Monday, May 20, 2013

My Faux Pho - Vietnamese Chicken Meatball & Noodle Soup

There's nothing like a delicious soup to warm the cockles of one's heart on a cold, wintry day. Pour in the garlic and ginger and you have an immunity-boosting bowl of goodness - as is the case with this fabulous version of Vietnam's much-loved pho (from Real Living Magazine).
My family can't get enough of this soup - so much so that I have to make double the recipe in order to satisfy their hunger pangs. Whilst not a gluten free recipe per se, you can swap the noodles for gluten-free ones and do the same with the stock. The rest is all natural goodness - you seriously can't go wrong. Unless of course you are a vegetarian - chicken mince balls probably don't rate too highly on your list of must have food. But that's ok because the chicken can be replaced with tofu if you so desire. 
There are a lot of ingredients but rest assured, you will be making this again so the ingredients won't sit in your pantry without ever getting used again.
So let's get stuck into it - I dare you not to like this one....
1 tbsp of vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 long red chilli, sliced finely (- my kids aren't into chilli so I add it in later)
1 bunch coriander, stems and leaves separated, both finely chopped
3 tsp finely grated ginger
4 cups chicken stock (you can get gluten-free stock)
3 cups water
2 star anise
1 tbsp finely grated palm sugar
1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
500g chicken mince
4 spring onions, chopped
Ground white pepper and salt
125g vermicelli noodles or udon noodles
1 bunch choy sum, gai larn or pak choy, cut into 10cm lengths - I use baby spinach leaves...easier to eat and delicious
125g bean sprouts
Handful mint leaves/ coriander or thai basil, to serve
The 'How to'
Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, chilli, coriander stems and 2 tsp ginger and cook for 2 mins until fragrant. The aroma is just divine - I'd go as far as saying hypnotic. Add the stock, water, star anise, palm sugar, soy sauce and 1 tbsp fish sauce. Bring to a simmer to infuse flavours. I let it simmer for approximately 2 hours to ensure the herbs and spices completely release their goodness into the broth but if you are pressed for time, 30 minutes should do it.

The meatballs
Place the chicken mince, 2 spring onions, handful of chopped coriander leaves, white pepper, salt, remaining ginger and fish sauce into mixing bowl and stir well to combine. Really get int here with your hands and get all the ingredients evenly spread throughout the mince. Divide and roll mixture into 20 or so little balls. 

Back to the soup
Increase heat to high, drop meatballs into the soup and cook for 3 mins until almost cooked. Add the noodles and green vegetables, then cook for a further 2 mins until noodles and vegies are tender and meatballs are fully cooked. As I mentioned above, I use baby spinach so I pop that in at the end just as I am about to serve so it doesn't wilt too much.

And that's it! It's ready to go once you have topped it with the bean sprouts, herbs and remaining spring onions. 

Let me at it.

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