The first time I made this at home, the aroma took me back to our days in Vietnam sitting in the quaint Anh Café in Thao Dien. I closed my eyes and transported myself to a different world. The Pho, pronounced as “fh” is the first thing we had in Ho Chi Minh City and have been in love with it since then. This is as symbolic of Vietnam as the Cu Chi Tunnels. It’s only later that I realized the Pho in its adapted form has become part of global cuisine. I have had the Pho outside Vietnam in Hong Kong and other parts of South East Asia and also in USA , but I was disappointed knowing the original taste of Pho in Saigon or Hanoi. It’s not the same. The key thing in the recipe is the broth which takes time to make, so it’s better to make in large quantities and consume over a number of days as they do in Vietnam. One can use Chicken, beef or pork as the meat in Pho. I have used Chicken. One difference between the original Vietnamese recipe and mine is I have used chicken without the skin vs. the with skin version in Vietnam and the herbs will depend on what is locally available. This is a nutritious meal by itself and can be had anytime during the day or at night for dinner. The Vietnamese have Pho all the time. Don’t worry, if you don’t get the dish right the first time. A couple of attempts is what it takes to perfect this amazing dish. One of my all – time favourites and I do hope you’ll will give it a try. Look forward to your feedback. Happy Fooding Around.
Love in Saigon
- 1 Kg Chicken with bones (preferably with skin on)
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- 500 gms chicken bones
- 100 gms or 3 large Onions
- 100 gms or 4.5 inch Ginger
- 100 gms Shallots
- 100 gms or 1 small bunch Coriander leaves (with root)
- 8 – 10 cloves Garlic
- 5 Tbsp Black Peppercorns
- 2 + 4 Litres of water
- 350 gms flat Rice Noodles
- 2 white Radish or Carrots, cut into a quarter
- 3 –5 tsp Rock Sugar (according to taste)
- 3 Tbsp Chicken powder (You may replace this with 3 cubes of chicken Stock Cubes. If using cubes, be careful to go much less on the salt )
- 4 Tsp Fish Sauce
- 3 Tsp white Sugar
Ingredients for Spice Bag Mix :
- 2 inch Cinnamon stick
- 6 –7 Cardamom
- 5 – 6 Cloves
- 2 Star Anise
Ingredients to Assemble:
- Mixed Herb with sweet Thai Basil, fresh Mint leaves, cilantro leaves (as we do not get the long leaf Culantro better known as Ngò Gai in Vietnam, here in India)
- Fresh Bean Sprouts
- Thai Red Chillies
- Sliced Jalapeno Peppers
- Lemon Wedges
- Spring Onion Greens
- Black Pepper powder
- Hoisin Sauce
- Red Chilli Sauce (or Siracha sauce)
- Boil 2 litres of water with ½ cup of rice vinegar and ½ tbsp of salt. Switch off the flame. Add the chicken with bone (and preferably with skin) along with the chicken bones. You may lightly bruise the bones if you like before adding to the water. Leave them in for 10 – 15 mins, before taking them out and washing them in cold water.
- Char the onions and ginger over open flame to burn the skin. Place them over the flame for 2 minutes each side, undisturbed. The idea is to char them well as we want their flavour to seep into the broth. Once charred, peel off the skin and clean up.
- Using a mortar and pestle lightly bruise and crush together the coriander roots, garlic cloves and peppercorns. Put them in a mesh bag or tie them in a muslin cloth and keep them ready to prepare the stock or the broth. You may roughly pulse grind the coriander roots, garlic and whole black peppercorns if you do not have a mortar – pestle readily at home.
- Heat a pan over medium- low flame. Dry roast the cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, star anise. Frequently stir for about 5 mins or until they release their aroma. Cool them before transferring to a second mesh bag or tie them up in another muslin cloth ( make them into ‘potli’ ).
- In a large deep bottom pan add 4 litres of water along with the chicken with bone (and skin) pieces, and the spare chicken bones as well.
- Once the water starts boiling, add the grilled onions, ginger and shallots into the simmering stock. Add the quartered radish or carrots. I even added some celery too (both the stem and the leaves).
- Next drop in the 2 mesh bags or ‘potlis’. First mesh bag containing crushed coriander roots, garlic cloves and peppercorns and the second one containing the dry roasted cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and star anise.
- Now cover with a lid and reduce the flame to a sim. Simmer and cook the chicken stock for 45 mins. It is important to cook the chicken stock on very low and gentle flame. Remove the cover from time to time and Scoop off the scum (dirty form) that rises to the surface.
- Strain the stock into a clean pan and remove the chicken pieces. You should be having a maximum of 2 litres of the clear chicken stock ready for your Pho.
- Shred the chicken, discard the bones and the skin. Keep them aside and ready.
- Put the stock back over a medium-low flame to keep it warm and season the chicken stock/broth with chicken powder or chicken stock cubes, some rock, sugar and fish sauce. Sugar in Vietnam is a much needed and an essential ingredient that is used to balance the taste. Taste and add salt as per your taste.
- While your chicken stock was getting ready blanch the rice noodles, bean sprouts in boiling water and put them into a large soup bowl.
- Assemble your Chicken Pho immediately by scooping a few ladle full of the chicken broth into your prepared soup bowl. Top it with sliced chicken meat, a generous helping of bean sprouts, chopped spring onion greens and a pinch of pepper powder.
- Serve with mixed herbs, sliced red chillies and green jalapenos. Squeeze in some lemon juice from the top and add hoisin sauce and red chilli sauce according to your taste.
- Prepare the flat noodles only prior to serving. Drain out excess water as we don’t want to dilute the Pho.
- You might be using even less than half of the chicken meat. The leftover meat can be used in preparing dishes such as fried rice, chicken stir fry, chicken salads, Chinese soups, etc.
- Once cooked the broth stays good for 5 days in the refrigerator or for at least 2 months in the freezer.
- Remember to taste and add salt to the chicken broth as the Fish sauce and the chicken cubes used are high on salt content.
- Serving Size: 4