Serves 6 as a meal in a bowl
1 kg fresh rice noodle sheets
6 litres cold water
1 x 2 kg chicken, roughly chopped into 8 pieces
2 x 10 cm pieces ginger (about 100 g), roughly chopped
6 spring onions, cut in half crossways
130 g fresh galangal, peeled and roughly chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, bottom 5 cm only, crushed
6 kaffir lime leaves
1 tablespoon salt flakes
2 cinnamon quills
4 whole star anise
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
3 tablespoons safflower or sunflower oil
100 g garlic (about 25 cloves), crushed
1 medium-sized red onion, peeled and roughly sliced
170 g palm sugar
1 cup fish saucePicked Shallots:
150 g red shallots, peeled and finely sliced
1 teaspoon salt flakes
2 teaspoon brown sugar
Juice of 1 lemonHerb Platter:
1 bunch Vietnamese mint
1 bunch mint
1 bunch sweet Thai basil
1 bunch coriander
1 bunch dill
450 g fresh bean sprouts
2 limes, quartered
4 long red chillies, finely sliced
First make the stock. Place water, chicken, ginger, shallots, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, salt and cinnamon quills in a 10-litre stockpot. In a dry frying pan, roast star anise and fennel, cumin and coriander seeds until they start to become aromatic – about 3–5 minutes – then add them to the stockpot. Pour the oil into the same frying pan, add garlic and onions and sauté for 5 minutes or until lightly browned, then add to stockpot. Bring stock to the boil, skim thoroughly, then reduce temperature to a gentle simmer and cook for 1 hour, skimming regularly.
Meanwhile, make the pickled shallots. Place shallots in a bowl with salt and sugar. Combine thoroughly and leave to pickle for 30 minutes, then add lemon juice and mix well. Place pickled shallots in a small serving bowl and set aside.
Wash and dry all the herbs. (I like to leave the herbs on their stems, and let people pick the leaves themselves – it adds to the aesthetic beauty and socially interactive aspect of this dish!) Arrange herbs, bean sprouts, limes and chillies on a large platter.
When stock is ready, carefully remove chicken pieces and set aside to cool. Season stock with palm sugar and fish sauce, stirring to combine thoroughly and simmer until sugar has dissolved. Remove stock from stove and carefully strain through a sieve, pressing the aromatics with the back of a wooden spoon to squeeze out every bit of their deliciousness! Discard the aromatics. When chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones with your fingers. Cut the rice noodle sheets into 1 cm wide strips, easing them apart with your fingers.
Return stock to the pot, bring back to the boil, then add noodles and chicken meat just before serving – the noodles and chicken will take literally 2 minutes to heat through. Using tongs and a ladle, divide noodles and chicken equally among six soup bowls. Serve immediately accompanied by the pickled shallots and herb platter.