Pho Ga is a Vietnamese chicken soup frequently enjoyed for breakfast. Most popular in the north, it is a combination of rice noodles, cooked chicken, lightly pickled onion, pepper and a scant amount of herbs. Unlike its beefy cousin Pho Bo the broth is only very lightly spiced with just a hint of cinnamon, star anise and cloves.
In true Hanoi style this version is garnished very lightly, though if you like you can add sprouts, basil and more herbs. I would advise to double the broth recipe as it freezes beautifully, and you can do this by simply adding an extra pound or two of chicken bones.
Unlike the stock tutorial previously written on this site, this recipe uses a slightly different technique more common in Asian stock recipes. The meat and chicken bones are first boiled to extract as much of the impurities as possible. This water is then discarded and replaced with clean cold water in an attempt to get the clearest stock possible. Both methods will work and I have tried both on this recipe.
Pho Ga(serves 4)
Break the chicken down into it's small parts. Start by removing the wings, then legs and then breasts. Put aside the chicken breasts, and cut up the remainder including the carcass into no more than 4" chunks. Remove any excess skin or fat and discard. Put everything but the chicken breasts into a big pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 3 minutes.
While your chicken is coming to a boil and later coming to a simmer take the opportunity to prepare the remainder of your aromatics. Remove the root and any papery skin from your onion, cut it in half and char half over a flame until moderately charred. (Reserve the other half for later.) Remove the skin from the garlic and do the same. What works quite well to char garlic is if you place a sheet of aluminium foil over your grate and char the garlic on that. Lastly, with the skin on, char the ginger. Once all have been charred remove from the heat. (Note: if you don't have an open flame handy try using your broiler.) Under running water wash the skin off the ginger and remove any really charred bits. Crack the ginger and garlic with the back of a heavy knife or pot. Set aside.
Once the chicken has boiled for 3 minutes, drain the water from the chicken. Scrub the pot of any grime or scum. Rinse the chicken parts to remove any scum and return to the pot. Cover with 14 cups of cold water and put on the stove, slowly bringing it to a simmer. Add the charred onion, garlic and ginger along with the cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, brown sugar and fish sauce.
Simmer gently for 2 hours. While simmering thinly slice 1/2 of your remaining onion and place in 2 cups of ice water with a teaspoon of salt. Set aside, for your garnish.
After simmering the broth for two hours add the chicken breasts and a cup of cold water and turn the heat down slightly to a poach. Poach the chicken until cooked through and remove. Strain the stock into another pot, your pho broth is now ready.
Once cool enough to handle, shred the poached chicken with a fork. Wash cilantro and pick off the leaves, roughly chop some scallion. Cook noodles according to package directions, once cooked strain and quickly cool down with cold water so they won't be overcooked when you are ready to eat.
Now this is the most important part, taste your stock! You will want to season and adjust, this is a personal thing! Usually I add approximately 3 tablespoons of fish sauce at this point, you want it to be well seasoned but not salty. You can also add sugar or pepper if desired. Heat to a simmer, make sure it is very hot.
To plate divide the noodles between 4 bowls, same with the chicken, the chopped scallion, pickled onions, cilantro and jalapenos if desired. Fill each bowl with hot broth, sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and serve with the lime wedges on the side.