Aromatic Chicken Broth with Cellophane Noodles, Kaffir Lime Leaves and Fresh Herbs

Miến Gà

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    4 to 6

    servings a main dish

Appears in

My latest culinary adventure was a mission to seek out Phở Gà, the lesser-known cousin of Phở Bở (beef noodle soup). There are many similarities, but chicken phở is lighter in color and taste, more delicately spiced. This close cousin to Phở Gà features aromatic kaffir lime leaves. The best I’ve ever tasted is served daily at Quán Sơn Nga in Saigon. Here they offer a variety of noodles. On my last trip, I choose transparent cellophane noodles made from mung bean starch. These delicate noodles were perfect for the chicken soup. I’ve translated it for the home kitchen.

Keeping with the Vietnamese tradition of adding the final touches at the table, this chicken noodle soup is served with shaved kaffir lime leaves, wedges of tart lime, a table salad of bean sprouts, basil leaves, and Perilla (Vietnamese mint), and spicy Vietnamese chili sauce for dipping.

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Ingredients

Chicken Broth

  • 1 medium Whole chicken (3 to 4 lbs. or l.4 to 1.8 kg.), including gizzard and neck (but not liver and heart), rinsed
  • 2 medium Yellow onions, skin-on, root trimmed, cut in half
  • 4 inches (10 cm.) Ginger, lightly smashed
  • 1 tbsp. Coriander seeds
  • 4 piece Star anise
  • 1 piece Cassia (cinnamon), 3-inch (7.5 cm) length
  • 2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup Fish sauce (nước mắm)
  • 1-inch (2.5 cm.) piece Rock sugar, about 1 oz. (28 gm.)

Method

  1. Poach chicken: In a 2-gallon (8 L.) pot, combine chicken with just enough water to cover. Bring to a vigorous boil; lower to simmer. Skim off impurities; simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and allow to rest at room temperature 45 minutes, until meat reaches 165°F or 74°C when checked with an instant-read thermometer. Remove chicken from poaching liquid, and plunge into ice water. Chill there 15 minutes to stop the cooking and firm up meat. Using your hands, pull off skin; discard. Pull meat from breast and thighs; tear into ¼ to ½ inch (0.6 to 1.3 cm.) thick strips. Set meat aside. Reserve bones.
  2. Prepare aromatics: Cut ginger and onions in half to create two flat sides. In a large skillet over high heat (cast iron works best), lightly char onions and ginger: place cut side down; cook until lightly blackened (onions about 5 to 8 minutes; ginger about 12 minutes). Heat a dry small sauté pan, over low heat; add coriander and toast until light brown, remove and reserve, then combine star anise, and cassia and toast spices until fragrant and beginning to smoke; cool.
  3. Prepare broth: Recombine bones, chicken legs and poaching liquid; add charred ginger, onion, toasted spices, salt and place over high heat and bring up a soft boil, lower to simmer for 1 hour. Taste for a rich flavorful stock. At this point you are looking for chicken flavor. Seasoning will occur later. If broth is weak tasting continue to cook for additional 15 to 30 minutes. Strain broth through very fine mesh strainer (or cheesecloth lined sieve). Add fish sauce and sugar. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. It should be salty then slightly sweet with aromatic background. It should be difficult to discern there is fish sauce.

Assemble thf Dish

  1. Have six Asian soup bowls and all garnishes ready. Bring seasoned broth up to a near boil. Taste and adjust heat as needed. Make sure broth is very hot, almost a full boil.
  2. Quickly cook noodles in 1 gallon (4 L.) of boiling water; drain and distribute into bowls.
  3. Distribute pulled chicken meat, onions, and scallions atop the cooked noodles.
  4. Ladle about 1½-2 cups of broth into each bowl.
  5. Serve with table salad, lime leaves and wedges, and chili sauce.
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