No matter the weather, blistering hot or bone-chilling cold, I can always go for a bowl of pho. There's just something about vermicelli noodles swimming in a savory beef broth that comforts my soul. Call it my version of chicken soup. Well, since I know I can't make beef pho like how my favorite Vietnamese restaurant does, I decided to make a different version. This spicy chicken vermicelli soup is inspired by pho but not exactly like it. Make roasted chicken broth, add vermicelli noodles, all the fresh herbs, a hit of lime, and coconut garlic crisp and that's what you have here. It's incredibly satisfying.
Spicy Chicken Vermicelli Soup
- 2-3 lb chicken legs bone-in, skin-on
- 1 large onion quartered, skin on
- 4 cloves
- 1 ounce garlic cloves skin on
- ½ ounce cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 star anise
- 12 cups water
- 2 chopped Thai chilies
- 1 ounce rock sugar
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce
- juice of 1 lime
- salt and white pepper
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 6 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- ⅓ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1 lb rice vermicelli noodles
- 2 cups bean sprouts
- ½ cup fresh Thai basil
- ½ cup fresh cilantro
- ¼ cup fresh mint
- 1 jalapeno thinly sliced
- lime wedges for serving
- Preheat broiler to high.
- Stud onion with cloves and place on baking sheet with chicken and garlic. Broil for 10 minutes or until charred, turning chicken and vegetables over halfway.
- Meanwhile, place cardamom, cinnamon stick, and star anise in a small pan and heat over low heat. Toast spices until aromatic, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat and place spices in cheesecloth, binding the cloth with string.
- Place spices, charred chicken and vegetables in large pot. Fill with 12 cups water, cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and continue to simmer for 1 hour.
- Make coconut crisp. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in small saute pan over low heat. Add sliced garlic and cook until lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Add coconut and cook until golden brown. Remove from heat and place on paper towels to drain excess oil. Let cool.
- Strain chicken stock, reserving chicken and discarding aromatics. You should have about 10 cups stock. Bring stock back to a simmer and add chopped Thai chilies, rock sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Shred chicken into bite-size pieces.
- Cook vermicelli noodles according to directions on package. Drain and portion noodles into bowls. Ladle soup into bowls and top with chicken, bean sprouts, Thai basil, cilantro, mint, and sliced jalapeno. Serve with lime wedges on the side.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Just like pho, this spicy chicken vermicelli soup relies heavily on the flavors of the broth. We need to make the broth as flavorful as possible to make this a winning dish. In order to achieve those deep flavors, we're first going to brown the aromatics.
Place the bone-in skin-on chicken, onion studded with cloves, and garlic on a sheet tray and broil until charred. Rotate the chicken and vegetables as it broils so that all sides get evenly charred.
While those are browning, toast the spices for the soup including cardamom, cinnamon stick, and star anise. Toasting spices draw out their flavors, making them taste more intense than pre-ground spices.
Place the spices in cheesecloth, making them easier to remove later on. Then, place the spices with the chicken and vegetables in a large pot and cover them with water. Bring the pot to a boil and continue to simmer on low heat for 1 hour. If your kitchen starts to smell overwhelmingly delicious, you know you're doing it right.
While the stock is cooking, let's move on to the toppings. I wanted to make this spicy chicken vermicelli soup have multiple layers. Along with the deep broth flavors, tender vermicelli, and fresh herbs, I wanted a crispy element. That's where the coconut garlic crisp enters the picture.
To make the topping, heat oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Add thinly sliced garlic and cook until it's lightly golden brown. Then, add coconut flakes and continue to cook until golden brown, stirring frequently.
Lay the crisp on paper towels to drain the excess oil. You can prepare the topping up to 5 days in advance.
When the stock is ready, strain it and discard the aromatics. Set aside the chicken and shred the meat when it's cool enough to handle.
Now we have to add flavor to the chicken stock. Bring it back to heat and season it with Thai chilies, rock sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, and lime juice. If you can't find rock sugar, substitute it with 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. If you want your soup extra spicy, go ahead and throw in a couple of extra chilies.
Cook vermicelli noodles according to the directions on the package and drain. There are different vermicelli noodle widths available; if possible, try to find the medium width.
Prepare all of the fresh herbs including Thai basil, mint, cilantro, bean sprouts, sliced jalapeno, and extra lime wedges and we're ready to serve!
Portion the noodles into bowls and ladle a good amount of soup in each. Top them with a generous amount of herbs, jalapeno, and crispy coconut topping. Squeeze extra lime juice on top and dig in! If this spicy chicken vermicelli soup isn't comfort food, I don't know what is.
For more soup noodle inspiration check out this lemongrass turmeric chicken noodle soup!