot of trouble to clarify the stock – I found it much easier to simply make a big pot of  clarified stock to start with, and divide it. Half for this recipe, which I flavored with the aromatics and half left as is for the freezer and another recipe, later.
  • The other big thing:  Char your ginger and onions – over a flame, grill, grill pan or under a broiler. Peel them and rub off any burnt pieces. This is a big part of what gives this dish its distinctive taste.

There’s nothing to difficult about Pho Ga; I’ve broken it down into 4 steps:

  • Make your Chicken stock (reserve part of stock and meat for another meal)
  • Use part of the Chicken Stock to make the Pho Ga
  • Prepare the ingredients: bean sprouts, noodles and reserved chicken meat for the Pho Ga Soup
  • Prepare the garnishes: basil, sliced green onion, peppers of your choice, cilantro and/or mint, thinly sliced white or green onion, etc.

The best part of knowing how to make Pho Ga? You can have it, where ever you live, when ever you want – no traveling to a city to get your fix, searching out restaraunts all over town or precariously nesting containers in your car to bring back home – and even though Pho isn’t expensive at most restaurants, you can make for a fraction of the cost.

Garnishes for Pho Ga
Garnishes for Pho Ga

Pho Ga

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

  • 8 cups of good chicken stock (see below, maybe a little more, just to be on the safe side)
  • 1 onion, with peel, cut in half
  • 2″ piece of ginger, with peel
  • 1 teaspoon salt (to taste)
  • 2 tablespoon fish sauce
  • chunk of rock sugar, about 1/2 ounce (or two tablespoons brown sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed, toasted for a minute in a dry skillet just until you can begin to smell them (or cilantro root & stem if you have it available.)
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise
  • few sprigs of cilantro or saved up stems (I save them in my freezer, but if you use cilantro for the garnish, chop and just throw the stems in the stock – if you are sensitive to cilantro, use parsley. Don’t use if you already used the cilantro root and stems, above)

Put your onion (cut side down) and ginger on a baking sheet (I like to put them on a piece of foil on the baking sheet.) and broil until charred. Peel the onion and scrape off the ginger peel. Cut the ginger into slices – it will be very soft.

Place stock in saucepan with the charred onion, ginger, salt, fish sauce, rock sugar (or brown), coriander seed, cloves. star anise and cilantro stems. Simmer for 30 minutes, then strain, through a cheesecloth lined sieve.

Taste the stock – add more salt, fish sauce or sugar to taste.  Remember the stock will flavor the noodles, so it needs to be flavorful.

While your stock is simmering, prepare your garnishes and additional ingredients, below.

  • 1 pound Rice Noodles – you’ll need the flat ones
  • 2 cups Bean Sprouts
  • Reserved chicken breast from stock – room temperature

While the stock is cooking, soak your rice noodles as directed, usually in warm water for about 30 minutes.  (I like to put mine in an old plastic pitcher.)

In large pot, bring to a boil the water you’ll use to actually heat the noodles through.

Rinse bean sprouts (pinch off any unattractive ends) and place in a small metal sieve – dunk in the boiling water for about 20 seconds. Drain and set aside for garnish.  If you don’t think you like bean sprouts, try this quick blanch – they’re beautiful and taste fantastic.

Carefully slice your reserved chicken into 1/4 inch slices.

Use your time while the stock is simmering to prepare the rest of your garnishes, below.

When ready to serve, place a serving’s size handful of noodles into your metal sieve, dunk in the boiling water for about 20 seconds, just until they wilt and heat through. Place them in a bowl, then arrange chicken over the noodles.  Add your bean sprouts and thinly shaved onion, then ladle the hot, simmering  stock over. Let everyone pick from the remaining garnishes as they wish.

Garnishes:

  • 2 or 3 Thai chiles, thinly sliced, or Serrano (you’ll need one) or Jalapeno (if you’re not as brave)
  • Thinly sliced green onion (green part only) or spring onion
  • Cilantro tops – leaves and tender stems
  • Lime wedges, quartered
  • Sprigs of mint or Thai basil
  • 1/2 cup very thinly sliced or shaved red or white onions – soak them in water while stock is cooking to take off the “bite”
  • Sriracha hot sauce
  • Hoisin

Home-made chicken stock, suitable for Pho Ga or other recipes

  • Servings: varies
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Since the Pho Ga will not use all the stock, only about 8 cups worth, and the Pho Ga starts with a plain stock, make this the day before and divide out the chicken and stock for Pho Ga after it’s cooled, reserving the rest for another meal.

  • Whole Chicken, and additional parts, necks, feet, etc., if available
  • Vegetable scraps or roughly chopped vegetables, carrots, onion, celery. Separate out the onion pieces into layers.
  • Water to cover
  • 8 peppercorns

Rinse chicken, add to pot and cover with about 2 inches of water.

Add enough vegetable scraps, peels, bits and pieces of celery, onion and carrot to completely cover the water, basically a “raft,” of vegetable matter that floats on top of the water. This will clarify the stock as it simmers away.

Bring the pot up to a good simmer – not quite a boil – then turn the heat down so that it barely percolates – just a few bubbles coming through now and then. Cover the pot about 3/4 of the way with a lid, adjust the temperature again, and let it barely simmer.

Pull the chicken out after about an hour and a half, disturbing the “raft” as little as possible, remove the large pieces of meat, and refrigerate them. Place the carcass and scraps back in the pot. Gently poke the “raft” back in place, making sure it covers the water. Replace the lid (3/4’s on) and adjust the heat.

Barely simmer again for about three and a half to four hours – the longer the better. Strain through a cheese cloth layered sieve, transferred to a clean container and refrigerate.

Remove the the fat after the stock is cool.

This “raft” of vegetation will clarify the soup without skimming or fussing

This “raft” of vegetation will clarify the soup without skimming or fussing

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Read {Strategies Applied} for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving money/time, buying at the best prices and managing this recipe.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Use a coupon matching site!

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Nutrition –

Cal 523.74 Cal fr Fat 11% 58 cal; tot fat 6.52; sat fat 1/3g; chol 79.73g; sod 2126mg; pot 487mg; tot carb 88.88g; fib 3.17g; sug 9.75g; prot 27.04g

Put Your Own Spin on It:

  • This recipe is all about making it what you want and like – the garnishes make it fun.  Adapt it to your favorite taste!

Chicken Pho – Pho Ga, made May 2012

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