College would’ve been so much easier had I known there was a soup that could cure anything from sinus congestion to a life-threatening hangover. There’s just something about the aroma of that rich, flavorful broth, those slurpy rice noodles, the fresh herbs, the tangy lime, and those crunchy bean sprouts that just makes everything right in the world. —Feeling Whisk-y
Char the ginger and onion under the broiler in your oven or by using tongs to hold them over a medium flame of a gas stove. (Careful though, it’s actually quite easy to light your house on fire.) Let cool and remove any charred skin. The ginger and onions should be slightly soft, golden, and fragrant.
Pick over your chicken carcasses and remove any extra bits of fat or herbs from their previous cooking event. Using your largest, heaviest knife, hack the bones so all of the pieces can fit into your largest stockpot and some of the bone marrow is exposed. If you have chicken gizzards you want to add, you can; although they may not add a lot, so you could save them for another use too.
In order to remove impurities, you’ll first need to parboil the chicken bones. Fill a large stockpot with chicken carcasses and water and bring to a boil. Allow carcasses to boil for 10 minutes and drain. Wash out the pot and add the chicken carcasses back in, fill with water, and add spices, fish sauce, and rock sugar.
Bring to a boil, add chicken breasts, and reduce heat to medium. Allow everything to simmer for 15-20 minutes and remove chicken breasts. Set them aside until you’re ready to start assembling, and let the broth simmer, covered for three hours.
Every once in a while, skim the surface of the broth with a spoon to remove excess fat. If too much liquid is evaporating, you can add more water, just remember that you’ll need to adjust the seasoning in the end.
While your broth is simmering away, check out the directions for preparing your rice noodles, if you can read them. Prepare according to the directions on the package; cooking times can vary greatly. I’ve used noodles you soak for an hour and others that you soak for five minutes. If you’re unsure what to do, the safest bet is to bring a pot of water to a boil, turn the heat off, add the dry noodles and allow to soak. Stir them every now and then, taste for doneness, drain and set aside once they’re cooked.
Assemble your accoutrement plate and sauces.
When the broth has simmered for about three hours, strain the broth through a colander or mesh sieve positioned over a large pot. If you want, you can pick over the carcasses for tender pieces of dark meat and put them aside until you’re ready to assemble your soup. Otherwise, discard everything but the broth. Skim off any additional fat and taste for seasoning. For more salt, add fish sauce. For more sweetness, a small chunk of rock sugar.
When you’re about ready to eat, place a handful of cooked noodles to a large bowl. I always add a few leaves of cilantro and thinly sliced onion, then the dark meat and sliced chicken breast, and pour the steamy broth so it covers everything.
Slurp loudly. Breathe deeply. Feel your soul being cleansed by the magical healing powers of pho. Ahhh.