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Pho Ga

Toasted spices and blackened ginger enhance this chicken broth in a Vietnamese favorite.

With the weather dipping into the single digits, lately I’ve been all about the noodles, from piping hot bowls of rich and hearty ramen to salty chicken soup. And the local Vietnamese section of town is right around the corner, so pho, with its tangy, earthy mix of lime, Thai basil, and beef or chicken broth is one of my favorites. Inspired by Bon Appetit’s suggestion to make it from scratch, I headed to the Asian market to pick up some fish sauce, rice noodles, and basil, and whipped up a batch of my own. This simple soup is easy to adjust depending on how hot or sweet you like it, and if you keep the chicken broth frozen in the freezer, it’s a quick dinner to prepare on a busy night. But for those extra-cold evenings, I’m glad to have my local vendor nearby.

Pho Ga, makes 4 servings (adapted from Steamy Kitchen and Momofuku)
1 large onion
3-inch piece ginger
1 whole chicken
1 tbsp whole coriander
4 whole cloves
4 whole star anise
3 tbsp sugar
1 bunch cilantro
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp salt
1 package rice noodles
To serve with soup
1 bunch Thai basil
1-2 limes
1 bunch green onion
Sriracha hot sauce
Hoisin sauce

1. Place the onion and ginger on a baking sheet and put in the oven, with the rack near the broiler. Set to broil, and cook until the onion and ginger are both charred evenly, turning occasionally. Allow to cool, and remove the blackened skin from the onion.  Using the back of a spoon, remove the skin from the ginger. Chop both into large pieces and set aside.

2. Fill a 10-qt stockpot with water and set to boil. With a sharp knife, remove the breast meat from the chicken, and reserve. With a sharp cleaver, cut the remaining chicken into 3-inch pieces so that as much of the bone is exposed as possible (this will create a more flavorful broth).

3. When the water is boiling, add the cut up chicken parts (not the breast), and boil on high for five minutes. While chicken is boiling, toast the coriander, cloves, and star anise in a small pan over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes. Wrap the cilantro stems and spices in a piece of cheesecloth and tie with butcher twine.

4. After five minutes, strain the chicken water, and rinse off the chicken parts, removing impurities. Clean the pot completely and fill it with cold water. Add the chicken parts, chicken breast, sugar, fish sauce, and spice roll. Cook over high heat until the water boils, then turn down to medium-low heat.

5. After 15 minutes, remove the chicken breast meat from the pot. When cooled, shred this meat and set aside. You will serve this meat in the soup. Simmer the broth for a total of 1-2 hours, until a good flavor has been reached. Add the salt, and adjust to taste with more sugar or fish sauce. Periodically, skim any impurities off the top of the broth.

6. When a desired taste has been achieved, strain the broth. If making ahead of time, cool in an ice bath and freeze. If serving for the present, prepare noodles according to the package. Pour the broth in bowls, add shredded chicken and noodles and serve alongside the lime, thai basil, cilantro and other accompaniments. With pho, each guest flavors his or her own soup with the additional ingredients to taste.

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