[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.]
The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen, and the recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.
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 ga (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.
Tips for Making Gluten Free Pho Ga
Gluten-free condiments that were once difficult to find are now on grocery shelves. I have modified the ingredients to include gluten-free versions. Look for gluten-free hoisin sauce and red the label to make sure the fish sauce and Sriracha (or the hot sauce of your choice) is gluten free.
Steamy Kitchen's Pho Ga (easy version)
- frying pan
- 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 chicken stock
- 1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
- ½ onion
- 3 inch chunk of ginger (sliced and smashed with side of knife)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (Jaden recommends Three Crabs brand.
- 16 ounces dried rice noodles (cooked, (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide))
- 2 cups bean sprouts (washed and tails pinched off)
- fresh cilantro (coriander tops (leaves and tender stems))
- ½ cup shaved red onions
- ½ lime (cut into 4 wedges)
- gluten-free Sriracha chili sauce
- gluten-free hoisin sauce
- sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice
- 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.
- In the 6-quart pot, add the homemade stock, chicken breast, onion, ginger, sugar, fish sauce, and toasted spices and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
- Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.
- Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
- Prepare the noodles per directions on the package.
- Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
- Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.
More Daring Challenges
You can find all of my previous challenges in the Daring Challenges tag list.