Banh Canh is a little Italian
Growing up, my dad Hung Manh (his first & last name, respectively . . . um, I don’t call him this to his face) was the cook in the house. My mom Van could not cook. At all. Well, actually she could but she was the only person who could eat her culinary concoctions. I think my dad learned this early on in their marriage and figured he could learn or he could starve. (I’ll have to ask him if that was the case!) For as long as I can remember, all the good stuff that came out of our kitchen was made by Hung. He got pretty experimental from time to time and merged some American ingredients into traditional Vietnamese dishes. The best example I can think of is his banh canh.
Banh canh is a soup that eats like a meal (like most Vietnamese soups) served with pig trotters and thick, round and almost clear noodles. My dad never failed to include the pig’s feet but I would be 25 when I learned that most Vietnamese people wouldn’t think to use spaghetti in banh canh, which is exactly how we ate it. It was a devastating day when my younger brother broke the news to me (“It’s called ‘Being too lazy’ to get the right noodles, Diana.”) It would take me a few more years to realize that Hung liked to use spaghetti because he couldn’t get enough of it. Quite frankly, neither can I.
Fast forward to 2010. The Boy & I make an effort not to eat pork products (“Let’s not eat anything smarter than a dog!”). Being Vietnamese, that is harder said than done but I do what I can. Sometimes we slip, but again, we do what we can. I guess it’s going to be banh canh ga (chicken) from here on out.
I’m sure The Boy is sad that he’s not getting a chance at gnawing on a pig’s hoof.
So tonight, I assembled a quick & dirty recipe (my defense: I don’t like to spent more than an hour cooking after a full day of work) and used ingredients that I assumed would work in the broth.
Tasted like I remembered.
The Boy’s Reaction: “This is good . . . it’s really good. [pause] Um, am I eating it right?” (He was questioning using the Sriracha sauce, which yes, it was fine to add in for a kick.)
One weekend, I will take my time with the broth. But for a quick fix, this will work. Promise.
Hung Manh’s Banh Canh with Ga in 45 minutes*
2-inch ginger “stub”, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 yellow onion, peel 1st layer only
2 cups water
1 chicken breast
4 cups chicken stock
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
1-1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
Spaghetti (or whatever noodles suits you)
Place ginger and onion on a tray into broiler with high temperature. Broil for 10 minutes. In the meantime, bring 2 cups of water to a boil into saucepan. Once water comes to a boil, add chicken breast. After 5 minutes, add chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Bring down to a simmer. Add carrot pieces and broiled ginger and onion. Let simmer for at least 10 minutes before taking out chicken breast. Cool chicken breast and hand shred pieces. Continue allowing the broth to simmer for at least another 10 minutes (can be simmered for up to 40 minutes).
In a separate pot, boil water to make spaghetti according to packaged directions.
When broth is near completion add a dash of pepper and the fish sauce.
In bowl, assemble spaghetti and shredded chicken fit. Pour broth over contents (carrots may be eaten – I would recommend NOT eating the ginger or onion but to each his own!) and garnish with cilantro and black pepper.
*He probably wouldn’t approve of this recipe, but the broth tastes like what I remember.
Other garnishes you can use:
- Fried onions
- Chopped green onions
Sauces you can use to accompany this soup:
- Red wine vinegar (I don’t know if this is traditional but Hung always encouraged us to add a dash of it into our banh canh)