The Art to Making Pho Gâ
It was right around 15 years or so ago that I discovered Pho Gâ when I was living in Memphis, TN. I immediately fell in love with it. It ended up becoming a weekly ritual when I was living there and elsewhere. When I lived out in Phoenix, AZ, I would go eat pho after rock climbing all the time. The trend continued when I moved Orlando and even when I made it back to Jacksonville. So, when moving here to Asheville I figured I’d keep the trend going. Unfortunately, with only a few pho restaurants in town and not conveniently located, I realized that my pho fix was going to have to come from my own kitchen.
Without a doubt, the most important element to any type of pho is the fragrant broth. It’s made by simmering chicken, chicken bones, spices like Chinese-5 Spice, herbs and aromatics that makes it the distinguishable pho broth. Accompany that with the saltiness of the fish sauce, sweetness of brown sugar and the acid from lime juice and you have, without a doubt, one of the most unique and flavorful broth’s for soup.
As with most recipes, each person has their own variation to procedures and different spices for different pho broths like beef, chicken or vegetarian. When it comes to pho gâ I’m in the camp that boiling the chicken for 10 minutes, then draining, helps remove a lot of the impurities for the broth. A clear broth is a winning broth!
Instead of just dumping the vegetables into the water with the chicken and spices, I prefer to roast the onion, ginger and garlic cloves inside aluminum foil. They develop more flavor this way. However, if I was making beef pho, I’d roast in the oven uncovered. This would allow more of a charred flavor that would not overpower beef like it could for chicken.
When it comes to spices, I’m a fan of half a cinnamon stick, star anise, cardamom, cloves, bay leaves and black peppercorns. Whereas some people prefer to omit the cinnamon stick and use fennel seeds.
And for a little secret ingredient I like to add when it comes to combining everything for the broth – daikon. Not so much for flavor, but for even more help with making the broth as clear as possible.
Finally add in some fresh cilantro stems, fish sauce, brown sugar or regular sugar, a squeeze of lime juice and a couple pinches of salt. Cover and simmer for at least 3-4 hours.
It is very important to let the chicken, spices and vegetables do there thing while simmering. If you taste it every hour, you’ll probably wonder where is that fragrant broth with loads of unique flavor. It’s coming. Trust me. It just takes some time and patience before it just magically becomes the perfect pho broth!
Once that happens, you are going to want to pull the chicken out and set aside. Then you will need to strain the broth. The final step to making sure you have a clear broth, is to strain it through some cheesecloth. This will pick up any last impurities left in the broth.
Once the broth has been strained, it’s times to assemble your bowl of awesomeness.
Fresh herbs like cilantro, basil and mint are a must have. A few dashes of fish sauce or oyster sauce adds a new depth of flavor. For those of you that enjoy spice, do not forget the siracha sauce. Then to balance everything out – a squeeze of lime juice is a nice choice or the bite of some thinly sliced red onion.
And for the noodles – this is not a soup where you use the thin vermicelli style rice noodles. You want wider rice noodles or at the very least, the wider stir-fry Thai rice noodles.