Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pho Ga - Chicken Rice Noodle Soup

The last few days I kept thinking about Vietnam and when I will get the chance to go back.  And the more I reminisce, the more I thought about all the wonderful foods I had in Saigon.  Pho ga was one of the dish that stood out in my mind.  People close to me know I am obsessed with food and cooking.  I have a keen memory when it comes to food no matter how long ago, if it made me happy and made an impression on me I will never forget the taste.  It amazes my family when I can go on and on describing and praising a dish I had years ago.

In Saigon, there is a noodle shop name Ky Dong who are known for their chicken noodle soup. My first time there it was completely packed.  I can smell the fragrance of chicken stewing away.  I remember I was very hungry at the time because I ordered a bowl of pho ga and mi ga. When the soups arrived I couldn't devour my bowls any quicker.  The chicken was firm, fragrance, and chewy (a good chewy).  The chicken skin was actually a pale yellow unlike the chicken here in the U.S. that just blends in with the meat.  The soup was light and sweet.  I never would have thought out of all the things I ate in Saigon I would be amazed by a simple bowl of pho ga.

Chicken makes a great broth in very little time.  It doesn't require half a day to achieve a great broth like beef pho.  The chicken here in the states does not even come close to the free-range chicken in Vietnam.  Whenever I make any kind of chicken soup I would only use cornish hen or organic free-range chicken for better quality meat.  The broth for pho ga is lighter in taste and sweeter than the broth of pho bo.  I like using a lot of roots vegetables to help achieve a natural sweetness such as yellow onions and leeks.

The steps for making pho ga is similar to pho bo but the time is cut down tremendously.  For pho bo we have to take the extra time to wash, par boil, and again wash the beef bones.  These steps are essential to achieve a clear broth.  I usually do not par boil chicken, I just make sure I wash the chicken thoroughly with salt and water.  You will achieve a clear broth by skimming the scum.

Basil is usually the herb that is synonymous with pho.  I, however, prefer eating pho ga with ngo gai, known as sawtooth herb to some and culantro to others.  The spicy and explosive flavor of ngo gai goes so well with the light and sweet chicken broth.  Whenever I eat any kind of chicken noodle soup such Mien Ga, it just doesn't taste the same without ngo gai.

Ingredients:

1 whole chicken (The picture show an organic free-range chicken and 1 cornish hen because I was using the hen's meat for goi ga)
2 leeks
2 onions
2 stub of ginger
rock sugar
mushroom seasoning
salt
fish sauce
5-6 star anise
2 cinnamon stick
5-6 cloves
chopped green onions, cilantro, sliced onion, and sawtooth herb for garnish
lime
hoison/sriracha
rice noodles

1.  Wash your chickenwell.
2.  Place chicken in an 8 qt. stock pot and fill pot with water.
3.  Let chicken cook on medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of salt.  You'll want to skim the broth whenever necessary.
4.  You can roast the ginger and onions at this point. Peel the skin.
5.  Once the chicken has cooked all the through remove the chicken.
6.  Add all the roots vegetables to your broth (ging
er, onions, and leeks).
7.  Remove all the chicken meat from the bones, and throw the bones back in the pot.
8.  Let the broth simmer for about another hour or more on low heat.  Add more salt (about 2 tablespoon, don't put it all at once remember to taste your food), rock sugar, and about 2 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning or granulated chicken base.
9.  While you wait for the broth, you can shred the chicken meat and prepare the garnish and noodles.
10.  Roast the spices in the oven and throw it in the pot.  Season with more fish sauce if needed.
11.  Remove the spices after about 15-20 minutes.
12. Broth is ready for you to enjoy!