Vietnamese Chicken Pho: It's Not Your Grandmother's Chicken Noodle Soup

Chow on 08.17.11
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In our house, chicken noodle soup is nothing like you’d find on a supermarket shelf, in the deli or on the menu of American eateries. My Asian roots always lead me to find comfort in a bowl of either Chinese wonton noodles with roasted chicken, or a warmly spiced Vietnamese pho.

The problem, though, is that American-style soup bases and canned broths just don’t have the same base ingredients. So, wonton soup or pho always had to begin with boiling bones and making the soup from scratch.

Chinese soup bases normally start with slices of ginger, garlic, green onion and cilantro stems – and Vietnamese pho is simmered with ginger, garlic, coriander seeds, star anise and cloves. You can see how difficult it is to adapt Western style (black peppercorns, bay leaves, carrots, celery) to Asian soups!

With the growing trend of easy ethnic cooking at home, I’ve always been surprised that the only variety we get in the broth aisle is chicken, vegetable and beef! Well, finally, I think soup companies are catching on. I just found Pacific Natural Foods Chicken and Beef Pho soup starters that come in a carton. Woohoo! Here’s to hoping that other brands will follow!

Shortcut Vietnamese Chicken Pho
Serves 2

Ingredients:
8 ounces dried rice noodles
32 ounces chicken pho soup base
1 chicken breast, cut into thin strips
1 cup bean sprouts
¼ red onion, very thinly sliced
few sprigs cilantro
fresh hot chili pepper, sliced (optional)
2 wedges lime

Directions:
1.    Cook the rice noodles as directed on package.
2.    Bring the pho soup base to a boil in a sauce pan. Once it begins boiling, turn off the heat and add the chicken strips. Cover and let the chicken cook in the hot broth for 5 minutes.
3.    Divide the cooked rice noodles into 2 large bowls. Ladle the pho broth and chicken into each bowl. Top each bowl with bean sprouts, red onion, cilantro, chilies (optional) and serve with wedge of lime.

Photo: Jaden Hair

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