People are always raving about phở, but I personally prefer this noodle soup. My mom used to make this for us a lot when we were younger, but not so much anymore except sometimes when I’m visiting home. I know the directions look really intense, but it’s actually not that difficult to make! You can always simplify it by not using pork bones and just adding sugar and fish sauce to some chicken broth, but you have to use the herbs, pork loaf, and egg because I personally think they are what makes this dish unique.
The Vietnamese coriander and pork loaf are kind of tricky to find. When I lived in Orange County, it was super easy to get them because Little Saigon wasn’t too far away. LA doesn’t really have any Vietnamese grocery stores, unless you trek all the way to San Gabriel Valley. I miraculously found a grocery store in Chinatown that had the Vietnamese coriander and I had one of my friends who lives in Orange County to bring me a pork loaf when she came to visit me.
1 lb chicken (drumsticks, thighs, or breasts), marinated overnight with garlic powder, salt, pepper, and chopped onions
4 pork bones
1 quart of water (can be tap water)
dash of salt
2 quarts chicken broth
3 quarts water
1 medium onion, peeled
3.5 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp white sugar
1 lb rice vermicelli, cooked according to directions on the bag
2 tsp fish sauce
dash of pepper
2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1/2 lb pork loaf (chả lua, you can find at specialty Vietnamese stores)
chopped green onions and Vietnamese coriander (rau răm), to garnish
Bring 1 quart of tap water to a boil in a large pot. Add a dash of salt and the pork bones and boil on high heat for 5 minutes (this cleans out most of the impurities in the bones). Pour bones out into a clean sink and let cool while you wash the pot.
Put pot back on the stove and heat 3 quarts of water on high heat. Wash the pork bones under cold running water then add them back to the pot. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes with the lid off.
Use a small mesh strainer to skim off any impurities that float to the top of the water. Then add 2 quarts chicken broth and turn the heat to high. When it comes to a boil, turn the heat back to low and add the onion. Let it simmer for 1 hour with the lid on, but place 2 wooden chopsticks or 2 wooden spoons on top of the pot so that the lid is propped up a little. You want to let some steam come out, but not too much.
Ladle about 1 quart of soup into a smaller pot and poach the marinated chicken. Set the chicken aside to cool and pour the poaching liquid back into the large pot. Add fish sauce and sugar then let it simmer for 3-6 hours with the lid propped up.
While the soup is simmering, prepare the pork loaf, eggs, and herbs and cook the noodles. For the pork loaf, slice it into very thin matchstick pieces. For the eggs, crack one egg into a small bowl and add 1/2 tsp of fish sauce and a dash of pepper. Whisk it with chopsticks or a fork and pour it into a large hot and oiled skillet and spread the egg as thinly as you can across the skillet. When the edges start to brown slightly, use a spatula to take the egg out and place it onto a cutting board. Repeat this with the other 3 eggs and stack them all on top of each other. When the last one is cool, tightly roll them up and thinly slice them.
Remove the pork bones and onion then strain the soup using a strainer or colander and a cheesecloth or paper towels.
Pile the noodles, pork loaf, egg, and herbs into a bowl and add hot soup and you’re done!