What was that, you ask?
Pictured above is Pho (pronounced, “fuh”as in “huh”), the cultural centerpiece of Vietnamese cuisine. Pho is a noodle soup that is served unadorned and then topped with condiments such as bean sprouts, cilantro, green onions, sliced jalapeño peppers and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Being of Swiss-Irish descent, I have taken a multitude of liberties with this recipe. Call them shortcuts if you must, or more accurately, an aversion to the ubiquitous, and highly odoriferous, fish sauce that is called for in almost all Vietnamese dishes.
I think you’d have to be Vietnamese to enjoy the process of making an authentic Pho. Believe me, I tried it. Once. It took several long hand-washing stints to get the smell of fish sauce off my hands. And then the memory of it lingered long after dinner. Which causes me to wonder: can you remember smells?
The answer: an unequivocal yes.
However, the basics of pho are worthy of duplication. After all, this is essentially an Asian version of chicken noodle soup, and I’m always up for a new way to slurp chicken and noodles en masse.
So here is my compromise: Swiss-Irish Pho. Easy Pho. Unauthentic but nonetheless nourishing, soul-warming Pho.
The condiments are what make this soup so satisfying and unique. You can add whatever suits your ability to withstand heat ( jalapeños) or smell (aforementioned fish sauce).
Me? I love the cilantro, green onion, a smattering of jalapeño slices and lots of lime juice.
1 Rotisserie chicken (already cooked, from the supermarket)
2 24-oz. boxes low-sodium chicken broth
2 slices, each about 1/2″-thick, fresh ginger
1 box thin Asian rice noodles
Bring the chicken broth and fresh ginger to a boil in a large pot and allow to simmer while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Remove the meat from the chicken and shred it into medium-sized pieces.
Bring a another large pot of water to a boil and cook the rice noodles for about 5 minutes, or until they are just cooked. Don’t overcook them. Drain the noodles and rinse them in cold water.
sliced green onion
thinly sliced jalapeño or serrano peppers
fresh lime wedges
fish sauce (A little goes a long way. Under the right conditions I believe you could blow your house up with this stuff.)
To assemble the Pho: place about one cup of rice noodles into a serving bowl and top with shredded chicken. Ladle enough hot chicken broth into bowl to cover both noodles and chicken and serve with condiments in separate bowls.
Truth be known, I prefer to take the long road to Pho: if I have the time I poach a whole chicken in a Dutch oven in water, to which I add kosher salt and ginger. I then pour the cooking liquid through a cheesecloth-lined colander to get a clear broth.