Now that the season of big holiday dinners is mostly over, it's time to put away those casserole dishes and serving platters, and unearth that stockpot and those gigantic soup bowls. It's time to push the classic American meals to the back of the fridge and change things up a bit with a little international flair.
Cold and drizzly weather makes for satisfying pho meals. For those who have been living under a rock in Houston, pho is a hearty noodle soup dish originating from Hanoi in northern Vietnam. With one of the largest Vietnamese populations in the United States right here in Houston, it's no wonder pho can be found in many, many restaurants across the city.
Pho consists of a broth made by simmering bones for extended hours; sliced meats; rice sticks or noodles; and a variety of garnishes like green onion, cilantro, Thai basil, lime juice, bean sprouts, mint leaves, Sriracha, and/or hoisin sauce.
It's pronounced "fuh," with an accent that dips and then rises as though you're at the end of asking a question, as in, "Would you like more pho?" Why, yes, please! Impress your fellow diners and wait staff by ordering it the right way, and never say, "Can I have a bowl of 'faux,' please?" again.
What is it?
Traditional pho is made by cooking meat bones for hours, often overnight, in order to achieve that flavorful, wholesome broth. But who are we kidding? Not many cooks nowadays have time to watch over the simmering stockpot for hours. Introducing the Quoc Viet Chicken-Flavored Pho Soup Base, your ticket to a quick and tasty pot full of chicken pho. I chose chicken-flavored pho because it's lighter and reminiscent of chicken noodle soup, the ubiquitous wintery comfort food. Quoc Viet brand soup bases also come in beef pho in addition to several other Vietnamese soup and noodle soup flavors.
The plastic canister contains two things: (1) a sealed spice bag holding essential pho spices like star anise, and (2) the powdered soup mix. The directions are clearly written in both English and Vietnamese on the canister, and I find that following the instructions will always result in a good pot of pho.
How do I use it?
The instructions on the Quoc Viet canister are straightforward. It's so easy, I don't even have to read the label anymore. Get an eight-gallon stockpot and add either a whole chicken cut into chunks or 12 to 18 chicken legs. (I prefer to use chicken legs, as they don't require chopping and therefore are less fussy; plus I like the sweeter, moister taste of dark chicken meat in my pho.) Wash a ginger root about three inches in length and a whole uncut yellow onion; add these to the stockpot. Fill the pot until the chicken, ginger, and onion are just submerged underneath the water. Bring to a boil on high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the contents of the Quoc Viet Chicken-Flavored Pho Soup Base, making sure not to tear open the spice bag. Reduce the heat, and simmer on medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Then remove the chicken and discard the ginger, onion, and spice bag. Adjust the water in the stockpot to about two gallons (or eight quarts), and bring to a low boil.
Meanwhile, tear apart the chicken with your fingers into bite-sized pieces. Cook the rice sticks like you would any pasta to al dente. Finely chop a bunch of green onion and cilantro. Slice limes into wedges. Arrange the limes and other garnishes and condiments at table's center for diners to add at their own accord. To serve, place a handful of rice sticks in a large soup bowl. Garnish with chicken pieces, green onion, and cilantro. Ladle the hot broth over the ingredients in the bowl.
Where can I find it?
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Quoc Viet products can be found in the soup base mix aisle of most Asian supermarkets such as 99 Ranch, Hong Kong Supermarket, My Hoa, Viet Hoa, or Super H-Mart.
Have you tried any other Quoc Viet soup base mixes? Do you have a favorite brand of pho soup base? Enlighten us with your comments.