Saturday, October 17, 2009

Phở - nomenal, phở sho!

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I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but here in northwest Houston, phở restaurants have popped up on every corner and in every retail centre.  Google “pho restaurants in Houston” and you will find a list of no fewer than 380 phở restaurants (and counting…).   With interesting names like  Phở Vang,  Phở-Nag (that would be mine, according to my family!),  Phở Danh,  Phở Bong Seng,  Phở Dung and  Phở Pasteur, it’s a Vietnamese phở-nomenon!  

The basis of phở is a deliciously spiced, clear broth with rice noodles.  A variety of meats, fresh herbs, sprouts and peppers allow the soup to be personalized.   Phở Gà  -  phở with chicken, is a favorite of mine -  you will find the easy recipe below as part of this month’s Daring Cooks’ challenge.   The correct pronunciation of Phở  is “fuh?”  You say the word like it’s a question!!!  Try saying it in a sentence without asking a question!

DBKitchen logoThe second part of the challenge is to make a dessert using wonton wrappers.  You will find my Spicy Chocolate Wonton Pillows in the second half of this post. 

Blog checking:   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.

For my phở to be as authentic as possible, I made the stock from scratch.  I followed the instructions on lovely Jaden’s awesome website for homemade chicken stock.   Click on the link to see her tips on how to get a clear and tasty broth. 

Charred onions and ginger (not shown) add depth to the soup121-crop v1

The chicken bones are split to expose the flavorful marrow for maximum flavor109-crop v1

Toasting the spices makes them very fragrant and intense:  star anise, whole coriander seed and whole cloves021 v1

Colorful accompaniments018 v1

Phở  Gà  - phở with chicken from Jaden’s The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

Makes 4 servings

2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or Jaden’s 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 (available in the Asian section of most grocery stores).  Fish sauce is an essential component of Phở.  Soy sauce is not a good substitute.  I added about 1/2 cup extra fish sauce to my phở.

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 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 (I used red jalapenos)

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. 

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The second part of the challenge was to produce a chocolate dessert using wontons.  My creation, using Vietnamese spices in the chocolate filling, is light and flavorful and delicious with coconut ice cream. 

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Spicy Chocolate Wonton Pillows
Makes 12 wontons

1 large egg
1 tbsp. water
1 cup heavy cream
1 star anise
2 cloves
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup sugar (optional)
1 cup plus 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided use (I like Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips)
24 wonton wrappers, defrosted (keep wrappers covered with damp towel) high-heat oil for frying (i.e., vegetable oil, corn oil) confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar) for sprinkling
coconut ice cream

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash.  Set aside.

On medium heat, bring cream to a boil in a small pot.  Remove from heat and add star anise, cloves and red pepper flakes.  Set aside for at least 30 minutes.  Sieve cream into another pot and discard spices.  Add sugar if you want a sweeter filling.  Reheat mixture until hot.  Remove from heat and add 1 cup chocolate chips.  Allow chocolate chips to melt and then stir until mixture is smooth.  Cool completely.   Add 1/2 cup chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Lay a wonton wrapper on a clean, dry surface.   Using a pastry brush, brush egg wash on the edge of all four sides.  Spoon about 1 1/2 tablespoons of chocolate mixture in the middle of the wonton.  Carefully cover with another wrapper and press the edges firmly to adhere, allowing the excess air inside to escape. Make sure the wrapper is sealed completely.  Repeat with the remaining wrappers and chocolate.  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.

Remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel.  Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve with a scoop of coconut ice cream.

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  1. Hello!

    Thank you for your post on my blog! I just realized it last week when I was frantically updating long overdue posts for our family.

    I must try your Pho Ga recipe. Todd and I love Vietnamese food, however, I must admit I get intmidated by Asian cuisines and shy away from trying to make any of their yummy dishes in fear I might dissappoint and insult. LOL.

    Your photos are so beautiful and colorful how could anyone not want to taste this dish?

    I hope you do not mind I listed your blog under my Food and Travels list on my blog - as I do with others I know or have met that I follow on google reader.

    It was so great to meet you both. Maybe one day this Spring we can tap into your knowledge of organic gardening so we can start a new adventure in our own backyard.

    I hope you and your husband are doing well.

  2. Fantastic site! I will be visiting often!

  3. Beirut - thanks for the nice words...I want to learn more about your cuisine.
    Cindy - where did you go???! Thanks for listing my blog. Let's talk gardening at the beginning of next year. Your kids would also love to participate and learn!

  4. lovely recipes you have here, this sopu is one of my favourites, lovely recipes and step by step, very well done! cheers from london,

  5. Your 'fuh' looks great. I loved making this very tasty and aromatic soup. Definitely a repeat. And love the won tons. Great job.


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