Josh Makes Pho


I have talked a bit about soup before, and my anxiety towards it.

It’s still not something I make a lot for myself, but after waking up one morning with a head full of whatever it is that gets in there when you’re sick, I needed something hot. Something right.

I grew to love pho and ramen in Portland. Its climate is good for steamy soup dishes. On particularly cold days, you’d find the pho houses packed to the gills with folks leaning over their steamy bowls of brothy goodness.
I figured, why not share this little dish with y’all. I’m not reinventing anything here, and this is one of the most simple things you could ever make. But you do have to do a few things right, and maybe I can help you in that process.

I use chicken bones because it’s what I have most regularly hanging out in my freezer from my obsession with roast chickens. I wait till I have about 5-6 carcasses/backbones before I make a stock, because like I’ve written here before, you really need a lot of bones to make a good gelatinous stock.

Making stock needs some time. (Don’t we all?)
Restaurants will let them go overnight to extract all the marrow and flavor, but I did mine in about eight hours.
In a big pot, throw in your chicken bones and cover with cold water. Put on a high heat until it comes to a simmer, and lower the temp so you can keep a good, low simmer. Maybe a few bubbles popping up every so often.

I guess I’m weird in that I don’t add my vegetables until the last hour or so of cooking. I strain my chicken bones, then I add the vegetables. And this is your basic ratio of onions, carrots and celery. Use 2:1 on the onion to carrot/celery ratio. I do the same for my gumbo stock as well, by adding half a bundle of scallions, whole. Toss in a few bay leaves, a whole head of garlic and a few pinches of salt.

Once your vegetables are cooked, strain and set aside. Your basic chicken stock is now done. You can keep reducing it if you’d like, but I like to have a good bit to cook with for future meals.

Time for soft boiled eggs. Don’t be afraid. It is easy, they just need your undivided attention for about 7 minutes, okay?
Bring up to boil a couple of inches of water in a small pot, it won’t cover the eggs completely. That’s okay. Once the water is boiling, toss in however many *refrigerator cold* eggs you want and cover for 6 1/2 minutes. When they have finished, place directly into an ice bath to stop the cooking process, yo. That’s important.

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Now, comes the fun part. By now, you should have your noodles of choice in hand. I found these simple, thin wheat noodles at a local Thai market that were delicious and easy. They cooked in about one minute, but really, the noodle is important. I prefer wheat, as I think it carries the soup a little better. Adds more substance, which a person afraid of soup will love.

Dish out your broth into a bowl. This is where you season with your salt. By salt I mean actual salt, but also soy and fish sauce. Taste as you do this, because all of our palettes differ. I season with kosher salt till it’s almost where I like it. Then I add soy. Taste. Mm. Okay, fish sauce. Fish sauce is important, but it can overwhelm a dish. Use it like hot sauce. Little bits at a time until you have what you want.

So, your broth is seasoned to perfection. Now, strain your noodles as much as you can and drop them into your broth. Make sure it’s  in a bowl that can contain a lot of goodness, but it will continue to get larger as you build.
I forgot to mention you could add meat at this point, but I didn’t really have anything to add. Usually it’ll be something like thinly sliced pork shoulder or meatballs, maybe even some little slabs of pork belly. All are delicious, I decided to keep this simple. (and cheap.)

This is when I throw in herbs and condiments.

A hefty 1/4 cup of cilantro, plus stems.
5-6 torn leaves of sweet basil or thai basil if you have it
1/2 cup of bean sprouts
About three tablespoons of thinly sliced scallions
The juice of half a lime

This is also when I cut my egg in half and place slightly submerged on top of the soup. I’ll crack some fresh pepper on them babies too. This is when you start getting really excited for all your hard work.

For heat, which I feel is a must with pho or ramen, I add fresh chili paste via sambal oelek. You can get that stuff almost anywhere these days. Usually it’s right next to your beloved sriracha, which I encourage you to use sparingly. I say that because this is a dish of complex flavors. If you put too much heat in, all you’ll taste is heat. Give it just a little nudge and see how far it takes you.

This is a great dish to make for a lot of people. It also looks super impressive. The picture I took can’t do much justice, but it really is such a nourishing and comforting dish to make when you feel a bit under. It jacks up your taste buds and gets your senses moving a bit.

Any questions, I’m happy to answer.


make a better soup; be a better person


I tell people I have soup anxiety.

I may have touched on this before. It is ridiculous. You don’t have to tell me that.

It’s mostly the lack of substance. The brothy-ness and the fear of being hungry while our dinner companions talk for three more hours about their 8th grade tirades and how ‘nerdy’ we all used to be. (Trust me, if you’re playing soccer in 8th grade, you’re probably NOT a nerd — or at least in my view of the word.)

But I really like soup! I do, I do. I promise. It’s just not the first thing that comes to mind when I think, “Oh, dinner…”

Understanding soup basics was huge in my learning how to cook better. Usually in culinary school they start you at stocks, soups and sauces. Since I haven’t attended culinary school, nor will I ever, I did like most self-taught cooks do — I jumped in it.

I mean I got all up in that sauce talk.

I learned about stock and bones and fat.

I’m not gonna talk like I’m some pro at making soups. But I’ve made some good soups, just like you folks. (Or who at least claim to make the best chicken soup.) I’ve also talked about making different stocks as well. If you’re interested, just hit up that search engine. The world is full of people who can tell you how to make soup. I’m not different. I just thought I could bring a little humor to the conversation.


First of all, eat roast chickens. Why? For the bones!
Wrap them up tight, and stick em’ in your freezer. Collect about 4-5 carcasses before you want to make a big batch. Your ratio of bones to veggies is so much more than you probably think. Probably equal to the amount of all the veggies, you should have bones, plus more. If they are raw carcasses (sometimes you can buy them like that), roast them in the oven till nice and brown, and then cover them with COLD water. Add your carrots, onions and celery. Maybe a few peppercorns, bay leaf, thyme and garlic. Oh yes, garlic. So good for you and your brothy-obsessed bodily functions.

Do the same with beef bones, if you have em’. But you probably don’t.

If you really want to impress someone with a killer chicken soup, make a double stock. This is when you use an already existing chicken flavored broth and add more bones to it. I mean, decadence.

Huge flavor. That’s what you really want, right? For example, if you’re making a chicken soup, boil your raw chicken in some water. After your chicken is done, throw in your bones and vegetables and crank down on that stock. And then, strain all that stuff out and continue to reduce your liquid. It’ll keep getting better, and better.

This will elevate your soup to another level. And at the risk of sounding even a little close to Guy Fieri, I’m gonna back off. Because that dude is an introverts nightmare.

I love soup that has something extra in it. Meaning, things besides vegetables. For chicken soup, we generally add rice or else ten minutes later, I’m eyeing that bag of Pirate’s Booty white cheddar corn puffs that sit not so far away from my subconscious and comfy brown chair.

Add lentils! Add beans! Add greens! Throw some chopped up kale in there during the last 15 minutes or so of cooking.

Add proper salt. Every time you make bland soup, some one else decides to make a Harlem Shake video. And we don’t want any more.

If your soup turns out to be too rich, add a few dashes of vinegar — either sherry or red wine or something of the like. I usually always add a hit or two of some kind of vinegar. Adds nice balance. And folks, it’s all about balance.

Then there are the flavor and umami boosting agents. Tomato paste, fish and/or mushroom sauce, and worcestershire. At least those are the most common you might have back behind your Sriracha sauce that you might, but shouldn’t, put on everything.

But hey, who am I to judge you and your need to make everything taste spicy.

So there.

Just a few options.

Maybe it was helpful. I know it’s helped me.

And remember: soup du jour

it’s the soup of the day