When the colder months start to kick in, there’s possibly nothing better than slurping down a piping hot bowl of soup. Even better if that soup is filled with fresh herbs and aromatics, and has a kick of spice to it as well. A soup like that would also be great if you came down with the flu. Luckily, you can find all of that and more in the traditional Vietnamese soup, Pho Ga.
What is a Pho Ga?
If your Vietnamese is a bit rusty or if you just don’t know a lick of the language at all, don’t worry. A pho ga is basically the Vietnamese version of the chicken noodles soup you used to eat growing up. A pho ga has a clear broth made by slowly cooking a chicken for a couple of hours together with a bunch of onions and ginger. That clear, light, and delicate broth is then topped with a helping of noodles, a few chunks of chicken, some chili, a lime wedge and freshly chopped herbs like mint, cilantro, and scallions.
The problem with this dish is that not a lot of people have the time to patiently wait for a broth to simmer away for hours. They’re hungry and they want to eat some good food as soon as humanly possible. Fortunately, home cooks can now make this scrumptious dish completely from scratch in just over an hour. This makes it perfect for dinner even on the busiest of weeknights.
How Do You Make this Dish Quicker?
But, how, you may ask? All you need to get this dish prepared quickly is your trusty, old pressure cooker. The best part is, all of the aromatics and spices you’re going to be using are readily available in most grocery stores. Just take a quick detour to the Asian section and you’ll find most of what you need there. Get your hands on some whole star anise, cloves, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, green cardamom, entire black peppercorns, and a couple cinnamon sticks. Try to procure them as fresh as possible for the tastiest results.
Be wary though, the following recipe is not true to the way your Vietnamese grandmother used to make it. If you’re looking for something authentic, this probably isn’t the way to go. However, if you’re strapped for time or you just don’t feel like putting in the extra effort to make pho ga the old fashioned way, then this method will surely suffice. There’s always going to be a time and a place for making things with a little bit more patience. One ingredient that could help boost the authenticity is yellow rock sugar, although this may be hard to find.
Toasting the Spices, Charring the Aromatics
Once you’ve got your spices ready, toast them to get their full flavor. Just put them in a dry skillet and heat them through. If your pressure cooker can handle a bit of sautéing, then you can do it directly in there over medium heat. Instant pots even have a sauté option, which is extremely helpful in cases like this. Remove the aromatics once they’re fragrant and you’ve evoked their natural oils. This usually takes about two minutes.
The next thing you have to do is get some color on your onions and ginger. Some recipes don’t call for the use of oil, but using a little bit helps char the ingredients faster. If you’re going to add oil, use vegetable oil and put just enough to cover the bottom of the pan you’re using. Halve two peeled onions and place them cut side down in the pan together with a couple strips of ginger over medium heat. Space them out from each other and leave them five minutes so they properly caramelize. Four minutes in, add one crushed garlic clove to the mix.
Building the Broth
Now it’s time to build the broth. Start by adding half a cup of cold water to deglaze the pot. Use a wooden spoon to scrape off the charred bits at the bottom. Afterwards, add your spices from before along with a few bunches of chopped fresh cilantro, two tablespoons of fish sauce, and a pinch of salt. If you managed to find any, add a tablespoon of yellow rock sugar. Let the flavors mingle for a bit then add a further three and a half cups of cold water.
Once you’re done, carefully add your chicken to the pressure cooker using a pair of kitchen tongs. Don’t add the chicken first and then the water, as this could create a runoff from the chicken that could alter the broth’s texture. Some cooks also believe that doing so is unsanitary. Put the entire chicken in if you’re using one, feet and neck included. If you’re just using chicken parts, then that would work just as well. Close the lid and let it cook under high pressure for around 10 minutes. Release the pressure and cook it for another 20 minutes.
Preparing the Toppings
To prepare the toppings for your pho ga, slice some white onion as thinly as you can. Soak the slices in cold water to mellow down their taste. Finely chop some green onion and pick out some fresh cilantro leaves too. If you’re looking to add some heartiness to your soup, you can toss in a couple of hard boiled eggs, but this is optional. To prepare the noodles – banh pho – add them to a large bowl and then submerge them with some boiling salted water. It takes around 18 to 25 minutes for these noodles to cook using this method, so a good marker for when to start making them is when the pressure cooker begins its natural release for the broth.
Assembling the Soup
Finally, strain the chicken broth using a fine mesh sieve. You can even use a cheese cloth too if you’d like. To make things easier, transfer the chicken to another container first then skim off the fat and other bits of scum on top of the broth using a ladle. After that, pass the broth through your strainer setup. Season the broth with a little bit of salt if need be. Put all of the ingredients together and there you have it – pho ga made in just over an hour or so.
This soup is perfect for when it’s cold or when you’re feeling a bit under the weather. What’s even better is that now you know how to make it in seemingly no time at all.
- Instant Pot Chicken Pho Noodle Soup (Pho Ga) – Little Spice Jar
- Instant Pot Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup – Pressure Cooker Recipes