Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Daring Cooks' Challenge October '09 Part 1- Chicken Pho

This month's Daring Cooks' Challenge was proposed by Jade of Steamy Kitchen. So what is Vietnamese Pho? It's a noodle soup.. but, in Jade's words "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."

Mmm.. the combination just sounds wonderfully warming, especially now that we're into the Autumn days where it's darker when you get up, and darker in the afternoon.. I don't know what it is, but suddenly my body has kicked into hibernation and is warmed by the idea of steamy soups and broths.

Jade recommended charring the onion and ginger beforehand to fully release the flavours and I think that's the key. I'd made noodle soups previously with similar spices but they never turned out as fragrant as this one. But I think the best thing about Pho is that it isn't at all spicy (unless you added dashings of Sriracha sauce, of course).

Having toasted all the spices on a griddle pan and charred the onion and ginger (unpeeled) under the grill until the edges were black, it's just a case of chucking all the ingredients into a saucepan and bringing to the boil. The
traditional recipe calls for stock made from chicken bones but since I was short for time to complete the challenge (we have had something on every weekend up until now), I took for the short cut, using a tetrabrik of chicken stock..
One thing that must be said, if it starts to form lumps - don't freak out! It's the normal process when boiling chicken.. It needs to brought to the boil (rapidly bubbling) in order to remove the 'bad' fats from the chicken. It's just a case of slowly skimming off these lumps and you'll end up with a completely clear broth. Amazing, especially since the stock used was cloudy! :-)

The rest of the process is a cinch.. I used vermicelli rice noodles, soaked previously in hot water until soft, but I reckon thinner, ordinary noodles would work much better (otherwise, it ends up that there's more noodles than actual stock).

As regards the accompaniments, I don't think they're really necessary.. The only one which I'd recommend is the Sriracha sauce (a Chinese/Vietnamese/Thai chili sauce).. a few drops just to give it a bit of a kick without being overpowering.

All in all, a success - toasting the spices is a bit time-consuming and requires organisation, but it's definitely worth the effort as it 'softens' the ginger so that it doesn't overpower the anise/coriander/clove combination.. And as you can see, the end result didn't turn out half bad.. Good start to the first of many challenges, although I know E is quaking in his boots - he hates when I start experimenting with new dishes and techniques.

The Recipe
Preparation Time: 45 cooking time + 15 minutes to cook noodles based on package directions
Servings: Makes 4 servings

For the Chicken Pho Broth:
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 litres store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
½ onion
1 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
Hoisin 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.



Anonymous said...
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Margie said...

Welcome to the Daring Cooks. It's getting to be hibernation season in Wisconsin too, so I'm glad to have some leftover Vietnamese beef stock in the freezer. Your chicken pho looks delicious.

Rose said...

Great job on the pho! It's sooo good huh?! What a fun challenge :D

Wolf said...

Your photos are absolutely fine.}:)

No need to be jealous of anyone.}:P

Great looking Pho as well!

Lisa Michelle said...

Congrats on an amazing first challenge! Your Pho turned out so lovely and delicious looking :) Love your wontons too!

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