A comfort food staple in our home
Ahh…the most famous Vietnamese dish in conjunction with the baguette sandwich, banh mi thit. How can we talk about comfort foods and not talk about pho? Pho ga–or noodle soup with chicken–is perhaps my favorite of the pho family. I grew up eating pho on occasional Sunday mornings, and while I know it’s a cliche to say so, my mama seriously made the best pho. Seriously. The best. My parents’ friends had even urged her to open up a little pho restaurant. She was bestowed the recipe by a Vietnamese chef she once knew. Unfortunately, my mama died before I ever got the chance to learn her secrets, and my dad never found the written gem anywhere. Quite literally, she took the secret to the grave.
Years later, I discovered Quoc Viet, a handy little brand of soup base. They make a variety of soup bases, including pho bo (Hanoi beef noodle soup), bo kho (beef stew), and bun bo Hue (spicy lemongrass beef noodle soup from central Vietnam), to name a few. I have yet to be disappointed by any of the outcomes using Quoc Viet products.
Pho is definitely a comfort food: eaten on cold days or after a late night of partying, it hits just the right spot. Vietnamese people often eat it for lunch, brunch, or even breakfast. (I’ve seen Pho Danh, which I believe has the best pho in Houston and which I will review next time I go, crowded with diners at 9 AM.)
So what makes a good pho? It’s mainly in the broth. It can’t be too oily, it has to be flavorful with the right flavors. You’d be surprised at some of the weird tasting pho broths out there. For example, Les Givrals Kahve–not to be confused with the original Givral on Bellaire, this one is an entirely different chain: one on Washington, the other on Congress–has one-dimensional broth that reeks of pepper and nothing else. Blegh.
Quoc Viet makes a delicious broth. I actually prefer my homemade quick & easy chicken pho to any other restaurant’s. One day I will attempt to make it from scratch, but till then, this is a simple yet savory substitute. And remember, if the Blind can Cook it, so can you.
Recipe: Quick & Easy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup (Pho)
Summary: Pho ga–instructions can be found on the label of the Quoc Viet soup base, but here is my version.
- 1 jar Quoc Viet brand “chicken pho” soup base
- 15-20 chicken legs
- 1 pc. fresh ginger, unpeeled but washed
- 1 whole onion, unpeeled but washed
- 1 (13.5 oz.) can chicken broth
- 2-3 gal. water
- 3 pkg. rice sticks (banh pho), cooked al dente
- 1 bunch scallion/green onion, washed & finely chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro, washed & finely chopped
- 3 limes, cut into sm. wedges
- Sriracha, hoisin sauce & fish sauce to taste
- In a lg. stockpot, combine chicken, ginger, and whole onion. Add enough water to cover ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat.
- Add contents of the Quoc Viet soup base, making sure not to tear open the enclosed spice bags. Boil at med. heat for 20 min.
- Remove chicken, ginger, onion, and spice bag. Add chicken broth to soup and adjust water to 2-3 gal. of water, depending on taste. Bring back to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and let simmer until ready to serve.
- Meanwhile, remove skin from chicken and shred meat.
- To serve, in a lg. bowl, place noodles, chicken, scallion, and cilantro. Pour steaming broth into bowl. Garnish with freshly squeezed lime juice, Sriracha, and/or hoisin sauce.
I put quotation marks around the word “quick” because while it is quicker than making pho from scratch, it still takes some time to prepare.
You can often find the Quoc Viet soup bases, along with the other ingredients, at your local Asian grocery store. You can also find them online but you’ll probably have to purchase in bulk.
The specific brands of ingredients I like to use are:
- Swanson chicken broth
- Sriracha brand hot sauce which is a Thai sauce made of sun-ripened chili peppers and garlic
- Koon Chun hoisin sauce
As for rice sticks, I like to get the medium-sized noodles (rather than the small that are served in most restaurants), simply because this is what my mama used to serve, and it’s nostalgic for me. As for brand, I used to get the one with a red rose on the package, but that brand has become increasingly harder to find, so I’ve resorted to using one with an elephant. Some cooks I know say it’s an abomination to use dried rice sticks, preferring to only use the fresh ones in the refrigerated section of the store. Anyone have a suggestion as to which rice stick brand I should use?
Different people like different garnishes and condiments with their pho. I personally only add lime, choosing to forego all the various sauces and veggies. Call me a purist, but I tend to like tasting the essence of a dish. For others, though, you can serve raw veggies: bean sprouts, mint, basil. My mama used to like stalks of green onion blanced in broth. Sometimes, I like slices of red onion doused in vinegar. Place these garnishes in the center of the table and let diners help themselves. Just be sure to let the newbies know it’s for the pho and not a side salad; my dad’s seen a man eat this at a restaurant before his pho came out.
This recipe should make about 20 servings.
Cooking time (duration): 60
Meal type: brunch
Culinary tradition: Vietnamese
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