With the end of Chinese New Year approaching, I thought I would share a favorite recipe of ours to make during CNY or any time of the year. Although not a traditional Chinese dish, Pho is a favorite at our house. I would even say, this is not even a traditional Vietnamese version of Pho but your Vietnamese friends will not disown you – and it’s totally doable for a weeknight.
• 3 1/2 lb chicken breasts or 1 whole chicken (if you’re an overachiever)
• Pho broth (powder) (if you love yourself)
• 2 whole star anise
• 2 cardamom pods
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 1 tsp black peppercorns
• 1/2 tsp white peppercorns
• 2 shallots, halved
• 1 small onion, quartered
• 1 leek, halved lengthwise and cut into 2-inch pieces
• 1 tbsp crushed rock sugar or dark brown sugar (some people use palm sugar)
• 1 tbsp fish sauce
• 1 lb bag of fresh rice stick noodles (found at most Asian markets)
• long leaf cilantro or culantro
• thai basil
• bean sprouts
• thin sliced jalapeños
• lime wedges
Bring about 5 quarts of water to a boil, add the chicken and a little salt. (I section my chicken breasts to cut down on the cooking time and to also keep the edges from becoming over cooked.) Remove chicken and cut into thin slices.
In a dry skillet, over medium heat, combine star anise, cardamom, cinnamon stick, and black and white peppercorns. Cook until very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Set aside in a small bowl.
In the same skillet, combine the shallots, onion and leek over medium heat. I like to roast these until they are golden brown.
Add roasted onions, leeks and toasted spices to the chicken broth. If you are only doing the chicken breasts you will want to add a few tablespoons of the Pho broth powder. If you are doing a whole chicken this step is optional. It adds some of the flavors you’re not getting from the bones and fat of the whole chicken (As a courtesy to my weeknight-self, I don’t do carcasses.) Let this come to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer.
While the broth is cooling bring a large pot of water almost to the point of boiling. This is for the noodles. Fresh rice noodles require very little cooking time, approximately 3-5 minutes. Remove immediately and run cool water over them to stop the cooking process.
When the broth cools, strain into a large bowl or pot, discarding the solids. Return broth to a medium low setting and add salt and fish sauce to taste.
Now you’re ready to assemble your bowls. Add garnish and roasted chili oil because you love yourself and so will your people.