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Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

serves 2-4

I like my pho without sriracha hot sauce or hoisin sauce, because I really enjoy the purity of the chicken broth without anything to hide its flavor and aroma.

Read more about this recipe at Steamy Kitchen.


1 whole onion, unpeeled
1 3-inch chunk ginger, unpeeled
1 whole organic chicken (4-5 pounds)

2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
Small bunch cilantro stems only, tied in bunch with twine (cilantro tops reserved as a garnish)

Garnishes at table
1 pound dried rice noodles (about 1/4-inch wide)
2 cups bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
1 bunch cilantro tops (leaves and tender stems)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha hot sauce (optional)
Hoisin sauce (optional)
Sliced chiles (optional)


prep: 20 minutes
total: 2 hours 30 minutes


small baking sheet
large stockpot (with lid)
sharp knife
large spoon (or skimmer)
large bowl


1. Place the unpeeled whole ginger and onion on a small baking sheet set near the top rack. The top of the onion should be about 4 inches from the oven's heating element. Set to broil on high for 15 minutes. Turn the onion and ginger occassionally to get an even char. The skin should get dark and the onion/ginger should get soft. After cooling, rub to get the charred skin off the onion and use a butter knife to scrape the skin off the ginger.

2. In a large stockpot, boil water. (You should have enough water so that the chicken parts can be completely submerged.) Rinse your chicken inside and out. With a sharp knife, carve out the 2 pieces of breast meat and set aside.

3. Carve the rest of the chicken up, whacking hard through the bones. You want chicken parts about 3 inches big. (The more bone that is exposed, the more marrow that gets in the broth -- translation: rich, flavorful.) You can even whack several places along the bone just to expose more marrow.

4. When the water boils, lower the chicken parts into the water. Boil on high for 3 minutes. You'll see lots of foam and stuff come up to the surface. Drain, rinse your chicken parts of the foam and wash your pot thoroughly. Refill with about 4 quarts of clean, cold water.

5. Put chicken body parts, chicken breasts and all of the soup ingredients in the pot and cover. Turn heat to high -- let it come to boil, then immediately turn heat to low. Prop lid of pot up so that steam can escape. (I usually use a wooden chopstick to prop up the lid.)

6. After 15 minutes, remove the chicken breasts, shred with your fingers when cooled and set aside. (You'll serve this shredded chicken breast with the finished soup.) With a large spoon, skim the surface of any impurities in the broth. Skimming every 20 minutes ensures a clear broth. Simmer a total of 1 1/2 hours. Taste the soup. Does it need more salt (fish sauce) or more sugar?

7. Meanwhile, prep the garnishes.

8. About 20 minutes before serving, soak the dried noodles in hot water in a large bowl for 20 minutes, taste to make sure they are soft enough, drain.) Alternatively, you can soak the noodles in cold water for 3 minutes, then boil noodles in water for a couple of minutes until done and then drain.)

9. Strain the broth, discard the spices, herbs and chicken parts. Ladle broth, add shredded chicken breast and soft noodles into each bowl. Have garnishes ready at table.

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