sk me what season of the year is my fave, and you’ll get an emphatic declaration of love for the season of fall. Everything, from the weather and the foliage, the associated holidays (both Jewish and secular), the movies, and– of course–the food. I fall prey even to the lure of the ever-so-divisive pumpkin spice err’thang of this time of year. Most importantly, however, it is this season when the pangs of cravings for pho start to hit me ever so fierce. But, try as I may I could never seem to get a homemade bowl of pho to turn out quite right. That is, however, until I tried to make it using the pressure cooker. It turns out pressure cooker pho would be my savior for the fall season.
Taken with a crappy iPhone camera three years ago on a trip to Park City, Utah, even bad photography can’t hide the beauty of the rainfall on this beautiful fall afternoon.
The Secret to the Perfect Pressure Cooker Pho
In my search for pho spices, I found the star ingredient (no pun intended) difficult to find. Star anise, native to Southern China and North Vietnam, and common in Chinese Five Spice powder, is a beautiful seed pod found from an evergreen. It’s characteristic star shape gives it its name as well as a novel addition to a spice display. It is, however, quite difficult to find especially in smaller markets such as mine. We actually found it sold in bags among the Mexican spices. It is key, but if you cannot find it for whatever reason, you can substitute Chinese Five Spice for a mediocre result (sorry).
Star Anise–an important ingredient.
This is not the only key to a good homemade bowl of pho. The other key is to start off with baby steps, i.e., chicken pho. Lighter in flavor than the more popular beef version, chicken pho is easier to get right at home. It takes less time to prepare and fewer steps (no parboiling bones–yee!).
Alternatives to the Pressure Cooker
The key to the speediness of my pho is the pressure cooker, for which there is no substitute. However, if you don’t have a pressure cooker you might be wondering if you can still enjoy a bowl of homemade chicken pho of your own. Luckily if you find yourself in possession of a slow cooker, you can follow all of the same steps for the most part, except you will want to cook the pho for 8 hours on the low setting. Phew!
Because pho spices include clove, a key ingredient in the season’s pumpkin-spice craze, it pairs perfectly with your favorite pumpkin spice flavored beverage (including pumpkin beers), as well as most hard apple ciders and mulled wine. See how seasonal it is? Ahhh…
Pressure Cooker Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Rice Noodle Soup)
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Heat oil in a pressure cooker. Add halved onions and ginger, cut side down. Allow the onion and ginger to char without moving them. Add star anise to roast a bit.
Add cilantro, cloves, coriander, and chicken to the pot, then cover with 2 quarts of water, fish sauce, and the sugar. Seal the pressure cooker and bring it to high pressure over high heat. Cook for 20 minutes, then shock pot under cold running water in the sink to rapidly release the pressure.
Open pressure cooker. Transfer chicken to a plate and remove flesh from bones. Pour broth through a fine mesh strainer into a clean pot and discard solids. Skim any scum off the surface of the broth, leaving any small bubbles of fat intact. Season broth with more fish sauce and sugar, as needed and to suit your individual taste.
To serve, place cooked pho noodles into bowls. Top with chicken meat, sliced onions, and cilantro. Pour hot broth over chicken and noodles. Serve immediately.
Short but sweet: In this post, we share an incredibly easy and flavorful Vietnamese Chicken Pho–perfect for my favorite season, fall! Please stay tuned, more recipes coming soon, including slow cooker beef gyros!
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