Phở varies dramatically from the north of Vietnam to the south. Every family and every street vendor has a unique understanding of what phở should taste like, what it should be garnished with and how it should be eaten. There is no right or wrong.
- 1 whole free-range chicken
- 500 g chicken necks
- 1 chicken carcass
- 5 litres water
- 2 brown onions, unpeeled and left whole
- 150 g piece ginger, unpeeled
- 25 g cassia bark
- 50 g whole star anise
- 15 g coriander seeds
- 10 whole cloves
- 3 black cardamom pods
- 250 ml fish sauce (see Note)
- 40 g rock sugar (see Note)
- 400 g fresh thin rice noodles (see Note)
- 100 g bean sprouts
- reserved chicken meat (from above)
- thinly sliced onion
- 8 sprigs coriander
- 200 g bean sprouts
- 4 lemon cheeks
- 2 red birdseye chillies, halved lengthways
- 4 sprigs Thai basil
- 4 sprigs sawtooth coriander (see Note)
- 4 eggs, soft-boiled, peeled
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
For the broth, place the whole chicken, necks and carcass in a stockpot with 5 litres water and bring to the boil.
While this is coming up to the boil, lightly grill the onions and ginger until they are delicately charred on the outside. This will add a golden hue to the broth and reinforce the sweetness.
When the chicken has come to the boil, add about 250 ml (1 cup) cold water to the pot - this will send the fat and scum to the surface. Skim the scum off thoroughly and discard.
Add the onions and ginger and all the spices, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, remove the whole chicken, cool until you can handle, then gently shred the meat from the bones, keeping the leg and breast meat separate. Set aside until ready to serve.
Return the bones to the pot and cook the broth for another hour.
Strain the broth through your finest strainer, being careful not to spill a drop!
Return the broth to the stove in a clean pot, bring to the boil, skim thoroughly and add the fish sauce and rock sugar to taste. (At this stage, the broth can be frozen for storage.)
To serve, blanch the noodles for 30 seconds in boiling water. Divide among warmed bowls. Add the bean sprouts and the some of the shredded chicken. Add 500 ml (2 cups) broth to each of the bowls, top with onion and coriander.
For the table salad, arrange the salad ingredients on a platter and let each person add them to the broth to suit themselves.
• We use a fish sauce from the picturesque island of Phú Quốc, considered to be the world’s best. namely 3 Crab brand. The fish sauce should be labelled nuoc mam nhi, which means it is the first pressing or the equivalent of ‘extra virgin’ fish sauce. To judge the quality of a fish sauce, it should be crystal clear, deeply golden but not too dark, and it should create large bubbles when shaken - this indicates a viscous and rich sauce.
• Rice noodles, rock sugar and sawtooth coriander are available from Asian grocers.
Photography, styling and food preparation by China Squirrel.
Geoff Lindsay is the head chef of Dandelion.
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