Both my girls have been feeling under the weather of late. And it’s no wonder with the horrid weather we’ve been having! Just today, April 12, we had a little snow storm! Yes, really! So with both girls home from school the other day, I thought I would make them one of their favourite soups to chase away those sniffles and sore throats.
Vietnamese soup, also known as Tonkinese soup, or Pho in Vietnamese, is a wonderful rice noodle soup made with either beef or chicken. The broth is incredibly flavoursome, with a plethora of ways to make it. It can be a simple one with just chicken or beef, or it can be infused with spices such as ginger, coriander seeds, cinnamon, cloves, even star anise. You can also dress it up to your own personal preference with the addition of soy bean sprouts, freshly squeezed lime juice, red hot chili peppers (the fruit, not the band!), Thai basil and a variety of condiments such as soy sauce, hoisin sauce and, of course, sriracha sauce.
We love going out to Vietnamese restaurants for this soup, but every now and then I like to make it at home. I never make it the same way either. But I always make it with chicken. When I first made it, I used my own home-made chicken stock and therefore added boiled chicken meat to the soup. It was ok. I then decided I would roast a chicken and use that in the soup, looking for that little extra flavour. It was better. This time around, I thought I would marinate chicken breasts in some olive oil, lime juice and 5 spice Chinese powder and then grill it. With my indoor grill, of course, seeing as it’s still freakin’ cold here! And this time it was fabulous!
I didn’t venture too much with the flavour of the chicken stock. I hesitated with a star anise, holding it over the boiling broth for a few seconds, but decided against it. I didn’t want to take a chance experimenting with the flavour when what I really wanted was to sooth the girls from their colds. So instead, I stir-fried some vegetables that would go into the soup, giving them a bit of a char flavour. Not all Pho soups have veggies, but I like the idea of having most of our daily recommended food groups in one bowl. Grilling or broiling them in the oven is something I might try next time.
Chicken Stock, I used about 4 litres for 1 package of rice noodles
1 package of rice stick noodles
3 chicken breasts
5 spice Chinese powder
Broccoli, Carrots & Cauliflower, chopped into bite-size pieces
Green onions, about 5, sliced thinly
Soy bean sprouts, optional
Salt & pepper, to taste
Begin by marinating the chicken breasts with a little olive oil, fresh lime juice and 5 spice Chinese powder.
Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large pot. Go ahead and use store-bought if you don’t have any home-made, or a mix of both. You can flavour it up if you like with any or all of the above-mentioned spices. If you don’t have any finicky kiddies to contend with, go ahead and add a piece of fresh ginger. If you’re feeling adventurous, add some star anise and coriander seeds, wrapped in a piece of cloth.
Grill the chicken and set aside, covered with foil wrap.
Empty the rice stick noodles into a large bowl and add boiling water, enough to cover noodles. Just let them sit there until your soup is ready, or until they have plumped up and are double in size. Drain the water.
Proceed with your veggies. Change them up if you like, using your favourites. Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the carrots. Cook for 5 minutes and then add the broccoli and cauliflower. Cook for another 5 minutes, adding just a little salt and pepper to taste. Once your veggies are done, slice the grilled chicken into bite-size pieces.
Add the chicken pieces to your broth, along with the veggies and the sliced green onions. Taste for salt and adjust. Keep in mind that some will be adding soy sauce to their own bowl. Finally, add the rice noodles and just let the soup sit for 5 minutes, allowing for all the flavours to blend together.
Ladle the soup into bowls. In Vietnamese restaurants, these soups are served in ginormous bowls and of course, my girls will choose the biggest bowls they can get their hands on for this one. In the centre of your table, you can have the 3 bottles of condiments mentioned earlier, along with some Thai basil, fresh lime slices and soy beans. Each person can add their own personal faves. I like to add a handful of Thai basil leaves, torn into little bits so I can slurp them up with my soup, some still attached to the stem as an added flavouring. I squeeze a piece of lime and throw that in there, and I add a tad of soy, a little hoisin, and a nice squirt of sriracha to heat it all up. Fresh, red hot chilis are fun to add as well, if you dare. The girls love to dress their soup up exactly as I do, with the addition of fresh bean sprouts. Not only did this yummy, slightly spicy soup help chase away those runny noses, it also warmed us all the way down to our toeses!
*If you should have left-overs, as is always the case with us, you really need to separate the broth from the rest of the ingredients and store separately. Otherwise, the rice noodles will disintegrate, turning your soup to mush.*