Vietnamese Pho Real

Today I'm comin' atcha with a little taste of Vietnam (or rather my interpretation of Kim's Vietnamese in Encinitas, CA, since I've yet to visit to Vietnam). This morning I woke up with a scratchy throat. Yuck. Which lead to a serious Pho (pronounced 'fuh') craving. When I lived in Encinitas, I used to order Kim's Chicken and Mushroom Pho regularly. Sadly, I have not yet discovered my "go-to" Vietnamese restaurant here, so instead of searching for Pho, I'm bringing the Pho to me... and making enough to last for days so I don't have to worry about cooking!

I've always wondered what gives Pho such a unique flavor. It's easy to spot the hints of basil, onion and cilantro. But the real key ingredients lie in the first few spices: cinnamon, star anise, cloves and coriander seeds. Don't be scared by their strong flavors. I promise your soup will not end up tasting like cinnamon and black licorice. When I first started searching for a Pho recipe, I found a million different variations. So I mixed up a few with a common thread and combined them with the toppings I like in my Pho. It takes about 45 minutes to prepare, but is well worth it. I have to say, I think I came pretty close to Kim's version. But if they want to share their secret recipe with me, they're more than welcome to. ;)

Ingredients

Spices

  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons of coriander seeds
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 3 whole star anise

Stock

  • 4 cups of vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 1 bunch of scallions
  • 1 chunk of ginger
  • 1 large white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped in circles
  • 1 parsnip, chopped in circles

Other fixins'

  • Vermacelli rice noodles
  • A mix of whatever mushrooms you can find at the grocery store
  • Bok choy, roughly chopped
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • Cilantro
  • Thai basil
  • Jalapeño
  • Lime
  • Bean sprouts
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Sriracha if you really like it hot!

Directions

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1. In a pot (the same one you will use to cook the stock), over medium heat, add the 4 spices and toast until fragrant (about 3 or 4 minutes).

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2. Simultaneously, chop up your onion and ginger, and place under the broiler for about 5 minutes until they begin to brown.

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3. When the toasted spices become aromatic in the pot, add the broth, onions, ginger, carrots, parsnips, scallions, fish sauce, soy sauce and brown sugar to the pot.

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4. Bring to a boil, and then simmer covered for 20-30 minutes.

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Make sure to thoroughly wash your bok choy. You don't want gritty dirt bits in the soup!

Make sure to thoroughly wash your bok choy. You don't want gritty dirt bits in the soup!

5. Separately, begin preparing the more hardy elements of the dish, by cooking the chicken and chopping the mushrooms and bok choy.

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6. Boil your vermacelli noodles for 2 minutes and drain. I keep these separate from the broth until I serve the Pho, so it doesn't absorb too much of the broth.

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7. At the end of the 30 minutes, add the mushrooms and bok choy to the broth and let it simmer for another 2 minutes.

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8. Serve it up! Add noodles and chicken to a bowl. Spoon the broth, mushrooms, etc. over the noodles and chicken. Then garnish with Thai basil, cilantro, bean sprouts, jalapeño, lime, hoisin, and Sriracha.