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Pressure Cooker Pho Ga/Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

Made this awesome popular noodle soup in a pressure cooker and it was super-easy. Shortcut cooking method but not a shortcut in flavor--Check out this authentic recipe!Pho Ga has become so mainsteam that most folks refer to the dish by its Vietnamese name rather than the translated name “Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup”. What is it about this unassuming soup that has captured everyone’s hearts and tummies? The answer:  simple ingredients–rice noodle and chicken served in an intoxicating broth layered with earthy, aromatic spices. The dish is then enjoyed with abundant fresh herbs and garnishes which further enhance the gastronomic journey! In a word, it’s AMAZING! 🙂

Now that your mouths are watering, let’s get to the recipe. In this post, I share a non-conventional approach for making Pho Ga in a pressure cooker. It’s easy, convenient and allows you to enjoy authentic, homemade pho with minimal fuss. I love this recipe because it’s so easy. I hope you’ll give it a try and let me know what you think!

Notes on the Recipe, Tips and Tricks

The pressure cooker I am using is the Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Programmable Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W. This electric appliance takes the guesswork out of using a pressure cooker.  It’s super easy to use and to clean.

Make the chicken stock from scratch if you have time. (Check out the recipe I shared earlier.) If you’re pressed for time, a store-bought organic chicken broth works great too.

When charring the onion and ginger, it can get fairly smoky so turn on the exhaust fan. The onion and ginger get pretty black but don’t worry as the skin will be removed. If you’re not comfortable with roasting over an open-flame, use a cast-iron pan.

Washing the chicken is a very important step. It rinses away any residual blood and bits that often make the soup cloudy. I use a big bowl to catch the rinse water and this way I can tell the chicken is clean when the water is clear.

If your pressure cooker has a tendency to burn the food touching the bottom of the pot, put down a layer of celery or carrots and then place the chicken on top. The vegetables will buffer the chicken and serve as a natural sweetener for the soup.

After the cooking time elapses, the pressure cooker switches over to a Keep Warm function.  This will keep the soup perfectly hot until you’re ready to serve.

Pho noodles come in different thicknesses and are sized as small, medium and large.  There are no hard and fast rules so choose what you like.  I prefer the medium-sized noodles and cook them for 4 minutes.  The noodles are tender but not mushy.

1 lb of dry rice noodles makes about 2 1/2 lbs cooked rice noodles.  This is a lot but some people like lots of noodles while others love lots of broth.  Most likely, you’ll have some noodles leftover.

Note that I do not season the broth with salt or fish sauce. Each person should salt his or her bowl to taste. When serving this soup, always make sure you provide a generous side of fish sauce. Avoid adding fish sauce directly to the entire soup pot because when the soup is refrigerated, it has a tendency to turn sour.

Watch the video below for instructions.

If you enjoyed this recipe, you may also like: Vermicelli Soup with Chicken, Steamed Pork Roll and Egg (Bun Thang) and Crab Noodle Soup (Bun Rieu).

Ingredients

1 small yellow onion
2-inch section ginger
2 whole star anise
2 cardamom pods
5 cloves
1/2 Tbsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
3/4 oz rock sugar
1 Saigon cinnamon stick

5 lb whole organic chicken
2 Tbsp salt
9 cups chicken stock
1 lb rice stick/pho noodles, size medium

Garnishes and Accompaniments
2 green onions, chopped
ground black pepper
2 cups bean sprouts, washed and trimmed
Thai basil, sawtooth herb, cilantro, washed
red chilies
jalapenos, thinly sliced
2 limes, cut into wedges
fish sauce
hoisin sauce
sriracha sauce

Directions

Cut the onion in half. Remove the skin from one onion half and then thinly slice. Place into a small bowl and set aside for now.

Set the heat to Medium Low.  Place the remaining onion half and ginger directly over the flame. Cook each side for 5 minutes until charred. Rinse with cool water to wash off the loose char. Remove the outer layer of skin from the onion and ginger. Using a small knife, scrape off the char. Rinse again with cool water.  Use a pestle or meat hammer to slightly smash the ginger.

In a skillet over Low heat, add the star anise, cardamom, cloves, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and cinnamon. Stirring occasionally, toast for 7-8 minutes until fragrant. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Place the spices into a tea filter and tie shut with twine.

Sprinkle salt on the outside and inside of the chicken. Gently rub the salt into the skin. Wash the chicken thoroughly using a steady stream of cold water.

Trim off any visible fat and discard.

Put the chicken into the pressure cooker.  Add the onion, ginger, rock sugar and spices bag.  Pour in the chicken stock.

Cover with the lid and seal.  Set the cooker to High pressure, the timer to 30 minutes and let everything cook.

After the timer goes off, turn the valve to release the pressure.

Uncover the cooker.  Remove the onion, spices bag and ginger if visible.

Using a large slotted spoon, carefully transfer the entire chicken into a large bowl.  Cover the chicken with ice water and allow to soak for 2 minutes.  Drain the water.  Cover the bowl and allow the chicken to cool further.

Skim the broth and remove any bits floating at the top.

Soak the rice noodle in hot water for 10 minutes until limp.

Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil over High heat.  Add the drained noodles and swirl in the hot water.  Boil the noodles for 3-4 minutes stirring frequently.  Drain the noodles and then rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.  Drain and rinse again with cold water.  Toss the noodles to shake off the water.  Use a salad spinner to spin the noodles dry.  Cover until ready to serve.

When the chicken is cooled, remove the breast pieces and cut into thin slices.  Remove the remaining meat from the thighs and body and shred by hand or cut into thin strips.

To serve, add some rice noodles into a large bowl.  Add some sliced onions and chicken.  Ladle in a generous amount of the broth.  Top with green onions and freshly ground black pepper.  Enjoy the soup with the fresh herbs (Thai basil, sawtooth herb and cilantro), bean sprouts, and assorted chili peppers.  Add fish sauce, hoisin sauce, sriracha sauce and lime juice to taste.  Enjoy!

Yields:  5-7 servings

Tools I Love and Use in My Kitchen

    

Delicious homemade pho fast-tracked using a pressure cooker. Check out my recipe!

Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup/Pho Ga would not be completed without a refreshing plate of herbs, lime wedges and chilies!

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Sour Soup with Fish (Canh Chua Ca)

Serve this delicious soup with a side of fish sauce and red chilies!Sour Soup?  The word “sour” may be off-putting to some and not a taste that is immediately appealing.  The name of this dish is the direct translation for this soup’s Vietnamese name “Canh Chua” but some subtleties get lost in translation.  I’d rather call this “Perfectly Balanced Tart, Savory, and Sweet with Abundant Vegetables and Hearty Fish Soup” but that’s quite a mouthful.  So, unfortunately, the name gets abbreviated to something most people recognize.  My point:  Please don’t let the name of this soup turn you off to trying it.  It is a wonderful balance of flavors and textures and much more than just “sour” so I hope you’ll give it a try!

Notes on the Recipe, Tips and Tricks

A good base is essential for this soup.  I prefer a chicken stock or broth which adds taste without dominating the soup’s primary flavors.

Fish is usually the meat of choice in this soup.  Catfish, specifically catfish steaks, are often used.  I am not a big fan of eating fish with bones, especially in soup, so opt to use fish fillets.  Feel free to use a fish you enjoy but, select a sturdy fish that will hold up well to boiling like red snapper, halibut or mahi mahi.  Shrimp is a good alternative as well.  If using shrimp, cook them in the stock until they turn pink (about a minute or so).  Remove and set aside in a bowl.  Add the shrimp back to the soup once the vegetables are done cooking.

The timing of this soup is important.  You don’t want to over-cook the fish but you also want your vegetables to be cooked properly.  The fish fillets take about 5-7 minutes to cook depending on the thickness.  If you’re not sure how to time everything, you can cook the fish first and then remove from the soup.  Then cook your vegetables to the doneness that you like and add the fish back into the soup just before serving.

Regarding the tartness, if you’re not sure how much you can handle, add just half of the tamarind sauce per the below recipe and adjust from there.  If it’s too tart, add the pineapple juice (leftover from the canned chunks) or add more sugar to balance the flavors.

I use canned pineapples chunks because it’s convenient and I don’t have to buy a whole pineapple.  At my house we love pineapples so I use the entire 20 oz can.

Elephant ear stems can be difficult to find and so you can substitute with celery.

The rice paddy and sawtooth herbs are essential greens for this dish.  Again, they can be difficult to find unless you go to an Asian grocer.  If you don’t have these herbs, substitute with other fragrant herbs like Thai basil or cilantro.

At my local 99 Ranch Market, they sell a packaged Sour Soup mix which contains elephant ear stem, okra, tomatoes and the fresh herbs.  Super convenient!  You have the basics and can add whatever else you like.

As a shortcut for making the tamarind sauce, you can use the powdered tamarind which is inexpensive and pretty good.  Just a quick note, most of these packets contain MSG.

If you want to enjoy this dish the Viet way, serve it with a side of undiluted fish sauce with chopped red chilies.

To complement the tartness of this soup, you’ll want to serve it with a savory dish like Braised Fish in Clay Pot (Ca Kho To) or Braised Pork and Shrimp.

Watch the video below for instructions.

Ingredients

1 lb swai fillet (or any fish of your choice)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

3 oz wet tamarind
1 cup hot water

4 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
6 oz okra (approximately 1 cup)
8 oz pineapple chunks (approximately 1 cup)
2 small tomatoes
4 oz elephant ear steam (approximately 1 cup)
6 oz bean sprouts (approximately 2 cups)
6-8 sprigs rice paddy herb
6-8 sprigs sawtooth herb
6 cups Chicken Stock
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Directions

Cut the fish fillets into smaller sections.  Drizzle 1/2 Tbsp fish sauce on the one side and sprinkle with ground black pepper.  Flip the fish over and drizzle with another 1/2 Tbsp fish sauce and add more ground black pepper.  Allow the fish to marinate while continuing with the next steps.

Peel and mince the garlic.  Set aside in a small bowl.

Cut off a section of the wet tamarind and then cut into small chunks.  Add into a measuring cup along with the hot water.  Mash the tamarind and mix it with the water for 5 minutes or until a thick sauce forms.  Strain the tamarind using a sieve.  Set the sauce aside for now.

Trim ends off the okra.  Cut the okra at a diagonally, making 1/2-inch thick slices.

Cut tomatoes in half and then into wedges.

Drain pineapple chunks and set aside.

Remove skin from elephant ear stem using a vegetable peeler.  If the stems are thick, cut in half lengthwise.  Cut the stems at an angle making slices that are about 1/2-inch thick.

Coarsely chop the rice paddy herbs and sawtooth herbs.  Set aside for later use.

Heat a large pot over Medium heat and when hot add vegetable oil.  Add the garlic and stir-fry until golden brown, approximately 30 seconds.  Transfer into a bowl and set aside for now.

Add the chicken stock into the same pot, cover and bring to a boil over High heat.  Add the fish (do not cover) and cook until the stock comes to a boil again, approximately 3 minutes.  Reduce the heat to Medium.

Add the sugar, fish sauce and tamarind mixture.  Gently stir everything together.

Add the okra and pineapple chunks and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute.

Add the elephant ear stems and cook for 1 minute.

Add the bean sprouts.  Gently stir everything together.  Cook for another 1-2 minutes.

When serving, garnish the soup with the ground black pepper, rice paddy herbs, sawtooth herbs and fried garlic.

Yields: 6-8 servings

Check out this link to learn more about herbs: Quick Guide to Vietnamese Herbs.

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Chicken Stock (Nuoc Sup Ga, Nuoc Leo)

This simple and light broth makes the perfect base for soups and stews.Learning how to make a good soup stock is an essential skill every cook should know.  Yes, it’s super easy to just buy cans of stock or broth but nothing tastes better than a slowly-simmered stock made with the freshest ingredients.  With the colder months quickly approaching, having ready-made chicken stock is really convenient when you want to quickly prepare your favorite soups, stews and other hearty comfort foods.  So clear-out some room in the freezer and get ready to make a batch of this delicious chicken stock!

Check out these scrumptious soups which you can make using this chicken stock:

Spinach and Shrimp Balls Soup (Canh Rau Spinach voi Tom Vien)

Yampi Root/Yam Soup (Canh Khoai Mo)

Won Ton Noodle Soup (Mi Hoanh Thanh)

Notes on the Recipe, Tips and Tricks

Do’s for making a clear broth:

  1. Rinse the chicken bones.
  2. Skim the foam.
  3. Simmer instead of boil.
  4. Strain.

If you can buy just chicken breast bones, these make the clearest broth.  Depending on where you live, breast bones can be difficult to find.  Most stores sell chicken bones which is typically the chicken carcass.  The bones are often packaged with the neck, skin and fatty parts.  Discard these and don’t use them in making the chicken stock.  Neck bones cloud the stock and the fat and skin will make the stock really oily.

Rinsing the bones with hot water is key.  This process washes off any residual blood, bits of loose meat or whatever debris is clinging to the chicken.  Parboiling the chicken is a similar and effective technique but I find rinsing much easier as I don’t have to lift a heavy stockpot and pour out boiling water.

Skim, skim, skim and remove the foam or scum that floats to the top of the broth.  These are impurities which will cloud the stock.  Be diligent about skimming the stock and you’ll be rewarded with beautifully clear stock.

Strain the broth using a fine sieve.  If you don’t have a fine sieve, use a paper towel or coffee filter with your existing sieve.  Both do a great job with catching the impurities.

Stock too oily?  Refrigerate the stock overnight.  In the morning, use a spoon to scoop off the fat from the top and discard.  Instant calorie savings!

Don’t over-salt your stock.  You’ll most likely add more salt and other spices to it when using it to make other dishes.

The stock can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Save the stock for later use by pouring into it into smaller containers or re-sealable plastic bags and freezing.  (Make sure to leave some room for the stock to expand when frozen.)  The stock can be frozen for up to 1-year.

Watch the video below for instructions.

Ingredients

5 lbs chicken bones
3 Tbsp salt
30 cups water
3 carrots
1/2 lb Daikon radish
1 sweet onion
1 Fuji apple
1 oz rock sugar
20 black peppercorns

Directions

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from the carrots and radish.  Cut the carrots in half and the radish into thirds.  Remove the skin from the sweet onion and then quarter it.  Quarter the apple as well. (There’s no need to remove the skin or core.)

Trim off any remaining fat and skin from the chicken bones and discard.

Fill a large stockpot with hot water and add 1 Tbsp salt.  Add the chicken bones into the pot.  Swirl each of the chicken bones in the hot water for a few seconds.  Allow the bones to soak for 5 minutes.

Remove the bones and drain the dirty water. Rinse the stockpot.  Repeat the process of rinsing and then soaking the bones in the hot water one more time.  Remove the bones and drain the dirty water once again.

Place the bones back in the stockpot and transfer to the stove.  Add 30 cups of water or as much as the pot will hold leaving some room for the remaining ingredients.  Cover the stockpot and cook on High Heat for approximately 20 minutes.

After 20-25 minutes the stock should start to bubble.  Remove the lid and gently rotate the bones.  For the next 20 minutes, skim the foam off the top of the stock and discard. During this time, as soon as the broth starts to boil, reduce the heat to Low.  Do not allow the stock to boil rapidly.

Add the apples, carrots and radish along with the rock sugar, peppercorns and salt.  Cover the pot slightly and simmer for 1 hour.  Every 15 minutes, check to make sure the stock is not boiling and skim the foam from the top.

After 1 hour, turn-off the heat and let cook for another 30 minutes.

Remove the fruit, vegetables and chicken bones and discard.

Strain the broth using a fine sieve.

Yields: 28 cups

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Vermicelli Soup with Chicken, Steamed Pork Roll and Egg (Bun Thang)

When I moved away for college, this was the dish I made regularly.  With its hearty broth, rice vermicelli, shredded chicken, steamed pork roll, fried eggs and fresh greens, this soup was (and still is) the perfect combination of Viet flavors.  It’s a dish that was pretty simple to make and I felt good about cooking some authentic Vietnamese food for myself.  My recipe hasn’t changed much over the years, except back then I varied the greens depending on what I could find.  I’ve been known to throw in bean sprouts, mint, spinach–whatever was convenient and inexpensive.  One ingredient I could never forgo when enjoying this soup was the shrimp paste.  (You simply take a dab or more of the shrimp paste and mix it in the soup.)  For those not familiar with shrimp paste, it is fermented ground shrimp with salt.  “Yikes!” you say?  Yes, it’s a pungent, potent condiment that is extremely salty.  That’s one of the reasons I don’t over-salt the broth.  It’s quite common to add salt or fish sauce to your bowl depending upon individual tastes.  And if you’re like me, you’ll load up on the shrimp paste.  If you’ve never had shrimp paste, I encourage you to give it a try and let me know if you’re a fan!

Watch the video below for instructions.

Ingredients
1.5 lbs chicken breast with ribs
1 medium sweet onion
1/2 tsp salt
10 cups water
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 lb steamed pork roll (cha lua)
4 eggs
2 Tbsp milk
olive oil or non-stick cooking spray

8-10 cups cooked rice vermicelli

1 cup Vietnamese coriander, washed and trimmed
2 red chilies, finely chopped
2 limes, cut into wedges
1 cup cilantro, washed and finely chopped
3 green onion tops, finely diced

Directions

Peel onion and cut into large wedges.  Add onions, salt, chicken breast and water into a medium stock pot.  Make sure the water covers the chicken completely.  Heat over high heat.  As the liquid starts to boil, skim the foam from the top.  (This helps to keep the broth clear.)  Continue skimming as the broth comes to a rapid boil.  Turn heat to low.  Cover pot leaving a slight opening and simmer for 25-30 minutes depending on the size of chicken breast.  To check to see if the chicken is done, cut into the thickest part of the breast meat using a sharp knife.  If the juices in the meat run clear, the chicken is cooked.  If the juices are pink, cook for another 5 minutes and then recheck.  Remove chicken from stockpot and place on a plate.  Allow to cool until it can be handled.

Remove the onions from the broth and discard.  Season the broth by adding fish sauce and black pepper.

Remove steamed pork roll from its wrapping.  Cut into thin slices, approximately 1/8-inch thick and then cut into thin strips.

Add eggs, milk, salt and pepper into a medium bowl.  Whisk together until well blended.  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat until hot.  Spritz a bit of olive oil or non-stick cooking spray into the pan.  Pour the egg mixture into the pan.  Swirl the pan so the egg is evenly distributed in the pan.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the egg is no longer runny.  Gently flip the egg over and cook on the other side for another 2 minutes.  Remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly.  Slice into thin strips similar to the steamed pork roll.

Use your fingers to shred the chicken into thin strips.  Remove any fat or cartilage as you’re doing this.

To assemble the soup, add a generous amount of the Vietnamese coriander to the bottom of the bowl.  Add the rice noodles on top.  Layer the shredded chicken, steamed pork roll and fried egg.  Ladle the broth covering the noodles.  Garnish with the green onions, cilantro and red chilies.

Serve with fresh limes and shrimp paste.

Yields:  4-6 servings

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