Wednesday, October 14, 2009

All pho me

I'm very much aware that I haven't completed a Daring Cooks challenge in a few months now. It was getting to be too much for me each month to complete both; and since I'm really a Daring Baker at heart - I had to accept my priorities. So these days I really only do a Daring Cooks challenge if it totally jumps out at me.

This Daring Cooks challenge totally jumped out at me: Chicken Pho!!!

Just add water broth

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.

Things have been crazy around here and I hadn't even checked the forums for October's Daring Cooks challenge. That is, until Jen tweeted that she was making it one night last week and it smelled "fanfrickintastic". Needless to say, my interest was piqued. When I saw that the challenge was homemade pho, I was ON IT.

I had some leftover basil leaves I threw in after taking this picture, too

I completely, totally and absolutely ♥ pho. I have to admit, that while I eat a lot of pho, I turn on my white-girl switch when I do and just get eye round steak (tái). I'm not into tripe or fatty flank or beef balls or tendon or well-done brisket. I like my pho simple: some bean sprouts, basil, a squeeze of lime and those rare, thin slices of steak. {Simple and perfect} I used to think (well, and still do even though it's not really so necessary in recent years) that pho was the PERFECT food after a night of a few too many drinks. That soup feels so wonderful going into a dehydrated body. And the generous serving of noodles fills one up without being too rich.

Jaden's right, the flavor comes mostly from those seeds/spices

Believe it or not, I've never had chicken pho. But it too sounded simple and perfect. Like I said, I was ON IT. It's not really my style, but I opted for the "Quick Vietnamese Chicken Pho" with canned broth, as opposed to making my own stock. Jaden's words seemed to support the idea that pho is mostly about the flavor in the spices than the flavor in the broth. And since I decided to whip this together on a work-night, I am absolutely not ashamed to admit I used Swanson!

Found fresh rice noodles in the refrigerated section ~~ This is my favorite (Thai) fish sauce

The recipe is perfection. Absolutely perfect. Jaden has hit it completely square on the head. I couldn't believe how great my house smelled while the broth was simmering. And it really was a very simple meal to put together on a work-night. Even with a quick trip to the Asian grocery store for noodles, cilantro and bean sprouts. I happily had everything else at home.

Look at that yummy flavoring goodness (after straining the broth)

I'd like to correct Jaden's recipe however. She claims this serves 4. But we shared it between the 2 of us. That's a typo, right? Or it needs to be corrected?... um. Seriously, I didn't eat lunch that day, so it's acceptable, right?! Who am I kidding... we're definitely little piggies pho the reals!! I downed an entire ½ pound of noodles and a ½ chicken breast and while I could barely breathe when I was done - it was worth it.

Since these noodles were fresh they took 10
seconds (yes, seconds) of boiling to cook

I'm lucky enough to have completed the pho challenge, but don't think I'll be sharing any chocolate (or otherwise) filled wontons with you this month. 'Twas the 2nd part of our challenge and let's just say... after that pound of food + broth, there was no dessert to be had. In fact, I think I was still full the following morning. Ok, so maybe Jaden's "serves 4" is accurate after all.

Oh. yes.

Pho crying out loud - go make yourselves some pho at home!! I still can't get over how fast and simple, yet perfect this recipe is. It was like we were eating at Pho Hoa, but at our own dining room table! Never again will I forget to check the Daring Cooks challenge until just days before post day. Thank you so much Jaden!

Who are you calling a little piggy?


Quick Vietnamese Chicken Pho

Servings: Makes 4 servings (should I be ashamed to admit it made 2 servings for us?)


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)

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
[Lisa] we liked some basil too
Sriracha chili sauce
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice

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.


  1. this looks like a great rendition of pho ga!

  2. You sound just like me! I love my pho but yeah keep the tendons and tripe away from me. But I do love the beef balls!

  3. It looks fantastic and so fragrant! I love the second picture!



  4. yay! i loved my pho and i love yours too :) it's the kind of stuff that will bring about world peace, i'm pretty sure. it looks awesome. aren't you glad you didn't punt this month's challenge (me too!!) :)

  5. OMG, I *have* to try this! pho is just one of those things that I've always thought you can never make at home. (completely unfounded, of course)

    Thanks for sharing!

    (p.s. it is totally the perfect after-too-many-drinks food.)

  6. You're cracking me up! Love your pictures and I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I made the beef version, which took FOR.EV.ER. so I'll have to try the shortened chicken version next!

  7. SOOOO good! It is a hangover cure ;) Hah! Great job on this! We totally ate like pigs too. I made the beef version though. Pretty pho-king good.

  8. Oooh, this looks SO good! Lovely photos. :)

  9. Seems like you made a good choice to participate this month, I am glad you did. It is such a good meal and it's a perfect recipe to have on hand as the winter is approaching. Hot brothy soups always warm me up.

  10. i need to remember not to read your blog on non-eating days. Ouch!

    We'll have to try this at home sometime soon.

  11. Love your photos! Great job on your challenge this month!

  12. Looks yummy, esp with winter around the corner. We will have to try this soon.

  13. Wow! Everything looks perfect =D. Not to mention the photos, gorgeous!

  14. Just discovered your blog. WONDERFUL! When I read your bog on macarons, I thought I was writing it! Have found a macaron soul mate except I'm probably old enough to be your mom. Keep up the good blog and the cooking.

  15. AFter seeing your PHOnomenal beef pho, I cannot wait to make it. I made the chicken, and it was awesome! Beautifully done, Lisa (love the sauce drizzled over the top), and once I always point out, your PHOtos are stunning!

  16. Ok, I'm a dork. Yes, the food looks faaaaaaaaaaantastic.


    I couldn't help but notice that your images look...different. Better. Crisper. Your photos are indeed getting better the more I see them.

    The geek in me had to investigate and found in your EXIF data that now have a D90? Nice.

  17. no wonder the bowl was empty! this is sooo delicious, love the photos, cheers from london