How to make chicken pho
Chef Bobby Chinn, owner of The House of Ho in Soho, talks us through the steps to chicken pho perfection.
- Put the chicken in a large flameproof pot and pour over cold water to cover by 4cm (you’ll need around 5 litres). Gently bring to the boil over a medium heat, then turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Move the pot to a cold place to cool to room temperature (this will take several hours or overnight – see Bobby’s tips below.) Return the pot to the heat, bring the stock back to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.
- Set aside again in a cold place to cool to room temperature. Lift the chicken onto a board (set the stock and pan aside). Peel off and discard the skin, joint the chicken (it should pull apart easily), then shred the meat. Chop or break the bones into pieces.
- Return the chicken bone pieces to the stock and gently simmer over a medium heat for about 1 hour until slightly thickened. Skim the surface every so often to remove any scum.
- Meanwhile, heat the grill to high. Put the whole, unpeeled ginger and shallots on a baking sheet and grill for 40-50 minutes, turning occasionally, until blackened. Cool for a minute or so, peel, then smash the softened ginger and shallots slightly. Add to the stock.
- In a dry pan, toast the cinnamon, star anise and cardamom over a medium heat until fragrant. Add to the stock, then season to taste with 1-2 tbsp fish sauce. Simmer for another hour; you should end up with about 3 litres of stock.
- Meanwhile, cook the noodles according to the pack instructions. Drain, then rinse off the starch with warm water from the tap.
- Taste the broth and add more fish sauce if necessary. Strain.
- To serve pho the traditional way, bring a pan of water to the boil. Divide the noodles among large soup bowls, then pour over the hot water and leave for a few seconds (this reheats the noodles and warms the bowls).
- Drain, then ladle over the broth. Top with some herbs, shredded chicken, beansprouts and chillies. Serve with lime wedges and, if you like, chilli, soy and fish sauces for people to help themselves.
Food team’s tips:
- It’s worth buying the best chicken you can find – you’ll be rewarded with a fragrant, flavourful stock.
- If you don’t want to hang around waiting for the stock to heat and cool down, or don’t have a cold place for it to cool safely, use this method instead: poach a chicken in 2 litres good quality fresh chicken stock topped up with 2 litres water for 40 minutes. Strip the carcass, then continue the recipe from step 4.
- The way the chicken is poached here may seem unorthodox in British cookery terms, but it results in tender and moist meat that pulls apart easily and doesn’t dry out.
- When cooling the chicken and/or stock, it’s important to leave it, well covered, in a cold place – a garage, outhouse or shed is ideal. As long as it is heated up and simmered properly before eating, the pho will be safe to eat. If you don’t have any suitable place for it and you want to keep it in the fridge, make sure it has cooled down first before putting it in; or follow the timesaver tip, left, instead.
- Fish sauce brands vary hugely, so add only a little at frst. Taste, then gradually add a splash or two more if you think it needs it. The fish sauce should give saltiness and depth to the broth, but it shouldn’t taste overtly fshy. I like Squid Brand, available from the world food aisle in larger supermarkets, specialist Asian cookshops and online.
- When serving the pho, be generous with the herbs – they give the soup freshness and extra dimension. It’s a nice idea to put extra herbs and fresh chilli slices on the table, too, with the lime wedges, so people can add more as they eat, if they like.
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