This amazingly fragrant broth will warm you from the inside out. Make a large platter of the condiments, so everyone can choose how they want to garnish their soup.
Prep time: 35 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Yield: serves 4
2 yellow onions, quartered (not necessary to peel)
3 half-inch thick slices of fresh ginger root, smashed
64 ounces chicken stock
4 whole star anise
1 teaspoon sugar
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 package of rice vermicelli noodles (usually found in the Asian section of your supermarket)
Thai (or regular) basil
Sliced jalapeno peppers
Sliced shallots or scallions
Sambal Oelek (hot chili paste)
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the quartered onions and ginger on a roasting pan and bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown and fragrant.
2. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Pour boiling water over the rice noodles and let them soak for 20 minutes or until soft and pliable--they will taste al dente. Drain.
3. Heat chicken stock in a large pot. Add roasted onions, ginger, sugar and star anise and bring to a boil. Add chicken breasts and reduce heat, simmering for 15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from the pot and shred with two forks. Continue simmering broth for an additional 15 minutes.
4. Carefully pour soup through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Return the stock to the pot and discard the onions, ginger and spices. Return broth to a simmer and add the fish sauce. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.
5. If desired, boil the rice noodles for 3 minutes more in a pot of water to further cook them. Drain. (I usually skip this step because I like my noodles al dente.)
To serve: place some noodles and shredded chicken in the bottom of each (large) bowl. Top with simmering broth. Place all condiments on a platter and serve with chili paste and hoisin sauce, allowing each person to add what they like to their soup.