Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October 2009 Daring Cooks' Challenge: Pho with Jaden of Steamy Kitchen!!!

It's that exciting time of the month again, when Daring Cooks from all parts of the world join together and post their own versions of the DC challenge of the month. To be honest, I almost didn't make it. September was very challenging for me, because last September 26, a super typhoon hit my country and devastated most of the capital. This was especially hard because the community we lived in was completely submerged in water, we lost our pets, our cars and our home in the span of 6 short hours. I was not home when it happened, I was safe at work but my mom and brother and sisters spent almost 24 hours on the 3rd floor attic of our kind neighbors. When you lose everything (material), you suddenly realize the most important things are not material things. I cried and thanked God when I finally saw my family the next day. Sadly we were not able to get much of what was left in the house because when the water went down, mud coated everything. But, we are in a better place now and moving to another place, starting anew is very exciting and challenging.
I am glad I did this challenge, Vietnamese food is a favorite in my family and it was very rewarding to make it on my own.
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.
• Frying pan• Large stockpot• Tongs• Strainer, sieve or colander• Bowls for serving
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 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
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.

For the wonton dessert, I made mine into a sweet potato tower. I fried the wonton wrappers and stacked them in between sweet potatoes cooked in caramelized sugar and drizzled them with chocolate ganache.