The first time I ever had pho was at the Slanted Door, Charles Phan's Vietnamese restaurant that has become a San Francisco Bay Area institution. I was blown away. The beauty of the dish lies in its simplicity. It requires a gentle coaxing of a few key ingredients- chicken or beef, onion, and ginger-to create a stock that is delicious on its own. I've tried a few of Phan's pho recipes, and the attention he spends bringing out all the flavors is incredible. In an effort to save time and eliminate hard-to-find ingredients, I offer my humble version. I've substituted brown rice noodles for the traditional rice noodles, and they've been a hit. Photo by: Andee McKenzie
1lbdried brown rice noodles, such as Annie Chun's Pad Thai Brown Rice Noodles
1bunch green onions, green parts only, thinly sliced
2cupsmung bean sprouts
2jalapeños, thinly sliced (optional if nightshade-sensitive)
Torn basil, cilantro, and mint leaves for serving
Lime wedges for serving
Sriracha sauce for serving (optional)
Place the chicken pieces and backbone, onions, ginger, 2 tsp salt, brown sugar, and water in a stockpot with at least an 8-qt capacity.
Slowly bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, for 1 hour, skimming off any impurities that come to the surface. (Add water as necessary to keep the chicken covered.)
Using tongs, remove the chicken pieces from the pot and transfer to a cutting board. When the chicken is cool to the touch, remove all the meat from the skin and bones and transfer to a medium bowl.
Return the skin and bones to the stockpot. Shred the meat, then cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Return the stock to a simmer and continue to cook 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Using a fine-mesh sieve, strain the stock into another stockpot and cook over high heat until reduced to 12 cups, about 20 minutes. Stir in the fish sauce (At this point, you can cool the stock to room temperature, cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Prepare the rice noodles according to the package instructions.
While the noodles cook, add half of the shredded chicken to the stock and simmer until the chicken is warmed through. (Reserve the remaining shredded chicken for another use).
Divide the cooked rice noodle among six large soup bowls and sprinkle evenly with green onions, bean sprouts, and jalapeños (if using).
Ladle the stock and chicken over the noodles and finish with the torn herbs. Serve with lime wedges, additional fish sauce, and Sriracha sauce, if desired.
Notes: When shopping in a typical grocery store with a limited assortment of Asian ingredients, I always turn to Annie Chun's for rice noodles and Thai Kitchen for guaranteed gluten-free fish sauce.