Pho - A Daring Cooks Challenge!

phoV 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.

I absolutely LOVE Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup). The last time I had good Pho was back in my home town in Portland, Oregon at Pho Van. I haven't lived there for about... 6 years now? So it's been a while. Well I wound up being very very very lucky with my first Daring Cooks challenge because that is exactly what we were going to be learning to make!

I of course was all excited about making this as I missed it and was hoping it would turn out close to as good as what I remember it being back home. So I asked the hubby what meat he would like me to try this with. He said pork. Now the quick version of this is done with a chicken broth, so you would think chicken broth should be with chicken. Nope doesn't have to be with chicken! Apparently pork, seafood, and vegetarian/vegan versions are made with the same chicken broth(I'm sure vegetable broth would work for vegetarian/vegan versions).

PhoH Because I was using pork I had to find some pork that I could slice thinly which wound up being a package of boneless pork steaks. I froze them before cooking so when I took them out of the freezer I was able to cut the fat off the side and then thinly slice the pork easier and thinner than I would if it was thawed (I don't have a meat slicer so knives just have to do!). I also had a horrible time finding star anise(crazy to me considering I'm still not used to NOT being able to find some things like I used to be able to find them back in Portland) but the only way I found it was in an Asian five spice mix that had whole pieces in it that I wound up sifting through to find the star anise in it. The other thing I had difficulty finding were chili peppers that weren't jalapenos. This didn't work so I HAD to use jalapenos, and because the chili pepper incident is very fresh in my mind I made sure to use gloves before slicing.

As for the broths I used the quick way(listed below) but for people who like to take their time (and I definitely will at some point make it this way) here are the links to the long version of the Chicken and the Beef broths that are over on this months challenge hostess, Jaden's, food blog Steamy Kitchen.

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)

phoaccompaniment2 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.

The whole purpose to these challenges is to learn something, and this month we were to learn how to toast spices and char onions and ginger to make them more fragrant and flavorful. Toasting the spices wasn't hard at all just make sure to watch them, about 5 minutes tops and they are done. They also make the house smell wonderful! The charred onion and ginger also smell wonderful but take a bit longer. I found at about 400F and 10 minutes they get the little bit of char to them.

Also the main thing you have to make sure you have for this recipe is the fish sauce. I don't think it would taste even close to the same without it. I being a lover of asian sauces used both the hot chili sauce(the bright red) and the hoisin sauce (the darker one. Plum sauce works great with this too). I also used all of the accompanying ingredients on my soup, putting them all into my bowl before tasting.

As I said before I love this type of soup and this was just like the kind I remember from that resturant I used to go to with my mother frequently back in Portland. The hubby loved it like he does most soups. I've since made this with chicken and have done one with mushrooms, both were excellent and I think this will become something we'll be having much more frequently as it's not hard to make, it's healthy, and tastes fantastic!


Audax said...

Love the last picture and yes I loved this pho. Good to hear that you have made it so many times now it seems that it will a fav of yours. Yes in can take some time to track down new ingredient but you do get better at it. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

Karen @ Citrus and Candy said...

Beautiful looking pho. Great job!

Divina Pe said...

That looks great. Congratulations on making this. It's quite a lengthy process but I believe it's all worth it. I really love the comforting broth.

By the way, how come I couldn't find the challenge on the Daring Cook's website? I actually wanted to give it a try.

Rochelle said...

Audax - Thank you! I love that picture too (it has all the extra yummy sauces on it :D). I think there is a bulk food place that may make it easier to find some of the harder to find ingredients that I'll have to check next time!

Karen - Thank you!

Divina - Thanks! It is definitely worth it. As for the challenge, have you signed up to the Daring Kitchen's site? If so they have it set up in the forums for only people signed up for the challenges to see. Maybe they hadn't gotten you the access yet, I would suggest talking to the Daring Kitchen administrators about it so you can participate next month!

Divina Pe said...

Hi Rochelle, I already did sign up at the Daring Kitchen's site a few months ago. Since I couldn't find it, I stop visiting the site. I will give it a try one more time. And thanks.

Becca said...

Completely agree with you about the fish sauce. It really made the dish! Glad you got the chance to eat pho again!

Peggy Bourjaily said...

This was my first Daring Cooks too! So thrilled you got reacquainted with Pho. I made the beef version, but will have to try the chicken broth as well.

Anonymous said...

Glad to have your hearty recommendation for this. I've never had pho, but am drawn to it, because...what's not to love? However, to try making it firsthand without knowing whether the end result will be good, bad or just plain inedible (and having no experience with which to compare it) is challenging for me. Now I know to go forward with this recipe in faith!


Amy I. said...

Hi from a fellow Oregonian! Welcome to the Daring Cooks, it's a fun group. Your pho looks delicious, and I love the way the green colors especially pop in your photos. Nice work!

Angelnina said...

Oh this looks and sounds like it will taste amazing! I'm going to make it--thanks for sharing.

Rilsta said...

Yum, your chicken broth looks so tasty! Great job!

Lauren said...

Wonderful job! Your Pho looks amazing =D.

Shandy said...

Your pho looks delicous and I love your add-ins. I think it is great that you have already made 2 more. Very pretty!

bake in paris said...

Absolutely delicious! Photos are nice too!


Rochelle said...

Becca - Thanks, me too! and yes the fish sauce makes this soup. I think someone else said it was the "secret" ingredient in it :)

Peggy Bourjaily - It was a perfect first challenge I think :) The beef one is the one I'll be making next.

Casey (tastestopping)- It is definitely one of my favorite soups, and worth a try. I'd suggest the quick version unless you are good with making broth (I've never done it from scratch so I did the quick version), just to get a feel for it before diving into the deep end with the long version(which I'm trying this weekend)!

Amy I. - Hello Fellow Oregonian! Thank you for the kind words on my photos :) I too liked the green in them (it's my favorite color so I'm biased).

Angelnina - Great! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did/do :)

Rilsta - Thank you! I hope it looks that good when I do it from scratch :)

Lauren - Thank you!

Shandy - Thanks! I think I could eat Pho a few times a week easy, so making it frequently is a must now that I know how :)

Kris - Thank you!

Lisa Michelle said...

I love that you made a pork pho..first one I've seen..and it looks grogeous and delicious. Great PHOtos too. My mouth is watering!

Bonnie said...

As you know I really love Pho so I was so glad when you posted this on your blog.
I tried this yesterday. I used the long way even so long that I cooked the broth in my crock pot.
I did use the beef one that I found on the Daring cooks blog. Becouse I really do like beef better than chicken.
It was great!!!!
The kids ask if there was any left this morning and had that for breakfast.

Bonnie said...

I am making it again tonight. this time on the method that that ta kes about three hours, The 14 year old said this morning as he was leaving for school Pho really sounds great for dinner.