Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Daring Cooks: Quick Vietnamese Chicken Pho (October 2009)

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. Our challenge focused on Chicken Pho, or “Pho Ga” in Vietnamese and chocolate dessert wontons. (By the way, the correct pronunciation of Pho is “fuh?” Yes, you say the word like it’s a question! ) As someone that had never tried Pho of any kind before, I was a bit nervous going into this challenge. ..yet was hopeful.

The first step, before any of the cooking, was to shop for the ingredients. While for the most part this was an easy step, my regular grocery store did not carry the rice noodles nor some of the optional items used for topping. This was solved by finding a local Asian market, but it certainly was a bit frustrating because I like to shop all in one spot and not have to go all over town to find my ingredients. Once I did find all of the ingredients, I was off and running though.

Toasting spices in a dry pan releases their essential oils and adds more fragrance to the finished dish. This is a bit tricky because you do not want to burn the spices. I normally know that the spices are done when you can smell them. It does not take long.

Spices Toasting (Sorry for the blur)

Once the spices were toasted, I added them to the broth and other ingredients, including the chicken. I brought this to a boil and then reduced to a simmer. The broth smelled WONDERFUL!

Once the chicken was cooked, I retrieved it from the pot and shredded it. Actually, my mom who was visiting and helping me with this new recipe shredded the chicken for me. I think she did a great job!
Shredding the Chicken

This is also the point where you skim out all of the "stuff" from the broth.

Broth - Skimmed

The next step was to cook the rice noodles. This step proved to be the most frustrating for me because I put too much water in the pot and it took FOREVER to bring to a boil (live and learn!). Once in the pot the noodles cooked quickly and easily. After straining the noodles, they were VERY sticky! I’d say get them back into the broth ASAP if you can. I had not planned ahead in this regard so I had a bunch of sticky noodles hanging around.

The finished product was very pretty (in my opinion) and very tasty! I skipped the bean sprouts because I do not like them…at all! The red Sriracha chili sauce was VERY spicy, but added a great flavor. The lime did its best to cut through the spiciness and cool things off. The cilantro and red onion added a nice flavor, as did the extra pepper. The hoisin sauce topped things off and added a touch of sweetness.

The true test was whether or not my parents enjoyed it! My dad loved it, though he only had the noodles, chicken and some lime in his bowl. My mom liked it though half was through, and after complaining that the hoisin sauce was spicy (which it is not), discovered she had picked up a stray pepper in her bowl along with her red onion. She squirted some lime juice into her bowl and that helped a bit with the spiciness. All and all it was enjoyed by all.

Pho Ga

Once we were finished with the Pho Ga, we moved onto our chocolate dessert wontons. I had fried wontons before so the challenge part of this was figuring out the fillings. I originally decided on doing Snicker bars. This proved to be a bit more difficult than I thought. I had kept them in the refrigerator so they were hard and kept tearing the wontons. I microwaved a few pieces and that seemed to work to get them in the wrapper a bit easier. Mom and I also tried to cut them into smaller pieces which also worked. I also remembered that I had a rich, fudgy, mint sauce by Tastefully Simple in the refrigerator. I spooned that into a few which was quite easy.

Wontons Filled and Ready for Frying

The wontons filled with the various chocolates were easy to pop into my preheated fryer. I left them in there for a few minutes, turning them so they got brown and crispy on both sides. This is an easy process, but it does take time and patience….neither of which I prefer to have at dessert time!

Frying the Wonton

We did not sprinkle with the confectioners sugar as we thought the fillings would be sweet enough. The verdict was that the Snicker-filled wonton was much tastier, but that the fudgy-mint ones were prettier and fuller. The Snicker-filled ones seemed to have a big hole without much filling in them. The minty ones oozed out once bitten into…yummy mess!

Chocolate Dessert Wontons
Overall this challenge was fairly easy and I am glad I stuck in there to find the noodles. I was introduced to a new dish (the Pho Ga) and experimented with the chocolate dessert wontons. I will likely make this Pho Ga again if I am ever out by that Asian market again to get the noodles, but the dessert wontons left something to be desired. Thank you to our lovely hostess…if you love this recipe, pick up her book…it will be out later this month!

PS…I love your comments, so leave me one at the end of this post!

Recipe: Quick Vietnamese Chicken Pho
Source: Jaden of Steamy Kitchen from her new book 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 cloves2 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 onion1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife

1 to 2 tbsps. sugar1 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

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.

Recipe: Chocolate Wontons
Recipe Source: Jaden of Steamy Kitchen from her new book The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.


• Small bowl • Pastry brush • Plastic wrap and/or damp paper towels • Wok or medium-sized pot • Frying thermometer (if you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the oil temperature by dropping in a cube of bread … if it browns quickly, the oil is ready)

Preparation time: 15 minutes + 15 minutes cooking time (for 12 wontons)
Servings: Makes 12 wontons.

1 large egg

1 tbsp. water

12 wonton wrappers, defrosted (keep wrappers covered with damp towel)

12 pieces or nuggets of chocolate (use any type of chocolate you like)

High-heat oil for frying (i.e., vegetable oil, corn oil)

Confectioners’ sugar (icing sugar) for sprinkling

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash.
2. On a clean, dry surface lay 1 wonton wrapper down with a point toward you, like a diamond.
3. Place 1 piece of chocolate near the top end of the wrapper.
4. Brush a very thin layer of the egg wash on the edges of the wrapper.
5. Fold the bottom corner of the wrapper up to create a triangle and gently press to remove all air from the middle. Press the edges to adhere the sides. Make sure the wrapper is sealed completely.
6. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and chocolate pieces.
7. Keep the folded chocolate wontons covered under plastic wrap or a damp paper towel to prevent them from drying.
8. In a wok or medium pot, pour in 2 inches (5 cm.) of high-heat oil.
9. 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.
10. Fry the wontons for 1 ½ minutes, then flip over and fry another minute until both sides are golden brown and crisp.

Enjoy with Love,


  1. Looks like we had pretty much the same idea for the wontons. :) Everything looks wonderful! So glad you were able to find the noodles.

  2. Your description and your photos are very pretty. And the chocolate-mint wontons sound delish!

  3. Wow! This looks amazing - love the sound of those wontons =D.

  4. Beautiful Pho and photographs! I made Snicker's filled wontons too, but mine look more like dog doo when compared to yours! LOL Nicely done all around :)