the wait

“So, what do you think of the Pho?” D asked. We sat across from each other at the newly opened Pho Noodle Shop. The Pho craze spread as far as our rural neighborhood. There must be something to this dish.
I dipped a small ladle into the bowl of steaming vegetable noodle soup.
“Kind of bland,” I replied. I pushed through a tangle of bean sprouts and squeezed a few more drops of sriracha hot chili sauce on top. The broth was flat, even with the added spice. So I poured on soy sauce hoping for more flavor depth. Better, not great.
That was two years ago. We went through a dry pho spell. Until this past week.
I cooked a pot of Jaden’s homemade Vietnamese pho, and I must admit, it was worth the wait.
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.

Pho is a traditional North Vietnamese dish, often served on the streets. It is a hearty main course, simple yet complex.
Vietnamese Vegetarian Pho Set-Up
The foundation of this soup relies on quality broth (especially homemade) and toasted spices. Scoop some rice noodles into the broth and top with fresh bean sprouts, shaved red onions, and lime juice. Top it off with fresh lime juice, hoisin sauce, and sriracha.
Vietnamese Vegetarian Pho
Who needs the noodle shop. I have a pot of pho waiting on the dinner table that is anything but bland.
*To make a vegetarian pho, replace the chicken broth with a mushroom stock made from wood ear and shitake mushrooms, mirepoix (onions, carrots, and celery), fresh parsley, bay leaves, and kombu. Replace the chicken breast with one pound of tofu and the fish sauce with soy sauce.

Challenge #1: Vietnamese Chicken Pho

Recipe Source: Jaden of Steamy Kitchen from her new book The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

Equipment:

• Frying pan
• Large stockpot
• Tongs
• Strainer, sieve or colander
• Bowls for serving

Preparation Time: 45 cooking time + 15 minutes to cook noodles based on package directions

Servings: Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

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)
½ onion
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)

Accompaniments:

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
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the 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 as per directions on the package.
  7. 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.

For the second Daring Cooks’ challenge, I made a yogurt chip napoleon. Layer one fried wonton wrapper with whipped homemade yogurt cheese, vanilla bean, lemon juice, honey, and shaved chocolate with almonds, add a second fried wonton and repeat. Garnish it with powdered sugar and plain dark chocolate shavings. It’s a twist on the challenge that tastes like a deconstructed vanilla chocolate chip yogurt cone. Ahh, summer.

Yogurt Chip Napolean

Challenge #2: Chocolate Wontons

Recipe Source: Jaden of Steamy Kitchen from her new book The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

Equipment:

• Small bowl
• Pastry brush
• Plastic wrap and/or damp paper towels
• Wok or medium-sized pot
• Frying thermometer (if you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the oil temperature by dropping in a cube of bread … if it browns quickly, the oil is ready)

Preparation time: 15 minutes + 15 minutes cooking time (for 12 wontons)

Servings: Makes 12 wontons.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash.
  2. On a clean, dry surface lay 1 wonton wrapper down with a point toward you, like a diamond.
  3. Place 1 piece of chocolate near the top end of the wrapper.
  4. Brush a very thin layer of the egg wash on the edges of the wrapper.
  5. 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.
  6. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and chocolate pieces.
  7. Keep the folded chocolate wontons covered under plastic wrap or a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying.
  8. In a wok or medium pot, pour in 2 inches (5 cm.) of high-heat oil.
  9. 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.
  10. Fry the wontons for 1 ½ minutes, then flip over and fry another minute until both sides are golden brown and crisp.
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Comments

  1. Wow very nice looking vegetarian pho! I also made napoleons :)

  2. Your yogurt chip wonton napoleons sound fantastic! Great job with the pho as well!

  3. I like the idea of using shiitake for the vegetarian broth, they give indeed a wonderful flavor. Lovely pics!

  4. Great job! Glad this Pho was so much better than your first! And your wontons look fun!

  5. Cate O'Malley says:

    Sounds perfect for a crisp Fall evening. Heck, sounds about perfect any other time too.

  6. bake in paris says:

    Pho looks delicious and the dessert wontons are fried to perfection! I would try the yogurt chip wonton napoleons, thanks for sharing!

    Regards
    Kris

  7. Rosa's Yummy Yums says:

    Your Pho and wonton dessert looks fabulous! Very well done!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  8. Yum!! Your pho looks amazing =D. Not to mention the photos – flawless!

  9. Lisa Michelle says:

    I'm with you, Jaden's Pho was awesome..and yours looks amazing!! However, the yogurt cheese wontons are driving me crazy, and now I know what to mae with the greek yogurt I have sitting in my fridge :) Beautiful and yummy job all around!

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