Pho Ga, Vietnamese Chicken Soup
Pho Ga is a delicate, yet incredibly complex and flavorful, clear broth made by poaching chicken with a mixture of aromatic ingredients such as ginger, onion, coriander, fennel, cloves, star anise, cardamom and fish sauce. The chicken broth is strained and served with the shredded chicken, rice noodles and perhaps some shiitake mushrooms, kale, bean sprouts, cilantro, shaved red onion, hoisin sauce or Sriracha. The soup can also be made with beef or with just vegetables and can be easily customized to make it your own.
There are a number of regional variations in Vietnam, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pho and many other countries as well. This particular recipe comes from a friend in France and while it varies a bit from the traditional method of making Pho Ga, it is still quite fantastic.
1 whole chicken, about to about 4 1/2 pounds or equal amount of chicken parts
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
Fresh ginger, 3 inches long, peeled and roughly chopped
1 fennel bulb, cleaned, roughly chopped
Stems from 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, cleaned,roughly chopped, leaves and tender stems reserved for garnish
1 bunch of Cavolo Nero (also called Lacinato kale) or similar kale, washed, leaves removed and reserved, stems roughly chopped
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 red chili or jalapeño pepper, ribs & seeds removed and roughly chopped,
4 whole star anise pods
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
4 black or green cardamon pods
4 whole cloves
3/4 to 1 pound of shiitake mushrooms or mushrooms of your choice. Brush clean and remove stems, reserve tops for garnish
Extra-virgin olive oil
Whole black peppercorns, about 1 tablespoon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb dried rice noodles
Reserved shiitake mushrooms,
Several green onions, sliced on the diagonal about 1/2” long
Reserved leaves from Cavolo Nero
Bean sprouts, about 2 cups
Reserved cilantro leaves and tender stems
Red onion, thinly sliced or shaved, about 1/2 cup
2-4 limes, cut into wedges
Sriracha hot sauce
Heat a dry sauté or frying pan over medium heat. Add the star anise, cloves coriander seeds and cardamom pods and heat until toasted and fragrant, about 2 to 4 minutes. Stir or shake the pan occasionally and immediately remove the spices from the pan to avoid burning. Set them aside.
Broth and Chicken:
In a large stockpot add the chicken, cover with water and bring to a boil. Continue to boil for about 5 minutes. Remove the foam that comes to the top of the pot. Drain and rinse the chicken. Wash the pot and return to the stove. Add several tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Then add the onion, ginger, fennel, cilantro stems and kale stems. Add a pinch of salt and continue to sweat the vegetables until they are soft and translucent, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red chili, stir and continue to cook for about 1 minute. Add the star anise, coriander, cardamom and cloves, stir and cook for an additional 1 minute.
Then add the chicken and cover with cold water, about 4 quarts. Cover the pot and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Partially open the top of the pot and continue to simmer for about 1 hour and 30 minutes (about 20 minutes per pound of chicken). Skim any impurities off the top of the soup about every 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional pepper or fish sauce if needed.
Remove the chicken and set aside. When it is cool enough to handle, remove the meat and shred it. Strain the broth through a fine strainer or a chinois and set aside. At this point you can let the broth and chicken cool, stirring the broth occasionally, up to 2 hours and refrigerate. The chicken and broth should be combined and covered. They can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. This will help develop the flavor and make it easier to remove any remaining fat from the broth. Or you can prepare the garnishes and let the soup and chicken sit at room temperature until you are ready to serve the soup, up to 1 hour. In either case, reheat the broth and the shredded chicken, together for several minutes before serving. Taste and add additional, pepper and fish sauce if necessary.
Cook the rice noodles in a pot of salted boiling water until al dente, according to the timing instructions on the package, generally about 4 to 6 minutes. Quickly drain and rinse under cold water and drain again. Add to the your soup bowls if you are ready to serve the soup. The noodles can also be cooked several hours in advance. Drained and rinsed in the same way and kept in a bowl until ready to serve. Just before serving, reheat by dunking them briefly in a pot of simmering water, then draining. It is easier if you use a strainer to hold the noodles in the water. Divide among the serving bowls
Thinly slice the shiitake mushrooms. Heat a sauté or fry pan, large enough to hold the mushrooms in one layer (or prepare in batches) over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add enough oil to coat the bottom and add the mushrooms. Stir or toss the mushrooms in the oil and add a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their liquid and start to develop some color, about 5 minutes. Add a bit more olive oil if the mixture becomes too dry. Then add a tablespoon of butter and stir the mushrooms. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next add about 1/2 cup of the warm soup or chicken stock and continue to cook for several minutes until the broth has evaporated and the mushrooms are nicely browned and tender. Remove and set aside.
The mushrooms can be prepared up to 1 hour in advance and reheated in the soup with the chicken for a few minutes before serving.
Wash and drain the leaves. Stack the leaves and slice into 1 inch pieces. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-high heat in a pan large enough to hold the kale (or prepare in batches). Add several tablespoons of water, the kale and a pinch of salt. Cook and stir for one minute. Cover the pan and steam until the kale is wilted and tender, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm.
The kale can be prepared up to 1 hour in advance and reheated in the soup with the chicken and mushrooms before serving.
Divide the rice noodles among the soup bowls. Ladle in the hot soup and add the shredded chicken, mushrooms and kale. Then let your guests add the shaved red onion, cilantro leaves, bean sprouts, green onions and a squeeze of lime juice, as they choose. You might also add a few drops of Sriracha sauce or some hoisin sauce. Serve with chopsticks for the noodles and spoons for the soup.