Friday, January 18, 2008

The Mom Series: Pho Ga

Chicken noodle soup, in any country or culture, is comforting. The Vietnamese version shows off a rich stock with minimal additions. There's a variety of ways to make it, but Mom's version is simple and straightforward. She poaches a whole chicken and adds some chicken bouillon to the stock. The poached chicken is carved and served alongside the noodles. I've seen recipes that use herbs and/or aromatics (onions, etc.), which are absolutely required for pho bo (the classic beef pho), but Mom prefers simplicity. It's a very simple stock and the bouillon makes it richer. We're not talking about a ton of bouillon, either.

And the chicken:

Poached chicken normally doesn't sound very appetizing, but if it's pulled out at the right time, it's very moist and flavorful. Mom likes to roast or poach, but poaching has the side effect of good chicken stock. Garnishes include an onion/scallion/cilantro mix and blanched bean sprouts.

The dipping sauce for the chicken is finely diced ginger and garlic (food processor needed) seared with hot oil with fish sauce and sugar to taste. Then, chicken stock is added to the mixture and reduced slightly.

As a side dish, we had
pate a choux, which is technically the term for pastry dough (the type used to make eclairs). In Vietnamese food, it's the name of a flaky pastry bun filled with a pork meatball. The pork is spiced with peppercorns and onions.

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