Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Asian Chicken Soup

I came down with my first cold of the season last week. I'm sure it won't be my last--with two small kids underfoot, colds plague our doorstep with wrath and regularity once school starts.

My darling husband never gets sick, that Tosser...although I guess I should be grateful, because someone's gotta run this sinking ship.

I was feeling mighty sorry for myself this past week. I mean, not only did I have to deal with the Exploding Dishwasher Debacle, I had a fiery throat and a stuffy head to boot. I was slamming cabinets and barking into the phone: "Whaddaya Want?" Even Harryboy didn't want to hang out with me.

Normally, when I get a cold, I hop in the car and get myself to the nearest decent Vietnamese joint for a steaming bowl of pho. Pho is my comfort food; I love the complexity of the spiced broth, the sleekness of the rice noodles, the meltingly rare slivers of beef, the bite of the mint and chile. It's Mama's hug in a bowl. And, when I'm nursing a cold, I add extra squirts of Sriracha to blast those nasal passages wide open. It's the food equivalent of antibiotics.

But, as luck and the Appliance Gods would have it, last week I was chained to my house, waiting for the service repairman to solve my dishwasher woes. Trapped without pho. Serious suckage.

What's a snot-filled-girl to do? Alternative? Create faux pho.

Luckily, I had some homemade chicken stock in the freezer. This is usually not the case at my house (I'm no Ina Garten), but some higher power was looking out for me. I also had cinnamon sticks, star anise, ginger and garlic in the house. Yes! Benefit of being married to an Indian dude:I have shit in my pantry that I never would have thought of before.

I defrosted the stock, threw in a teaspoon of grated ginger and minced garlic, followed up with a star anise and a cinnamon stick, stuck the lid on the pot and let it simmer for 20 minutes.

Now I think it wise to mention that the broth for genuine Vietnamese pho is a complex process and most likely takes days to make. But we're talking desperation here. Plus, this is me, and I am lame and take shortcuts all the time.

Shortcut #2: I had a rotisserie chicken in my refrigerator (we slackers usually do). I shredded up the breast meat and set it aside to warm up. Hey, it's not rare beef, but it'll do.

I boiled some rice noodles, stuck them in the bottom of a big bowl, added the chicken, a fistful of bean sprouts and sliced mushrooms, and some very thinly sliced onion, and ladled a huge amount of the broth over the whole shebang.

Luckily, our garden is still cranking out mint and chiles, so a quick trip out there, a rinse, a chop, and my soup was topped. I know other people will cry foul, but I added basil, too. I added a squeeze of lime and this was one happy girl.

I slurped, sweated, and sipped my way to bliss.

Faux Pho
serves 2 generously

4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon bottled grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
dash soy sauce

4 oz. thin rice noodles, cooked
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
very thin slices of onion
bean sprouts
shredded carrots or sliced mushrooms
fresh mint, basil and/or cilantro
jalapeno, serrano or Thai bird chiles, thinly sliced
wedge of fresh lime

Combine first six ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Fish out the anise and cinnamon and discard.

Divide the noodles into two large bowls. Divide chicken, onion and bean sprouts among bowls. Top with hot broth, fresh herbs, chiles and a squeeze of lime.

**And yeah, it did make me feel better. But I always feel that way when my nasal passages are on fire and I have hot soup in my gut...

PS: I have on good authority that my friend Phoo-D is also having asian chicken soup on her mind...I advise you to check her out in a few days for her (assuredly superior) recipe and photos! Go!


  1. Lol, we are totally on the same page once again. How funny! This sounds delicious. I hope your cold disappeared quickly. I'm not going to write up ours as it was a quick and dirty weeknight special, but I do have a similar recipe from earlier here: I love your addition of mint and serrano - that sounds great!

  2. That sounds so delicious. I will keep this on file for when a desire to make soup comes up (as I'm sure it will).

  3. YUM!!!! I will have to try are so cool!! Hope you feel better.

  4. I love this type of soup! It really clears you up... for a bit. hhaa

  5. that sounds delish! and also, very cleansing!

  6. I, for one, do not balk at your basil addition. the local pho joint here uses all three of your suggestions: mint, basil, cilantro.
    I love pho. It's one of those times I ate meat, because, really, it's pathetic without.
    Hope you're feeling better!

  7. Sounds pretty good for a last minute throw together. Love the rotisserie chicken trick. I use those all the time also. Hope you are feeling better soon! It sucks to be sick : (

  8. Sorry you are sick. I really love this faux pho recipe of yours! Feel better soon!

  9. My kitchen and my belly need some love. Some good cooking. Some pho. I promise myself to start thinking ahead. Fall is upon us and winter is near and the cooking gene will surely kick back in. My poor children probably haven't had a vegetable in 4-6 weeks. It's pathetic around here. On the menu tonite? Grilled cheese. French Fries. Yup, pathetic. I told you. Pa-the-tic.

    And not feeling too good about it.

  10. Sarah,

    My suckage concerning my children and foodstuffs has been very well documented on this blog. If you want to feel better about yourself, check out my first few April posts.

    I. Suck. Big Time.

  11. hmmmm.... thanks for this recipe - sounds quite easy to make! I like pho've made me want to visit my local vietnamese place now too! xxx

  12. First off notice I'm not going anywhere near the Exploding Dishwasher Debacle, no sympathy here, cuz I don't even have one, so there it's out and I'm now over it!
    Second, I'm not Indian, grew up in the Midwest and I love all those ingredients and always have them in my house, fresh "frozen" ginger, garlic, cinnamon sticks, tumeric, rice noodles, lots of garlic and such and so on.... Don't you love it?

    Third is bottled "fresh" ginger an oxymoron?
    Just kidding! I love your posts, but I always make sure I have enough time to read through them and totally enjoy them.

    I am definitly going to use this recipe since it has everything I love in it!

  13. Lyndsey,

    Laughing my butt off! YES! Bottled fresh ginger IS an oxymoron, in the worst kind of way...but I am too lazy to grate my own, so I buy it that way!

    I think your pantry would kick my pantry's ass...

  14. I have never had this before. When I get sick I usually go for the matzo ball soup. I make a big batch and freeze most of it so there is always single servings available.

  15. Sorry you're under the weather. The soup is such a delicious cure for the cold. My husband is sick at the moment - thanks for the cure. I will try it on him tonight.

    Get well soon!

  16. Your pho sounds delicious and a real comfort food! Thanks for sharing:)

  17. This Mama's hug in a cup is Lipton Soup. My hug is jealous of your hug.

  18. Yum, sounds good.

    I'd have just cheated and made a soup from a can.

  19. I also had cinnamon sticks, star anise, ginger and garlic in the house.


  20. You are sooooo lame ;) And yes, I would love to try the result of that lame-ness. Hope you're feeling all better :D

  21. I live in the middle of the sticks and there is no (good) Asian food of any sort to be found... but this I think I can do! And I don't even need any impossible to obtain exotic ingredients :)

    I hope you are feeling better and that no one else in the house gets it!!

  22. That's one of your best recipe titles ever (though all of them are awesome, this one made me snort coffee through my nose).

  23. Oh! And the MOST important thing: feel better, darlin'.

  24. I make pho every week -it's my boyfriend's favorite dish! Asian stores have pho broth cubes that make the broth pretty similar to the real thing. And if you add a cinnamon stick and star anise to it it gets even closer!