Quick Weeknight Pho Ga

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The star of pho, the Vietnamese noodle soup sold throughout the country at modest stands or tables on the street, is its rich and deeply flavorful broth, made by simmering beef or chicken bones for many hours.

When there aren’t hours available, a shortcut version of this healthful, balanced meal in a bowl can be on the table in about 20 minutes. The key to giving store-bought broth extra flavor is to first char and toast the “aromatics” — that is, the onion, ginger and dried spices — under the broiler. Be sure to place the onion wedges over the dried spices so they don’t burn, which would make them bitter.

Traditional pho is served with all the additional ingredients, such as the greens, fresh herbs, sprouts, lime, and chile peppers (whole or sliced, depending on their size) or Sriracha, for each diner to add to taste.

Quick Weeknight Pho Ga

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

One 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and cut into thin slices

One 2-inch piece cinnamon

2 whole star anise

3 whole cloves

2 small onions, each cut into 8 wedges

3 garlic cloves, smashed

8 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 pound boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4-inch strips

4 ounces rice noodles

2 cups fresh bean sprouts

1 bunch watercress

1 cup cilantro sprigs

1 lime, cut into thin wedges

Sriracha or chile peppers, to taste

Directions:

Coat a small baking sheet pan with cooking spray. Place the ginger, cinnamon, star anise and cloves on the pan, and top with the onion. Place under the broiler until the onion begins to char, about 6 minutes; turn and cook another 2 minutes.

Combine the broth, fish sauce, and broiled ginger, spices, onion and garlic in a soup pot, then bring to a boil. Gently boil 6 minutes. Using a small strainer, scoop the solids out of the broth and discard.

Add the chicken to the broth and reduce the heat to medium. Cook 3 minutes, add the noodles and cook another 3 minutes, until noodles are soft and chicken is cooked through.

Use tongs to transfer the noodles to four bowls; ladle the soup and chicken over the noodles.

Place about 1/4 of the bean sprouts and watercress in each bowl, and pass the cilantro, lime and chile pepper for diners to add to taste.

Per serving: 281 calories, 31 g protein, 29 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 3 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 942 mg sodium

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Marge Perry is an award-winning food, nutrition and travel writer and teacher whose work appears regularly in Rachael Ray Every Day, AllRecipes, Newsday, and on her blog, A Sweet and Savory Life. In addition, Marge is a chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City and an Adjunct at New York University, where she teaches food writing.

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