Chicken Meatball Soup With Vietnamese Flavors
This light noodle soup is richly flavored with some of the ingredients found in the classic Vietnamese noodle soup, Pho. While Pho is usually made with either beef or chicken, we made delicate meatballs with ground chicken and simmered them in broth along with star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fresh ginger, garlic and lime. Ladled over cellophane noodles and topped with scallions, fresh mint and cilantro, this soup is a great choice for lunch or a light supper.
- 6 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
- 3 whole star anise
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1-1/2 tablespoons fish sauce (or soy sauce)
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce (or hot sauce to taste)
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 4 to 5 scallions, sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
- For the noodles:
- 6 cups boiling water
- 6 ounces cellophane noodles (see notes)
- For the meatballs:
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 teaspoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup panko crumbs
Combine the chicken broth, star anise, cloves, cinnamon stick, fish sauce, chili garlic sauce and lime juice in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Slice the ginger into 1/4-inch thick pieces and smash them gently with the flat side of a chefs' knife. Do the same with the garlic and add both to the broth. Bring to a simmer, cover, and continue to cook for 30 minutes.
Place the glass noodles in a large bowl and cover with the boiling water. Allow to soak until soft and pliable, but not mushy, 12 to 15 minutes, drain and divide between four serving bowls (see notes).
In a separate bowl, combine the ground chicken, garlic, cornstarch, fish sauce and lime juice. Add just enough of the panko crumbs to enable you to form 1-inch diameter meatballs. This meat mixture can be rather wet and sticky, but persevere and don't add too many crumbs - it will make the meatballs dense and heavy.
Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Carefully add the meatballs one by one and brown lightly, 1-1/2 minutes per side, turning gently with tongs.
With a large slotted spoon, remove the spices, ginger and garlic from the broth, then add the meatballs and continue to simmer until the they are cooked through, about 7 minutes.
To serve, top each bowl of noodles with a portion of the scallions, cilantro and mint. Ladle meatballs and broth over top. Serve with lime wedges and a small dish of extra chili garlic sauce if desired.
Makes 4 servings
Cellophane noodles have very little flavor by themselves, so their real purpose in this soup is to add their wonderful texture. Consequently, it's important not to let them get mushy or sticky. There seems to be a little variance in different brands when it comes to soaking time, so test your noodles for softness every 3 to 4 minutes to achieve the perfect texture.
You could also use thin rice noodles in place of the cellophane noodles. Rice noodles are what you'll find in traditional Pho but we like cellophane noodles because they're a little lighter and have a lower glycemic index.