Chicken Pho Therapy

Safe to say that despite my efforts at having a relatively healthy week, my plans were scuppered by a few things.

  1. Clandestine Cake Club – I only ate a little bit of cake, honest!!
  2. Dinner and wine with friends.
  3. Barbecue
By Sunday I needed something, light and cleansing – something that as you eat, you can immediately feel that it’s doing you some good. At times like these, for me, I rely on one thing – a chicken noodle soup.

But this isn’t any old chicken soup, this is a pho ga, a Vietnamese chicken noodle dish, which does take time to make, but the results are wonderful. A light, clear broth which is carefully spiced but with a nice kick of chilli from the nuoc cham (a “dipping sauce” which is drizzled over the top of the dish.) This dish does take time to make, but best things comes to those and all that!

This recipe is adapted from Rick Stein’s Eastern Odyssey and whilst I’m sure it’s not 100% authentic, it’s tasty as! I feel healthier by just looking at it!

Hanoi chicken noodle soup with bok choi (Pho Ga)
Adapted from Rick Stein (Serves 4-6)

1.5 kg whole chicken
A thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 onion, halved
5 cloves garlic, sliced 
10 cm cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1 tbsp light soy sauce
3 large pak choi 
400 g 1 cm-wide flat rice noodles 
4 tbsp fish sauce
To Serve
8-10 spring onions, chopped (I didn’t have any so finely shredded a red onion)
A handful of coriander, leaves picked
A sprig of mint, leaves picked and roughly chopped
Lime wedges
Nuoc Cham (See recipe below)

Nuoc Cham
1-2 long red chillies, roughly chopped (feel free to deseed if you don’t want too much heat!)
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
1/2 inch of ginger, finely chopped
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
3 tbsp water
Stir all of the ingredients above in a bowl until the sugar dissolves. This will keep for about a week in the fridge.

Put the chicken, ginger, onion halves, garlic, cinnamon, salt and peppercorns into a deep pan in which the chicken fits quite snugly. Cover with 2 litres of water. Bring to the boil, skimming off any scum as it rises. Lower the heat, cover and leave to gently simmer for 20-30 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the chicken and stock to cool for 40-60 minutes.

Separate the stalks from the leaves of the bok choi and finely shred them lengthways. Cut the leaves across into 3 cm-wide pieces. 

Lift the cooled chicken onto a plate and leave to cool. Drain the stock through a seive into a clean pan. Skin the chicken, pull the meat from the bones and break it into chunky pieces.

Bring a pan of unsalted water to the boil. Add the noodles, turn off the heat, cover and leave to soak for 10 min or until tender.

Bring the stock back to the boil, add the pak choi stalks and simmer for 2 min, then add the leaves and cook for a further 2 min. Then stir in the fish sauce.

Drain the noodles and divide among bowls. Top with cooked chicken, spring onions (or red onion) coriander and mint leaves. Ladle the steaming hot broth and bok choi over the top and spoon over the nuoc cham, and additional lime wedges on the side.

Feel cleansed and relaxed!

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