Chicken Soup – it’s so familiar to so many cultures – I had to try my hand at Pho Ga. Whole chickens were on sale for and my baby Sis has been going on about the wonderful Vietnamese meals 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 – just enough so my Son and his friends would like it. So, yeah, this is an “Amerinese” version, in keeping with the spirit of the original. I tried to stay as authentic as possible using grocery store ingredients - I used brown sugar instead of the rock sugar, and skipped the Thai basil as a garnish - but search out the ingredients for an amazing taste experience.
Here’s a couple things I learned that made a big difference.
- First of all – use the best broth possible – a rich, clear broth is the hallmark of good Pho Ga. In the interest of frugalness, I made my Best Chicken or Turkey broth from a whole chicken (detailed instructions, below) and divided for two meals.
- The other big thing: Char your ginger and onions – over a flame, grill, grill pan or broiler. Peel them and rub off any burnt pieces.
Pho Ga, (Vietnamese Noodle Soup) serves 4, cost $5.23
- 6 cups of chicken broth (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
- teaspoon coriander seed, toasted for a minute in a dry skillet just until you can begin to smell them.
- 2 whole cloves
- 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 broth – if you hate cilantro, use parsley.)
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.) Peel the onion and scrape off the ginger peel. Cut the ginger into slices – it will be very soft.
Place broth in saucepan with the charred onion, ginger, salt, fish sauce, rock sugar (or brown), coriander seed, cloves and cilantro stems.
Simmer for 30 minutes, then strain, through a cheesecloth lined sieve.
Taste the broth – add more salt, fish sauce or sugar to taste. Remember the broth will flavor the noodles, so it needs to be flavorful.
While your broth is simmering, prepare your garnishes and additional ingredients, below.
Pho Ga Garnishes and additional ingredients
- 1 pound Rice Noodles – you’ll need the flat ones
- 2 cups Bean Sprouts.
- Reserved chicken breast – room temperature
While the broth is cooking, soak your rice noodles as directed, usually in warm water for about 15 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 broth 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 broth over. Let everyone pick from the remaining garnishes as they wish.
- 2 or 3 Thai chiles, thinly sliced, or Serrano (you’ll need one)
- Thinly sliced green onion (green part only)
- 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 broth is cooking to take off the “bite”
- Sriracha hot sauce
Chicken Broth – make day before and divide out the chicken and broth for Pho Ga after it’s cooled, reserving some for another meal.
- Whole Chicken, and additional parts, necks, feet, etc., if available
- Vegetable scraps our roughly chopped vegetables, carrots, onion, celery. Separate out the onion pieces into layers.
- Water to cover
- 8 peppercorns
I made the broth I always use, Best Chicken Broth, but used a whole chicken and leftover scraps and pieces of vegetables. No wine, no parsley, no thyme. Because I wanted it clear, something I usually don’t worry about too much, I placed my rinsed (again, not something I usually bother with) chicken in the pot, then added enough vegetable pieces and scraps (bits of carrot, celery, onion, etc.) to completely cover, then poured in water to cover.
Basically, I made a “raft,” a layer of vegetable matter that floats on top of the water. I brought it up to a good simmer – not quite a boil – then turned it down so that it barely percolated – just a few bubbles coming through now and then. I covered the pan about 3/4 of the way with a lid, then adjusted the temperature again, and let it barely simmer. After about an hour and a half, I pulled out the chicken, trying not to disturb the “raft” too much, and removed the meat in as large of pieces as I could.
I put the carcass and scraps back in the pot, poked around at the “raft” to make sure it covered the water, replaced the lid (3/4′s on) and adjusted the heat. I barely simmered again for about three and a half to four hours – the longer the better. I strained the broth through a cheese cloth layered sieve, transferred to a clean container and refrigerated. I made it the evening before so I could easily remove the fat and the recipe is more manageable. (After the broth is made, it takes about 40 minutes for the Pho Ga noodles and garnishes.)
Money and Time Saving Strategies:
For pricing, remember to use your coupon matching sites for your local stores. My favorite is Pocket Your Dollars in my area, but every store has a group of enthusiastic couponers who can point you to the best bargains. Don’t be discouraged if your prices are higher at first – just keep shopping the best sales and follow the strategies and you’ll get there! Check under Saving on Basic Ingredients for more detailed information and storage hints – use <control f> to search each page to bring you to the item you want to check out.
- Whole Chickens: Usually on sale for 99 cents a pound in my area, they do drop now and then to 69 cents a pound. I pick them up then – most chickens are 3 1/2 to 4 pounds these days, so buy the largest you can. At four pounds, if you have to pay the 99 cents, you’ll be paying $1.20 more for the chicken. Keep in mind, though, that this protein, depending on the size of your family, will make more than one meal. At my sales price, the cost for the chicken is $2.76 – I’ll use half, $1.38. I’m planning on some Classic Chicken Salad for the rest.
- Onion: Buy onions whenever you see them drop in price and store in a cool, dark place away from any potatoes. Store the other half onion in your fridge door where you’ll be sure to see it and remember to use it. Cost for the onion plus a half: 66 cents for two pounds at Aldi’s, cost about 15 cents.
- Green Onion: I save the white tip in a glass of water in a sunny window – they regrow and I have green onion for weeks and weeks. Look for a sale price of 50 cents for a bunch, especially around holidays. Cost 0
- Cilantro: It’s spring here in Minnesota and I had to buy – the bunch was 69 cents. Think of other ways to use the rest – we’ll have something Mexican later in the week. I keep mine in a glass of water, covered with a plastic bag and a rubber band around the glass, holding the bag tight. Less chance of spills that way. Save the stems and toss in a Ziploc in the freezer. If you can’t use it all, chop and freeze, covered with water in ice cube trays. You can use those in soups and rice. I’ll count 1/3 of the bunch – cost 23 cents.
- Limes: I use often to add freshness to salsas, Mexican food and marinades from everything from chicken to steak. I rarely see on sale, but they’re generally very inexpensive. Don’t be concerned about the color of your limes – when you buy, pick up several and choose the heaviest ones. They’ll be the juiciest. Cost 20 cents
- Bean Sprouts: If you have access to an Asian market, buy there. My cost was $1.29 and I had some leftover – so I’ll find another recipe to use. Highly perishable, especially if wet, remove from the bag and loosely wrap in a bit of paper napkin, then store in a loose plastic bag in the fridge. Cost $1.20.
- Rock Sugar: I substituted brown sugar, but if you have access to an Asian market, it’s really inexpensive and something worth picking up. It will generally be pricey at your regular supermarket. Cost for brown sugar, about 2 cents.
- Ginger: Again, less expensive at an Asian market – I keep mine in a heavy Ziploc in the freezer – it freezes barely solid, and you can cut it with a knife. Cost 10 cents.
- Rice Noodles: Less expensive, (you got it) at an Asian market. I bought mine at the regular store – cost $1.89
- Thai Chiles – so pricey per pound, you only need three – I paid 3 cents for mine, and I’m sure the bag weighed more than the chile!
- Fish Sauce – buy it – yep – at the Asian market. Sometimes the regular grocery store has sales, generally around the Chinese New Year (January or February.) Buy the most authentic one you can find. A few tablespoons like this won’t make your recipe taste “fishy.” Cost is nominal, about 3 cents.
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