This authentic recipe calls for making the chicken broth from a whole chicken, and using some of the meat for the noodles. To streamline the process, you may choose to buy the chicken broth and meat separately and skip step one. The shaved banana blossom’s astringent bite can be substituted by shaved green bananas or omitted completely without a detriment to the final flavor. Ground annatto seeds give the dish an attractive red hue without the heat of red chilies.
Another, lesser-known traditional element of the dish is a special noodle made specifically for this recipe. Ash or slaked lime is added to the rice flour batter for these noodles, turning them slightly yellow. This is why bright yellow colored noodles are often used in American Vietnamese restaurants (nice try, poor execution). I simply revel in the pure white noodles floating in the golden broth instead.
© 2008 Robert Danhi. All rights reserved.