It’s been pretty cold outside and all I can think about is having something warm in my tummy. I have a whole chicken in the fridge just waiting for me. What best way to use up a whole chicken than making Pho Ga, the Vietnamese version of Chicken Noodle Soup. The broth for Pho Ga is very aromatic with a strong chicken flavor. It's a meal in a bowl. The dish is rice noodles with a flavorful rich broth. The best part of the dish is you can customize the bowl to your liking. There are various herbs, vegetables and condiments that you can add that are typically served alongside your bowl. Some people like it plain with just the noodles and broth. I load up my bowl with everything put in front of me. That’s the only proper way to eat Pho Ga. Enjoy the recipe below and may you eat it the proper way as well.
Recipe for Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup (Pho Ga)
Servings: 10 servings (family size)
1 whole chicken (free-range chicken preferred)
4 chicken carcasses (these are usually sold at Asian stores. If you cannot find carcasses, just use another whole chicken)
6 liters water for stock
2 large pieces of ginger (see picture below for relative size)
1 bunch / 6 sprigs of green onions
4 small white onions
5 lemon leaves
1 tablespoon salt for stock and additional salt to clean the chicken/carcasses
2 tablespoons chicken stock powder
1 golf-ball size rock sugar
6 coriander roots or 2 tablespoons of coriander seeds
4 lbs rice noodles
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 bag of white bean sprouts
1 bunch of Thai Basil
Clean the Chicken. This process will remove the foul poultry smell.
Lightly dust the chicken with salt.
Rub the salt against the chicken skin and carcasses.
Rinse thoroughly under water and set aside.
Fill a large pot to 3/4 full of water and bring it to a rolling boil.
Add chicken and boil for one minute.
Remove the chicken and rinse thoroughly under water.
Make the Broth.
In clean pot, fill it with 6 liters of water and bring it to a boil.
Add the chicken.
Slice up one of the large pieces of ginger into 1/2 inch thick.
Add the ginger slices and three sprigs of green onions.
Peel 2 of the 4 white onions and place them into the pot whole.
Add salt, chicken stock powder and rock sugar.
Simmer on low for 3 hours.
After 3 hours, remove the chicken carcasses and whole chicken.
Let it completely cool and remove the meat from whole chicken. If you use chicken carcasses, don't forget that there is a good amount of meat on them. Discard all bones and set the meat aside.
Add the Aroma
Slice up the remainder of the ginger
Roast the sliced ginger, shallots and coriander roots in the oven until charred. You may also roast these directly over a stove top.
With a knife, scrap away any charred pieces.
Add the roasted ginger, shallots and coriander into the pot. This will add the elegant aroma to the broth.
By this time, the broth is reduced about 1 liter. Replace the liter lost with another liter of water.
Simmer for another hour.
Adjust to taste with salt, chicken bullion powder and rock sugar if necessary.
Remove all solids from the broth and discard.
What's left is a clear, rich broth.
Prepare the Vegetables
Thinly slice up the remaining white onions and soak them in water for 5 minutes. Then drain. This will reduce the pungent onion smell.
Thinly slice the lemon leaves.
Coarsely chop up the cilantro and remaining green onions.
Mix everything together and set aside.
Cut up the lemon into small wedges.
Wash and rinse the bean sprouts and Thai Basil
Prepare the Rice Noodles
I like to use the fresh rice noodles whenever possible. Whether it's fresh or dried, I soak them in cold water until I'm ready to eat.
To prepare the rice noodles, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
Cook up enough rice noodles for a bowl at a time. Fresh rice noodles will cook up in seconds so you are pretty much blanching them. Dried rice noodles will take a little bit longer to cook. If you find the noodles stick together, use a colander and rinse it under warm water. Put the rice noodles back into the serving bowl.
Assemble the Bowl
Once you have cooked your noodles, add in some chicken and a little of the white onion/green onion/cilantro/lemon leaves mixture
Pour boiling hot broth on top
Add a dash of pepper
Squeeze in some lemon juice
Add in bean sprouts and Thai Basil (tear off the leaves from the stems)
Squeeze in some Hoisin and Sriracha sauce
Mix it all up and enjoy!