Pastas/Noodles · Poultry · Vietnamese

Phở Gà – Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup for My Soul

Phở Gà

Today is Mom’s Birthday.

And like every year on her birthday, I’ll fix up a big ol’ steak dinner in her honor. Our tiny giant was quite the carnivore after all. A trait that was definitely passed on to my sister and many of our munchkins.

In years past, I’d post some variation of a steak recipe for her birthday, but this year I thought I would share something comforting – Phở Gà. Because what’s more comforting than chicken noodle soup?

Phở Gà

When I was digging through old photos last night, I came upon the one below that I just love. Mom (second from the right) was barely in her mid-teens here and our Ông Ngoại, our maternal grandpa, was in the suit in the back row. There aren’t too many pictures of him so it always makes me smile when we do find one.

And what about our grand uncle seated in the middle? He’s definitely putting out some Vietnamese Colonel Sanders vibes, right?

I’m 100% for it.

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I’m also rather obsessed with Mom’s look here. That hair…. those shades!

Very beach chic!

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As time has passed, I often wonder what is it that I miss most of her.

Her eyes that somewhat twinkled when she smiled? Maya inherited those….

Her sharp-witted comments? She was not to be messed with.

Her constant rearranging of her plants and furniture? She used to love changing things up.

Phở Gà

Then a few months ago, I read an article from a woman who wrote:

“When I lost my mom, I also lost her food”.

And that hit me hard.

It’s exactly how my siblings and I feel.

Phở Gà
Of course it’s so much more than just her cooking—which until the day I leave this existence, I will tout that she was THE best.

Cooking was Mom’s way to show her love.

Phở Gà
Whether it be the time and painstaking details she would put into elaborate meals or even the quick cooking tips she would give us to prepare our own food. It was her medium of communication.

Phở Gà
Which, if you have been with me for the past few years, was the genesis of our monthly family dinners. At the root, we sibbies get together and cook a meal together. Sometimes it’s elaborate and I think that I would NEVER put so much effort into an appetizer or other dish if it wasn’t for my family. And sometimes it’s just comfort food that makes us want to do a little food-shimmy. But there’s never a month that occurs where I don’t think Mom would have loved it that we’ve created this tradition.

And of course, I always talk to her while I cook since I have her photo perched in my kitchen. Very fitting.

Phở Gà
One of the reasons why I wanted to share Phở Gà today was because I think this Vietnamese staple really does epitomize some of the cooking lessons Mom shared with us. Although fairly simple, every step and every ingredient counts.

You always have to scrub the chicken with salt and then parboil for a clean broth.

The onion and ginger must be charred for added depth of flavor.

Spices must be toasted — but she also wasn’t opposed to using pre-packaged spice packets.

Phở Gà

And of course, the whole thing must be simmered, low and slow. It takes time but every step has its purpose.

Love in bowl form.

Phở Gà

Happy, Happy Birthday Mom.

I know we’re keeping you amused with all of our cooking shenanigans.

We love and miss you, always. ❤

ps. How did you keep your waistline the same tiny diameter as that palm tree?!?

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Phở Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)
Makes approximately 6 bowls

Ingredients:

1 4-5 lb. whole chicken
coarse salt
1 whole yellow onion
1 4-5 inch piece of fresh ginger
2 small cinnamon sticks
5 whole star anise pods
12 whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
nước mắm – fish sauce
1 package bánh phở – rice noodles
cilantro and other fresh herbs of your choice
scallions, chopped and sliced into 1-inch pieces
bean sprouts
lime wedges
jalapeno slices
nước mắm gừng – ginger dipping sauce

Place the chicken in the sink and liberally sprinkle salt over it. Using the salt as an exfoliate, scrub the chicken well and rinse with cool water. Place the chicken in a large pot and cover with cold water. Set the heat to high and boil for about 10 minutes. At this point, a lot of the impurities and “scum” will have boiled out. Carefully dump out the water and rinse the chicken thoroughly to remove all the impurities. If you intend on using the same pot for the phở , wash it well before adding the chicken back in.

Pour in about 6-7 quarts of water over the cleaned chicken and bring it to a boil. Once the water has come a boil, lower the heat to a gentle simmer.

While this happens, char your onion and ginger. If you have a gas burner, place the flame on medium heat. Hold the onion and garlic with metal tongs directly over the flame and rotate until they have charred all over. Alternately you can place them on a sheet a few inches under your oven broiler and broil for several minutes—flipping every so often. Once the yellow onion and ginger have been charred, place them into the pot with the chicken. Allow the contents to simmer, partially covered, for about 45 minutes or until the chicken has cooked through.

Carefully remove the whole chicken from the pot and place it on a shallow dish. Allow the contents of the pot to continue simmering. After the chicken has rested for about 10 minutes, carefully (it’ll be quite hot!) carve the chicken into slices and bite-sized pieces. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and set aside. Place the leftover chicken bones (I throw the wings in too) back into the pot. Allow the contents to simmer, partially covered for about 1.5 hours. During that time, periodically skim and discard any impurities that may have formed on top of the broth. You’ll want a semi-dark but very clear broth like a consommé.

Meanwhile, take the dried spices and place them in a small skillet. Over low heat, toast the spices for a few minutes until they darken slightly and become fragrant. Remove them from the heat and place them in a sheet of cheesecloth. Tie the cloth up and place it into the pot with a 2 tablespoons of nước mắm. Simmer for another 45 minutes.

While the broth simmers, prepare the noodles according to the directions on the package. Usually if using fresh noodles, you’ll want to boil for a few seconds before draining well. If using dried, you’ll want to soak them before a quick boil.

After the broth has finished simmering, taste and add additional nước mắm if needed.

Assemble the phở gà by dividing the cooked noodles between the bowls. Top each bowl with chicken slices, scallions and cilantro. Pour the boiling broth over the noodles and serve with bean sprouts, jalapeno slices, lime and nước mắm gừng on the side.

Ăn ngon!

 

 

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Pork · Vietnamese

Cơm Sườn Nướng {Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops with Rice}

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
I’ve been craving a lot of Vietnamese foods lately. It’s comforting, nostalgic and just damn tasty.

I’ve said it many times before but I didn’t realize how good we had it growing up with all of that deliciousness around us all of the time. I definitely took it for granted.

And now when I want good quality Vietnamese food, I have to make the haul up to Orange County where I beg my family to feed me or resort to swinging by one of the gazillion Việt spots in Little Saigon.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops

But then there are times where I’m home in San Diego and have to fend for myself.

Don’t get me wrong–I do like cooking Vietnamese foods, I’m just not the best at it. For sure, Mom reigned supreme and the aunties too. And nowadays, I’d say big seester N and our cousies A and T are right up there. That alone makes the idea of ever moving back to OC palatable because they’ve got skills!

There are a few Việt dishes I’m happy to make and feel pretty good about.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
Seestrah T posted a pic the other week of her grilling up some Vietnamese style pork chops which made me think of two things. First — hey! She never makes that for me! And second –sheesh, now I’m really hankering for some pork chops!

It was time to take matters into my own hands and luckily, I had all the ingredients already! My version of the marinade has staples like fish sauce, soy, sugar, shallots, lemongrass, garlic, ginger and chilies. Our cousin T that lives in Đà Nẵng makes the most EPIC sườn nướng (grilled pork chops). Years ago she told us what she marinated them with but I think the woman is holding out on us because mine never taste the same! And maybe it has to do with the fact that she grills them over this teeny-tiny charcoal grill on her patio floor and perhaps that’s where the essence of Việt Nam somehow creeps in and flavors it.

Who knows….

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
For these chops, I generally prefer to use a thinner cut—about 3/4 inch thickness. They remind me more of how we have them in Việt Nam or at the restaurants here. But if you prefer a thicker cut, go for it! Just be sure to marinate them overnight or at least for 6-8 hours.

Next, I throw them on a screaming hot grill and they cook up for 1-2 minutes on each side. Easy peasy! Keep in mind that the grilling time will increase if you choose thicker cuts.

Once finished, you’ll get all of these lovely charred bits from the sugar in the marinade. It’s at that point that you’ll want to quickly brush them with hành mơ — scallion oil.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops
I serve these pork chops pretty traditionally with a heaping scoop of steamed rice, sliced cucumbers & tomatoes, lots of spicy nước chấm (dipping sauce) and of course – a sunny side up fried egg with crispy edges. Now I know these days, some frown upon crispy edges on eggs. Quite frankly, I don’t know when that became out of fashion—but dang it! It’s darn tasty that way and adds texture.

If you order this dish out, you may also find that instead of a fried egg it will be served with Chả Trứng which is like a steamed egg meatloaf. It may sound strange to you but trust me, it’s awesome. Honestly, I was too lazy to make it (though it’s not difficult) but I promise I will someday soon and will share it with y’all.

Cơm Sườn Nướng - Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops

On this particular day, I plated them with a few Chả Giò . It’s not something I always do but seeing how I had a stash in my freezer, it seemed like the proper occasion to bust them out.

And with that dear peeps, Ăn Ngon!

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Cơm Sườn Nướng {Vietnamese Grilled Pork Chops with Rice}
Serves 4

Ingredients:

Sườn Nướng – Grilled Pork Chops:
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons finely minced shallots
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh lemongrass
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
½ tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
2 Thai chili peppers, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 bone-in pork chops

Nước Chấm –Spicy Dipping Sauce:
¼ cup sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
¼ cup fish sauce
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 Thai chili peppers, minced
½ tablespoon Sambal chili paste, more or less to taste

Hành Mơ – Scallion Oil:
½ cup light olive oil
1 cup chopped scallions

Serve With:
steamed rice
4 crispy fried eggs
sliced cucumber
sliced tomatoes
lettuce or mixed greens

In a bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, oil, soy sauce and sugar together until the latter has dissolved. Stir in the shallots, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, chili peppers and black pepper. Place the pork chops in a shallow dish or large resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the pork, ensuring that the meat is well coated. Cover the dish (or seal the bag) and allow the pork to marinate in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours. (If using thick chops, marinade overnight.)

Prepare the nước chấm (spicy dipping sauce). In a small bowl or jar, mix ¼ cup sugar with the hot water until the sugar starts to dissolve. Stir in ¼ cup fish sauce, lime juice, chili peppers and Sambal chili paste. Set aside.

Prepare the hành mơ (scallion oil). In a small sauté pan, slowly heat the canola oil. Add the chopped scallions. Cook the scallions on very low heat until they are wilted but still bright green. Approximately 2-3 minutes. Pull from heat and set aside.

Remove the pork chops from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking to take the chill off. Bring your grill to medium-high heat and lightly grease the grates with oil or cooking spray. Grill the pork chops for 1-2 minutes on each side until browned and slightly charred. If using thick chops, add an additional 2-3 minutes per side—depending on thickness. Remove the pork chops from the grill and generously brush them with the hành mơ. Cover and set aside while 4 plates are prepared.

On each plate, place a generous mound of rice and brush it with the hành mơ. Place one fried egg over the rice and add a few slices of cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce/greens on the plate. Add one pork chop along with a small bowl of nước chấm.

Serve immediately.