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Want Fresh Chicken Noodle Soup? Try Some New Asia Pho

By Melissa Wiley in Food on Jun 19, 2014 6:00PM

The cold snap earlier this month had us craving chicken noodle soup. According to Mike Sula, we might consider swapping our bowl of Campbell’s for some New Asia pho ga, supplying this Lincoln Square restaurant with the bulk of its repeat business and taking its place on almost every table. You’ll find less cinnamon and spice here than in your typical beef pho, but prepare for chicken and noodles in spades. And if the chicken tastes a little chewy, that’s only because rigor mortis has just set in.

We tried it for ourselves last night, and “chewy” didn’t quite cover how tough this old bird really must have been. Owners Tiffany and Nam Nguyen opened their original restaurant aside Aden Live Poultry, a halal butcher shop allowing patrons to select their own poultry, pigeons, rabbits and roosters then pay for cleaning and killing on the spot. In its new locale, almost equally proximate, New Asia sources from the same local stock.

Chicken this fresh off the chopping block, Sula states, imparts a juicy taste difficult to replicate with longer lag times from abattoir to table. But more salient that any juice to our tastes was a muscled texture owing at least in part to the fact that these birds, while not precisely free-range, do some strutting over at Aden Live. They usually aren’t spring chickens either, so in that sense at least they live just about as full and humane of lives as you can expect of any world-weary city fowl. The aroma and sweetness of the broth, for what it's worth, also sounded their siren call and softened the meat the longer we let it sit.

The Nguyens also don’t stint on quantity, crowding dozens of bone-in chicken parts, including innards, into a glorious heap of rice noodles that taste even better chilled. On the surface, the bowl looks large enough to suffice for three hearty appetites, but we nearly finished the second half when we ate it cold later last night.

The restaurant, Sula found, runs through approximately 30 chickens a day, using those that don’t make it into soup in the near equally popular goi ga, a chicken salad also with plenty of bone-in elements as well as raw onion, chopped cabbage, and more chicken livers and gizzards. But we'll be going back for the pho ga, allowing ourselves extra time to chew through the fresh parts.

New Asia is located at 2705 W. Lawrence Ave.