I’ve streamlined the technique for making Pho simple enough to make at home during the week. Forgive me Pho purists but I do think this version is really good.
The key to good pho is the broth, which authentically is made by grilling onions and fresh ginger, then simmering them with meat bones and a few whole spices for several hours to make a rich, flavorful broth. My shortcut is to emulate this long simmering broth by charring onion and ginger slices under the broiler, then simmering them with chicken or vegetable broth. Together with a little soy sauce and Chinese Five Spice powder they contribute some complexity and depth to the broth.
The other components to pho are the noodles, protein and the fresh vegetable and herb “garnishes”. The ingredients that go into the pho after it is cooked. I choose to use dried rice noodles simply for their availability. The dried noodles are a simple two-step process of soaking to soften, then quickly, boiling for approximately 20 seconds.
Steamed tofu is my protein choice because it has a firmer texture and a little more flavor than regular tofu. Chicken works equally as well. For the herbs and garnishes, use both fresh basil and cilantro. Mint works too. Bean sprouts add an essential crispy crunchy texture.
To assemble and serve your pho here is my advice. If possible, heat your individual serving bowls. Divide the cooked rice noodles and tofu or chicken among the bowls. Pour the hot broth into each bowl. Put your fresh herbs and vegetables on a serving platter and pass them at the table for each person to add what they want to their bowl.
Pass Sriracha sauce (Thai hot sauce) and hoisin sauce (Chinese condiment sauce) on the side for anyone who wants to add a little spiciness or additional flavor. Oh and lime wedges for their refreshing flavor.
- 8 cups reduced sodium chicken broth (regular can be substituted and vegetable broth can be substituted for a vegetarian version)
- 4 cups water
- ½ cup sliced onion
- 3 cross cut slices fresh ginger (1/4 inch thick and the width of the fresh ginger)
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder (see notes below)
- Kosher salt
- Noodles and tofu or chicken:
- 8 ounces ¼-inch wide rice noodles (fresh noodles can be substituted)
- 12 ounces sliced steamed tofu or thinly sliced cooked chicken (see notes below)
- Fresh herb and vegetable garnishes:
- 8 ounces bean sprouts
- 1 cup basil leaves
- 1 cup cilantro leaves
- ½ cup thinly sliced green onions
- 1 lime cut into wedges
- Sriracha hot pepper sauce
- Hoisin sauce
- Preheat the broiler.
- Broil onion and ginger slices until lightly charred, about 5-7 minutes.
- Put chicken broth and water in a stockpot; add onions and ginger, soy sauce, sugar and Chinese five-spice powder; bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover and simmer on low heat about 15 minutes; remove onions and ginger from broth. Season with salt.
- Heat four serving bowls; keep warm.
- Put rice noodles in a bowl; cover with warm water and soak for 15 minutes; drain. Bring water to a boil in a medium size saucepan; add noodles and cook for 20-30 seconds; drain. Divide noodles into the heated bowls. Add tofu or chicken then ladle in hot broth.
- Arrange fresh herbs and vegetables on a platter and serve with Pho bowls. Pass Sriracha sauce and Hoisin sauce on the side.
For cooked chicken: Very thinly slice 12 ounces chicken breast. Bring water to a boil in a medium size saucepan; add chicken. Reduce heat to low and simmer just until cooked through, about 8 minutes.