December 8, 2009

Vietnamese Chicken Pho

A while back I got to do my very first Daring Cooks' Challenge, I know - so exciting! In October the Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook. I was nervous at first, having never attempted a Vietnamese dish before - not to mention I'd never used any of the spices on the ingredient list (yes...I'm stunned too but I've come to terms with it).

I opted to go with the longer variation, making my own chicken broth from scratch, another first for me (I know can you believe it?!). I used Jaden's recipe at the Steamy Kitchen and it was really just a time consuming a piece of cake, nothing to it - I promise.

Aside from the spices being precise, I varied it a little by adding the extra veggies (and hiding the ginger...otherwise my hubby would never touch it - ever) because everyone likes a soup with celery and carrots...gosh I hope that was allowed, oh well - said and done. I made the broth a day in advance and I'm glad I did, otherwise there's no way I could have skimmed off all the fat. Leaving it to chill in the fridge over night let the fat solidify on the top, which made it so much easier to scoop out with a slotted spoon right before cooking. Also, instead of cooking the noodles separately I put them right in the broth because I wanted them to soak up all the extra yummy flavors.

The noodles actually wound up absorbing about 90% of the broth, but it was oh-so-delicious, mmm mmm mm. I also decided to top the noodles and broth with some chopped chives, the perfect finishing touch. I was so pleasantly surprised by the result because I really expected a so-so chicken noodle soup that'd soon be forgotten. My whole family finished their bowls happily so that's success in itself!

Vietnamese Chicken Pho (directly from Jaden at The Steamy Kitchen)
In fairness to Jaden and the challenge I posted the complete original recipe below. In the red are my adjustments (as pictured above). Either way be sure to enjoy!

2 Tbsp whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (8 cups) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless) (I used 3 bone-in chicken breasts)
½ onion (I used 1 whole onion, quartered)
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
3 celery stalks, roughly broken into 3rds
2 large carrots, cut in half
1 to 2 Tbsp sugar
1 to 2 tbsp fish sauce (or soy sauce if it's an absolute must-substitute-situation)
1 lb. (16 ounces) dried rice noodles

Optional Accompaniments:
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
Sriracha chili sauce
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice

Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.

In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil. Reduce 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 as per directions on the package. Since I made the homemade broth the day before and was able to skip the "strain the broth" step, I added the noodles directly to the broth and gently boiled them for about 20 minutes, until they were plump and tender.

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.

Check out The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook for more yummy recipes from Jaden.

Hanoi Chicken Soup on Foodista

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