A Variation on Phở Gà

May 30, 2019

A Clear and Fragrant Vietnamese Noodle Soup with Chicken

I prepared this meal the other day for lunch and was really happy that I had made enough to save for breakfast the next morning. I feel like I could eat Pho every day and never get bored.

I’m just going to spell it as Pho Ga (“Chicken Pho”) since I don’t know how to generate the vowels for Phở Gà on this old keypad, other than to copy and paste them from somewhere else.

Before I share the recipe for my own version below – everything tasty in this world has somehow become controversial and that’s because Puritans hate it when others are having fun – I’d like to offer some disclaimers about my virtual kitchen. I do not claim to offer authentic traditional recipes here, not even from my own heritage (Italians got pasta from China, tomatoes from Mexico, and Italian-Americans disobeyed most rules of Old World Italian cooking once on this side of the lake).

While this recipe is based on a popular Vietnamese dish I’ve never been to Vietnam and don’t claim any special knowledge of its culinary arts. I don’t believe in culinary fundamentalism or that there is only one true way to make any dish. I’m not selling the meals or the ingredients. No food companies are advertising here or paying me to promote any products. I believe all chefs are thieves at heart and I am thankful they pay so much attention to each other’s ideas and techniques, steal them and advance them. Chefs are good watchers and listeners and that’s what has made the best ones great cooks.

People can suck all the fun out of everything it seems by making even a meal into a political argument: the old expression, “we can’t even agree on lunch” now seems like a prophesy. Here we do not argue about food! I think arguing over people’s taste is an enormous waste of time and, worse, it turns people into tiresome bores. You’re welcome here if you’re a vegan. You’re welcome here if you eat at McDonald’s or Taco Bell. Gluten or gluten-free, it don’t matter to me. I don’t care what pleases you or what you dislike because it doesn’t at all stop me from eating and cooking what pleases me. I don’t proselytize to impose my own dietary preferences on others and will have none of it in this space from anybody else either. This is a food fight free zone.

My own Italian-American background taught me that we don’t eat with people we don’t like or that we find disagreeable. Unpleasant people are bad for our digestion! I suppose the question of who gets to eat at my table was the original “block party” that I had to later learn to deploy in political organizing, journalism and on social media. To eat at this table it is only required that you have basic manners and if you are going to speak please make the conversation enjoyable. If you meet that threshold, you’re my kind of people and will be invited back.

In the Pho dish photographed above, the chicken broth is infused with charred ginger, onion, star anise, cinnamon, garlic, fish sauce, shiitake mushrooms, cilantro, basil, scallion, chili and tart goji berries. The chicken itself was brined and then seared on cast iron before joining the broth. It has two kinds of noodles: “bean thread” vermicelli and spiralized zucchini. And I dry-seared the radish slices to remove their bitterness and draw out their sugars (others like to pickle them, which is also tasty). Condiments like key lime, hoisin sauce, chili-garlic paste, bean sprouts and extra chili slices were added at the very end.

Below the fold, for subscribers only, I’ll share the recipe and the techniques I used, borrowed from the combined recipes and techniques of many others, and the results of repeat trial and error on my part. Subscribers may also ask questions or share your own relevant tips and techniques in the comments, which are also only for subscribers to read.

(If you haven’t subscribed yet, I hope you are now hungry enough to do so!)

Ăn nào! (That’s Vietnamese for “bon appetit.”) See you below the fold, esteemed guests.

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