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Chicken Noodle Soup, Vietnamese-Style (Pho Ga)

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, unpeeled, quartered
  • 3" piece ginger root, unpeeled
  • 4 whole star anise pods
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce (nuoc mam)
  • 1 bunch cilantro stems
  • 6 cups chicken stock (low sodium, ideally homemade; see Note 1)
  • 6 ounces rice noodles (bahn pho) or other pasta (see Note 2) 
  • Meat from 1/2 poached chicken (see Note 1), skin removed, cut in bite-sized pieces (about 2 cups), warmed before serving.
Condiments for the table:

  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves 
  • 1/4 cup red onion, sliced very thin
  • 4 lime wedges
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Hot chili sauce (sriracha)

Method

1. Roast the onion and ginger in a 425º oven, turning occasionally, until they are starting to char, about 30 minutes. (A quicker alternative if you have a gas stove is to hold them directly over the flame with tongs or a long fork, turning occasionally, until they start to char.) When cooled, remove and discard their skins and slice the ginger. Set aside.

2. Place the anise pods and cloves in a dry cast iron skillet over high heat and toast them until they darken and start to smoke (4 - 5 minutes), tossing occasionally with tongs. Remove from heat. 

3. Place the onion, ginger, anise pods and cloves in a 2 or 3 quart saucepan. Add the sugar, fish sauce, cilantro stems, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a high simmer and cook about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

4. Strain the broth and add 1 cup water, then taste and adjust with more sugar or fish sauce if necessary. [Note: the recipe can be done ahead to this point, and the broth refrigerated a day or two. Some say this improves the flavor.]

5. If using conventional pasta, cook the noodles in salted water and drain. If using rice noodles, soak in warm water 15 - 20 minutes and drain. 

6. Return the broth to the pot and bring it back to a boil. 

To serve, divide chicken, noodles and broth between 4 soup bowls and ladle the boiling broth over them. Serve the bean sprouts, cilantro leaves, red onion slices, lime wedges, hoisin sauce and hot sauce alongside, for diners to add as desired. 

Notes

1. Chicken stock and poached chicken. These may be made ahead, as follows: Place a 4 to 5 pound chicken (preferably organic and locally grown), 1 peeled and cut-up carrot, 2 cut-up celery stalks, 1 peeled and quartered onion, 10 black peppercorns, 6 parsley stems and 2 bay leaves in a large stockpot. Add water to cover. Bring to a boil, skim foam and scum from the pot. Immediately remove from heat, cover and allow to sit for 4 hours. Remove chicken, strain liquid and then boil the broth until reduced by half. Refrigerate. When broth is cool remove congealed fat from the surface. 

2. Pasta. For those who need to limit carbohydrate intake for weight control or for management of blood glucose levels, consider using a pasta with lowered digestible carbohydrates, such as Dreamfields, in place of the traditional rice noodles. It's claimed that even though these pasta products have roughly the same carbohydrate content as conventional pasta, only about 12% of the carbohydrates in these products can be digested and absorbed in the intestines. 

(Be aware that the caloric content of pasta with lowered digestible carbohydrates is roughly equivalent to that of conventional pasta, so portion control is still important for weight management.) 

Nutritional Estimate: 4 Servings (prepared with a pasta with lowered digestible carbohydrates). Per serving: 327 Calories; 13 g Total Carbs; 5 g Dietary Fiber; 8 g Sugars; 5 g Fat; 62 mg Cholesterol; 373 mg Sodium; 28 g Protein. Weight Watchers: 6 points.


Nutritional Estimate: 4 Servings (prepared with rice noodles). Per serving: 337 Calories; 45 g Total Carbs; 1 g Dietary Fiber; 7 g Sugars; 5 g Fat; 62 mg Cholesterol; 349 mg Sodium; 24 g Protein. Weight Watchers: 7 points.

 

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