Seems like my oldest (who is thirteen) is revisiting toddlerhood, in behavior certainly, and also with illnesses. Every other week, he is down with a fever or cough or runny nose. And this time, he shared it with the entire family (save my husband, who has had the great pleasure of spending the long holiday weekend digging holes in the garden and nursing four family members back to health).
I unfortunately became ill with a fever and hacking cough as well. And there was nothing that I wanted more than a bowl of steaming hot pho. Pronounced fuh, it is essentially Vietnamese noodle soup, usually served for breakfast, though we typicaly eat it for lunch. It's fabulous flavor comes from a few important ingredients--roasted onions and ginger, star anise and fish sauce. Rice noodles and your meat of choice are added to that rich and fragrant broth (I always have chicken breast because I'm kind of a sissy), but the more adventurous types can try various types of beef, fish balls, or tripe.
The kids love it plain but I love it spicy (it clears the sinuses, you know). Additional flavor comes from the garnishes which include basil (preferably Thai), sliced shallots, cilantro, lime juice, sliced jalapenos, bean sprouts, Sambal Oelek (chili paste), and Hoisin sauce which are served up on a large platter so you can add as much or as little as you like.
One bowl of this had me breathing again, and it wasn't so difficult that I couldn't manage to make it myself, even being under the weather. We moms never get a sick day anyway, right? The best part is that there are leftovers so I can enjoy this another day--perhaps tomorrow when my almost-better kids have gone back to school and I can enjoy some much needed peace and quiet.
Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup
This amazingly fragrant broth will warm you from the inside out. Make a large platter of the condiments, so everyone can choose how they want to garnish their soup.
Prep time: 35 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: serves 4
2 yellow onions, quartered (not necessary to peel)
3 half-inch thick slices of fresh ginger root, smashed
64 ounces chicken stock
4 whole star anise
1 teaspoon sugar
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 package of rice vermicelli noodles (usually found in the Asian section of your supermarket)
Thai (or regular) basil
Sliced jalapeno peppers
Sliced shallots or scallions
Sambal Oelek (hot chili paste)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the quartered onions and ginger on a roasting pan and bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant.
2. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Pour boiling water over the rice noodles and let them soak for 20 minutes or until soft and pliable--they will taste al dente. Drain.
3. Heat chicken stock in a large pot. Add roasted onions, ginger, sugar and star anise and bring to a boil. Add chicken breasts and reduce heat, simmering for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from the pot and shred with two forks. Continue simmering broth for an additional 15 minutes.
4. Carefully pour soup through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Return the stock to the pot and discard the onions, ginger and spices. Return broth to a simmer and add the fish sauce. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.
5. If desired, boil the rice noodles for 3 minutes more in a pot of water to further cook them. Drain. (I usually skip this step because I like my noodles al dente.)
To serve: place some noodles and shredded chicken in the bottom of each (large) bowl. Top with simmering broth. Place all condiments on a platter and serve with chili paste and hoisin sauce, allowing each person to add what they like to their soup.