For a brief moment, it seemed that spring came early to Chicago, but after almost a week of gorgeous warm sunny February days, winter came back and it’s not going away anytime soon. It’s been wet and cold outside, and the skies have been gloomy and miserable. I wanted a warm and soothing bowl of pho, but I was too lazy to drive out to Argyle Street, so I decided to make do with what I had at home and tried to capture as much of what pho makes great. In the end the final result is not quite pho, but it gives the same warm and comforting feeling you get from the real deal.
2 lbs (4 legs/thighs) chicken
2 quarts chicken stock
3 inches ginger (sliced into very thin medallions)
¼ cup fish sauce (Rufina works best)
1 tbsp orange peel
1 stalk lemon grass, bruised and cut into 3 inch stalks
6 dried kafir lime leaves
Oil for frying
Thai basil leaves
- In a large skillet, heat oil until bubbling. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel before gently placing it skin side down in the skillet. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until brown. Flip, and cook the other side for another 5 minutes. Don’t overcrowd the pan, and cook in batches as needed.
- In a large stockpot, pour the stock, fish sauce, and ginger and let it come to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat and let the stock simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the browned pieces of chicken, orange peel, lemon grass, and kaffir lime leaves. Cover and let simmer on low heat for an hour.
- After an hour, taste the stock and season with fish sauce as needed.
- In another saucepan, boil a quart of water. Add the rice noodles and cook for 5-7 minutes. Once done, drain and rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking process.
- To assemble the pho, place the noodles and chicken in a large bowl. Ladle the broth until a couple of inches from the top, add the bean sprouts, scallions, and Thai basil leaves.
- If you don’t like having to fish out the lemon grass stalks and kaffir lime leaves from your broth, chop them finely and place in a spice bag or cheese cloth.
- In the absence of kaffir lime leaves and fresh lemon grass, cook the recipe as written but omit the fish sauce as well. This will give you a savory and slightly spicy chicken soup instead.