Vietnamese soup, or Pho (pronounced fah) is typically a big bowl of beef broth and bits of beef short ribs, top round, meatballs and usually some chewy beef like tendon and rice noodles. There are probably 25 restaurants within a mile of me that serve pho (chicken and beef) and although all are similar, they all have very different flavor profiles. The most important ingredient is the broth. To make this soup, one could buy store bought box broth (low sodium) and add some fish sauce in a pinch, however using home made broth makes this the most satisfying healthy soup, plus you gotta cook the chicken anyway.
Pho, and most other Vietnamese dishes always come served with an herb plate containing some combination of basil, mint, scallions, sliced jalapeños and bean sprouts (I’m not a sprout fan, that is why they are not pictured above). The idea is to add the fresh herbs for crunch and texture as you consume the soup, not to put them all in at once. Sriracha is also a staple, however instead of putting it directly into the soup–it dulls the complexity of the broth–put some on the side and dip pieces in. If you like the broth spicier, add jalapeños instead.
Making chicken stock is easy, but takes time, which makes this a perfect weekend project. The finished stock can be refrigerated for a week or frozen.
In addition to the shredded chicken, I also added some grilled chicken meatballs.
1 small whole chicken–3 pounds is ideal, but good luck finding one that small
bunch of scallions
large hunk of ginger
medium yellow onion
3 quarts chicken stock
thinly sliced jalapeños
one package dried rice vermicelli
Turn oven to 250 and roast the whole onion and a pice of ginger the size of your thumb for one hour. Bring a large pot of water large enough to hold the chicken to a boil. When boiling, add the chicken, a few scallions and a piece of crushed ginger. Boil for 15-20 minutes, then cover the pot, turn off the heat and let the chicken stand in the pot for 15-20 minutes longer.
When the chicken is ready, submerge the chicken in an ice water bath and let cool–at least 20 minutes. Save the chicken cooking water–that is the base of your stock. Now the messy part: Shred the chicken from the bones and skin, then put the bones back in the chicken cooking water. Discard the skin. Reserve the shredded meat for serving. Add the roasted onion and ginger and bring the stock to a simmer. Simmer for 3-4 hours. Remove all solids from the stock and strain into a large bowl or container and let cool to allow fat to rise to top and skim most of the fat.
To assemble the soup, arrange the herbs, jalapeño, lime wedges and bean sprouts on a large plate for guests to share. Bring the stock to a boil and add fish sauce to taste, 3-4 tablespoons. In warmed soup bowls, add the cooked noodles (blanch the dried noodles in boiling water for a minute or so) and shredded chicken. Top off the bowls with the very hot broth and serve. Cheers!