[NOTE: I made this dish as part of a Daring Cooks challenge. This means it was an experiment that I most likely only made once, maybe twice, before posting here.]
I was excited to see that Jaden would be our host for the October Daring Cooks challenge, especially since I finally got to meet her at BlogHer Food, but when I scrolled down and saw we would be making pho (pronounced “fuh?”) I almost got week in the knees. I’ve eaten pho at Vietnamese restaurants but have never made it at home, and none of my family had ever tasted it. I couldn’t wait to give them a taste of this soup that won my heart long ago.
Jaden gave us two options for making the pho: follow the recipe in her book (a shortcut version, see below), or follow the recipe on her blog (making stock from scratch). I chose to follow her scratch recipe because this is a Daring Cooks challenge, after all, though since I regularly make chicken stock and always have some in the freezer, I would probably choose the shortcut version for everyday meals.
Finding and selecting ingredients for Asian food can sometimes be a challenge, even in our large metropolitan area with representatives from just about every nationality on the planet. This time I stood in our large local international grocery store gazing at no less than 12 different brands of fish sauce but couldn’t find the star anise to save my life. Fortunately Jaden’s advice on how to buy fish sauce helped. Look for fish sauce that is colored like tea, not like Coca Cola, because the really dark stuff is inferior quality, and her favorite is Three Crabs Brand of fish sauce. While searching for Three Crabs Brand I also saw One Crab Brand, Two Crabs Brand, and Five Crabs Brand, and then there was Squid Brand and a whole bunch of others. I stood in the store aisle giggling as I looked at all the bottles and people probably thought this chick was nuts. I did finally find a bottle that said Three Crabs Brand in tiny print under a picture of three green crabs, so hopefully this is the right stuff. In any case it tastes better than other fish sauce I’ve tried, which sometimes just smell rancid, so I’m sticking with this one for now.
The spices for pho broth remind me of autumn, though I could eat this comforting soup any time of year.
We skipped the Sriracha and hoisin sauce accompaniments, just wanting to taste the unadulterated soup, though Michael did pile on one whole red jalapeno fresh from our garden. It turned out to be a spicy little devil that left him huffing and puffing while slurping and complaining about how he’s lost his chile eating mojo. Poor guy.
Jaden also gave us an optional sweet challenge, and I was very tempted to make her chocolate wontons, but for some reason sweets have not agreed with me lately and I decided I must reluctantly decline on those. They do look gorgeous and would make an easy and delicious cocktail party dessert.
Thanks to Jaden of Steamy Kitchen for hosting this month and for generously sharing the recipes from her new book. Her pho recipe won my family over and Michael said I can make this any time.
STEAMY KITCHEN’S PHO GA
Adapted from The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook by Jaden Hair.
Makes 4 large servings.
6-quart pot with lid
strainer, sieve or colander
bowls for serving
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons fish sauce (Jaden recommends Three Crabs brand.)
16 ounces (500 g) dried rice noodles (about 1/4 inch/6 mm wide)
2 cups (200 g/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
1/2 cup (50 g/2 ounces) shaved red onions
1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice
1. BROTH: Heat a dry frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.
2. In the 6-quart pot, add the homemade stock, chicken breast, onion, ginger, sugar, fish sauce, and toasted spices and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
4. Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.
5. Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
6. Prepare the noodles per directions on the package.
7. TO SERVE: Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
8. Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.
Previous Daring Challenges
You can find all of my previous challenges in the Daring Challenges tag list.