Steve returned from a business trip to Washington DC with the tenacious flu that is going around this year. He’d been sick for over a week and wasn’t getting better. I made a big pot of chicken pho for dinner- a fragrant, spicy, fresh herb crowned, Vietnamese noodle soup- and his health was restored by the next day. I ended up with the same malady right before Christmas, and had the worst time shaking it. So, I cooked another big pot of chicken pho last night, and here I am back to blogging. What a relief to feel well.
Pho became our favorite comfort food during a family trip to Vietnam 3 years ago. Ever since, I have made it frequently in winter, and always when one of us is sick. Happily, it is naturally gluten free, relying on rice stick noodles rather than wheat pasta, and Asian fish sauce rather than gluten containing soy sauce. You will need to read labels for a couple of ingredients: prepared chicken broth and Hoisin sauce. I rely on Trader Joe’s Organic Low Sodium Chicken Broth or Swanson’s Natural Goodness chicken broth and Dynasty Hoisin Sauce.
Each time I prepare pho, I simplify my technique further so I can easily fit it into my schedule whenever we crave a bowl of this healing soup. I start off by sautéing fresh ginger and coarsely chopped onion in a large pot, add prepared chicken broth to the pot, season the mixture, and bring to a simmer. I poach skinless, boneless chicken thighs right in the soup, which adds good flavor to both the broth and the chicken. The rice noodles simply soak in a bowl of boiling water while the soup simmers, and I prepare the condiments while the soup simmers and the noodles soak.
This recipe makes 4 generous servings, (2 meals for 2 people, plus a bonus lunch for 1), and I know I will feel 100% after we enjoy the soup again tonight.
Easy Gluten-Free Chicken Pho
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 onion, coarsely chopped
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
- 2 quarts gluten-free chicken broth
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 6 whole star anise
- 6 whole cloves
- 1½ lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs (preferably organic)
- 1 6.75 oz package Maifun Rice Stick noodles
- 3-4 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
- 4 baby bok choy, sliced crosswise
- Coarse kosher salt
- 1 large red jalapeno, seeded, minced
- Mung bean sprouts
- Fresh basil sprigs
- 1 lime, cut into quarters
- 4 green onions, thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Hoisin Sauce
- Asian Chile paste such as Sambal Oelek
- For the soup: Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and sauté until the onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, 2 cups water, fish sauce, and sugar. Place the star anise and cloves in a tea ball or wrap in cheesecloth and add to the pot. Bring to a boil. Add the chicken and return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the chicken is tender, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the noodles in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and let soak until almost tender, at least 10 minutes. Using scissors, cut through the noodles several times to shorten. Let the noodles stand in the hot water until ready to use.
- For the condiments: Place the jalapeno in a small bowl, place the bean sprouts, basil leaves and lime on a platter. Prepare the remaining condiments.
- Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from the pot. Add the shiitake and bok choy to the pot and simmer until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Season the broth to taste with salt. Slice the chicken crosswise.
- Drain the noodles and divide among 4 large bowls. Divide the chicken among the bowls. Ladle the broth and cooked vegetables over the noodles and chicken. Sprinkle each bowl with green onions, cilantro, and freshly ground black pepper.
- Serve the pho steaming hot, allowing diners to season to taste with hoisin, chile paste, lime juice, and jalapenos, and then to heap on bean sprouts and fresh basil leaves.