This Week: Pho Ga (Vietnamese Rice Noodle Chicken Soup) from Da Vang (4538 N. 19th Ave. Phoenix)
The Basics: Pho Ga is a Vietnamese noodle soup similar to the better known pho. Unlike pho, which has a beef based broth, pho ga broth uses chicken and pork bones that are stewed slowly to extract the most flavor. While the broth is spiced in a similar fashion as beef pho, the chicken and pork lend themselves to a lighter and more refreshing broth. Tender pieces of chicken breast and thighs are accompanied by thinly slice white onions and chopped roasted garlic.
Da Vang's take on pho ga is slightly Americanized for reason that will soon be obvious. Traditional pho ga calls for the inclusion of several other ingredients: sliced chicken intestine, organ meats, and underdeveloped chicken eggs extracted from a chicken before they develop shells.
Many Vietnamese restaurants around the Valley offer pho ga but Da Vang is one of the few that uses a chicken-based broth instead of simply plunking chicken into their regular beef pho.
How to Eat It: Pho ga is served with the same garnishes as regular pho: Bean sprouts, Thai basil, sliced chilies and lime or lemon wedges. The exact way these elements are added to the bowl is a matter of personal preference but I usually shred the Thai basil into the soup first and then more or less dump the remaining ingredients on top. Use your chopsticks and spoon to mix everything together and then give the broth a taste.
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At this point you can add Sriracha garlic chili sauce, hoisin sauce and fish sauce as needed. I myself lean heavily on the Sriracha and tend to steer clear of the other two sauces because of their strong flavors.
One additional note. The "proper" way to consume any kind of pho is at high velocity and with both hands. There are several schools of thought on this (much like the proper way to eat spaghetti) but I like to use my chopsticks to place a mouthful of noodles into the soup spoon (wielded in my off-hand) and then dunk the noodles into the broth before slurping them down. This gives you good control over the all important broth/noodle ratio that is necessary for complete pho satisfaction.