The October 2009 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. Check it out HERE.
Gotta love a blogger who gets her own cool cookbook published! And if the recipes I tried today were any indication of the rest of the recipes I'm sold.
The recipes Jaden chose are Vietnamese Chicken Pho and Dessert Wontons. I have had a love of Chicken Pho for a while now. The secret spices were always a mystery to me. It seemed to simple but I could never quite put my finger on the flavors. If I had been really daring I would have tried beef pho, but the truth be told I tried the chicken first at a Vietnamese restaurant and loved it so much I just never wanted to order anything other flavor. So I figured this challenge should be about me making a restaurant food that I LOVE. I was so pleased that the end result was very very much like the pho I fell in love with. The recipe is really straightforward. The spices were the key. I had to search a little bit for the star anise but found it at a local gourmetish grocery store, Metropolitan Market.
For those of you that have no clue what Pho is, Jaden explains (go check out her blog, Steamy Kitchen HERE):
"So what is Vietnamese Pho? Well, it’s like the most insanely delicious noodle soup popular in Vietnam. The broth is simmered for hours and hours with either beef knuckle/leg bone or with a whole chicken. Other accompaniments include ribbons of rice noodles, fresh herbs like cilantro or basil, a wedge of lime or lemon, fresh bean sprouts and fresh sliced chilies if desired.
What makes Pho so different than any other type of noodle soup is the spices that go into the simmering broth. Warm spices like coriander, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fresh ginger transform an ordinary broth into a very authentic Vietnamese Pho.
Our challenge focuses on Chicken Pho, or “Pho Ga” in Vietnamese. By the way, the correct pronunciation of Pho is “fuh?” Yes, you say the word like it’s a question! Chicken Pho is lighter than Beef Pho and the spices used are a little different as well."
Try not to look too hard at the photo or you will see that I lacked one ingredient (fresh limes) but made do with the dreaded squeeze bottle...hey they come in handy. Here is the broth at a rolling boil. You strain all of the bits and pieces out for the end product. And shred the chicken.
I think Vietnamese cuisine must have its roots in communal eating. Lots of fixings to pick and choose from. Each person can make the dish their own. Shredded chicken, bean sprouts, cilantro, shaved onions, fresh sliced chile peppers, hoisin sauce and sriracha (Cock) sauce were on hand today. For those that don't like cilantro I've seen basil used as well or mint.
Rice noodles round out the Pho. I kind of keep adding ingredients as I eat. When I run low on "stuff" and just have broth I pile more things in.
I just love my little Vietnamese dishes I picked up at Daiso. So happy to have a perfect occasion to break them out!
Here is the recipe:
Servings: Makes 4 servings
Quick Vietnamese Chicken Pho (Pho Ga)
For the Chicken Pho Broth:
2 tbsp. 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 tbsps. sugar
1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce
1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)
2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice
- To make the Chicken Pho Broth: 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 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 as 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.
First up....ye olde nutella wonton. I made this shape to resemble a Napoleon hat for the French twist on things. Well..that was kind of an after thought actually...I must admit.
The second was stuffed with one of the limited edition Fudge Snickers minis. They are really good if you haven't tried one. I wrapped those up like little presents.
My favorite and I think the most creative were the Pumpkin Spice Kiss Wontons. Pumpkin flavored kisses might not sound good, but I urge you to give them a try. They are like little bites of pumpkin cheese cake...in this case fried up in a crisp shell.
Here are the simple instructions for the wontons
Chocolate Wontons (and variations of)
1 large egg
1 tbsp. water
12 wonton wrappers, defrosted (keep wrappers covered with damp towel)
12 pieces or nuggets of chocolate (use any type of chocolate you like)
High-heat oil for frying (i.e., vegetable oil, corn oil)
Confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar) for sprinkling
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash.
- On a clean, dry surface lay 1 wonton wrapper down with a point toward you, like a diamond.
- Place 1 piece of chocolate near the top end of the wrapper.
- Brush a very thin layer of the egg wash on the edges of the wrapper.
- Fold the bottom corner of the wrapper up to create a triangle and gently press to remove all air from the middle. Press the edges to adhere the sides. Make sure the wrapper is sealed completely.
- Repeat with the remaining wrappers and chocolate pieces.
- Keep the folded chocolate wontons covered under plastic wrap or a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying.
- In a wok or medium pot, pour in 2 inches (5 cm.) of high-heat oil.
- Heat the oil to 350º F (180º C) and gently slide a few of the chocolate wontons into the hot oil. Make sure you don’t crowd the chocolate wontons.
- Fry the wontons for 1 ½ minutes, then flip over and fry another minute until both sides are golden brown and crisp.
For those of you interested in joining in on these Daring Challenges, check out the Daring Kitchen.