This Vietnamese staple is usually made with spiced beef, but it is equally good with chicken. The Vietnamese eat this soup any time of the day–even for breakfast.
- 3½ pounds chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 2 pounds chicken wings or drummettes (meaty parts of the wing only)
- 8 cups Oriental Chicken Broth , or Basic Chicken Broth
- 3 scallions, green and white parts, trimmed
- ¼ pound ginger root, peeled and cut into 3 pieces
- 3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (nuoc nam or nam pla)
- 3 whole star anise
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 pound fresh rice vermicelli (bahn pho), or ½ pound dry rice sticks (mai fun)
- 1 cup bean sprouts, blanched for 2 to 3 seconds
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only
- 1 bunch fresh basil, leaves shredded
- 1 bunch mint, leaves only
- 4 small red Asian chiles, minced
- 4 scallions, white part only, trimmed and chopped
- 2 limes, cut into wedges
Wash the chicken under cold water and place in a large, heavy, deep soup pot that’s not too wide. Add the broth. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, lower the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, skimming the scum as it rises to the top of the pot. Continue skimming until the soup is clear. Add more broth if necessary.
Add the scallions, gingerroot, fish sauce, star anise, allspice, and peppercorns. Simmer, partially covered, for 40 to 50 minutes.
Cool slightly, then remove the chicken. Remove the chicken from the bones and discard the skin and bones. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces, or shred, and set aside.
Strain the broth and discard the vegetables and spices. Skim the fat off the top of the soup with a large spoon, or use a gravy degreasing cup. (Or pour broth into a large bowl and chill overnight. The next day, remove the congealed fat from the surface before reheating the soup.)
Just before serving, return the broth and the chicken to the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boiling. Place a handful of vermicelli in a strainer, and rinse in running water. Dip the strainer full of noodles in the boiling water for 2 to 3 seconds. Repeat until all the noodles are used. Drain. If using dry rice sticks, rinse in cold water and cook in the boiling water for 1½ to 2 minutes, or until soft. Drain.
Place the noodles or rice sticks in individual soup bowls. Using a slotted spoon, top with a portion of chicken. Ladle hot soup into the bowls. Serve with garnishes arranged on a large platter and with a bowl of extra fish sauce on the side. Diners can add the garnishes along with a squeeze of lime and fish sauce to taste.