Thanks so much to Jaden Hair from Steamy Kitchen for hosting this month's Daring Cook's challenge. I have always wanted to make pho but have been scared away by recipes with 15 ingredients that involve making a broth out of random bones and stewing overnight.
This recipe is great for a weeknight because you can actually use commercial chicken broth and make the entire dish in less than an hour.
Chicken Pho Broth
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts store-bought chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
1 3-inch 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)*
Note: I had recently ordered Shirataki Noodles from AsianFoodGrocer.com as part of Foodbuzz's Tastemaker Program. Therefore, I decided to substitute the noodles in at least one of the bowls with this noodle. To read a detailed description of my interesting experience cooking with this fiber filled diet noodle (package says 0 calories per serving - for REAL!), click here.
2 cups bean sprouts
Fresh chopped cilantro
½ cup shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice (I picked Habenero)
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.
As part of this challenge, we had the option of trying of the longer, more complicated recipes for chicken or beef. I sort of improvised, and borrowed the roasted onions and ginger used to make the stock (from scratch), but I added it to a commercial chicken broth (thus explaining the roasted onion picture above).
Over all impressions?
This is a decent noodle soup, but definitely not a substitute for real, traditional pho. Bryan thought it tasted bland and sort of wrong without the Thai basil. He also thought the red onions were strong, and overpowered the other more delicate flavors. I know Jaden was probably trying to pick ingredients that people could get at a normal supermarkets, so I'm sympathetic to those limitations. I also bet that if I had made the soup with actual bones (instead of commercial chicken broth), it would have tasted a lot better.
Nevertheless, it was an interesting experience. I had never bought nor used so many interesting spices before. Thanks again, Jaden and the Daring Kitchen, for helping me to be "daring" and reaching beyond my normal comfort zone in cooking.
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