Pho Ga. Ever hear of it? It’s Chicken Rice Noodle Soup from Vietnam aka Saigon Chicken Rice Noodle Soup from Vietnam. This is probably NOT your typical Bubbes’ (OR Grandma’s/Mom’s) soul-healing Chickeny Noodle Soup, but it’s just as soothing and just as delicious, albeit a lot more spiced and exotic.
I like to call it Vietnamese Penicillin. Just like I call my friend’s Mom’s Tortellini en Brodo ‘Italian Dumpling Penicillin’. Any hot, soothing chicken based soup gets a moniker along with ‘Penicillin’.
That said, one cool aspect of food blogging is that someone in the publishing world might see your blog and think you’ve got the skill, creativity, talent and chops to write and maybe even photograph your own cookbook. There have been several bloggers who are working on, or have cookbooks published, and one of them just so happens to be this month’s Daring Cooks host, Jaden of Steamy Kitchen. This gal’s got mad talent, and her blog is a joy to ogle, drool over and read, so I can completely understand why she’s now the author of a cookbook that’ll most definitely sell like hotcakes. Congrats, Jaden!
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. If you’re a lover of Asian food, this book is right up your alley. If you’re not, it’ll make you one! *Not so subliminal message* Buy this phoking book! Thanks for sharing these recipes with us, Jaden!
As you’ve probably figured out by the title of this entry, we’re making soup, but not just any soup, Chicken Rice Noodle soup from Viet Nam (Pho Ga). Pho is pronounced ‘fuh’, so you just know I’m going to have a field day with this one. To say this soup is fanphokingtastic is an understatement. This soup is fanphokingtastic and fanphokingtabulous.
We were given the option of making the chicken aka Pho Ga soup (Ga is Vietnamese for chicken), Jaden’s beef version, or seafood, pork or vegetarian/vegan, if desired. I decided to stick with the chicken, but I’ll most definitely be trying her beef version, especially after smelling, tasting, almost wanting to bathe in, the chicken version.
Straight from the mouth of Jaden: So what is Vietnam (Saigon) Pho? Well, it’s like the most insanely delicious noodle soup that’s popular in Vietnam. The broth is simmered for hours and hours with either beef knuckle/leg bone or with a whole chicken. Other accompaniments include ribbons of rice noodles, fresh herbs like cilantro or basil, a wedge of lime or lemon, fresh bean sprouts and fresh sliced chilies, if desired.
What makes this Pho Ga so different than any other type of chickeny noodle soup is the spices that go into the simmering broth. Warm spices like coriander, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and fresh ginger transform an ordinary broth into a very authentic Saigon Pho Ga.
I want to add. There are two versions of Pho. One is from Hanoi, and one is from Saigon. Although there are other variations throughout the country, these two cities seem to have the most popular Pho. In doing my research, I discovered that Jaden’s pho is more of a Saigon pho than a Hanoi pho, due to all the toppings and the wider rice noodles, so I decided to call this pho Saigon Pho.
That being said, Jaden also gave us the choice of making her quick version of Pho Ga, or making her long simmering pot of homemade stock ‘version’ of Pho Ga. Since I had several quarts of homemade chicken stock in my freezer, I decided to make the quick version of Pho Ga. This frozen stock is the bee’s knees (first time I ever used that phrase), and most definitely Bubbes’ version, so I suppose you could also call my Pho Ga Jewishnamese Penicillin.
What makes Pho Ga unique, as mentioned above, whether it be the long, simmering version or the quick version of Pho Ga, is the spices and aromatics. OMG, the smell of the Pho Ga broth simmering will make your mouth water and induce funny sounds from your tummy.
SO, you char an onion and a knob of ginger, scraping off the charred skins, and toast some star anise, coriander seeds and cloves, then dump them into a pot along with sugar, fish sauce, a whole chicken and water (long, simmering version) or chicken stock and one whole chicken breast (short version). Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and voila, Pho Ga heaven with lots of accoutrements, and a damn good cure for my cold (on its last legs, but still annoying).
Finally, Jaden also has a great recipe for chocolate wontons which we were asked to make along with the soup. The fun part is, whoever comes up with the most unique, creative sweet wonton filling, will win a copy of her new cookbook.
Well, IS THERE ANY AWARD FOR THE LEAST UNIQUE AND CREATIVE WONTON FILLING?? If so, I WIN!
I took a Snickers bar, chopped it into pieces, and that’s my filling. I have to admit, it was really phoking good! Naturally, I couldn’t just sit with that, so I also made some unique Peanut Butter & Jelly (My spiced plum chutney from the Dosa challenge, hot chili peanuts, and coconut) mini eggroll wontons at the last minute (try 10 minutes ago). Now I feel better. Disturbing, huh? The truth is, they sucked – but I tried.
OH, I saw some super creative wontons in the Daring Kitchen forum, and I know one thing for sure..Phogeddaboutit, I ‘ain’t’ winning squat!
Easy Saigon Chicken Rice Noodle Soup (Pho Ga)
- 2 tablespoons.whole coriander seeds
- 4 whole cloves
- 2 whole star anise
- 2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) purchased or homemade chicken stock
- 1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless) I prefer bone in. More flavor.
- ½ of one large onion, unpeeled
- 1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, unpeeled
- 1 to 2 tablespoons.sugar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons.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: Place an oven rack directly under the broiler and line a baking sheet with tin foil. Heat the broiler to high. Rub the half, unpeeled onion and ginger with vegetable oil then place on the pan and under the broiler. Broil 10 to 12,minutes until onion skin and ginger peel is black, turning every 3 minutes so the undersides char too. Let cool, then scrape off the charred skins of both the ginger and onion. Try to get all of the 'black' off both of them.. lice the giner, then smash it with the back of a knife. Set aside until ready to add to the 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 for the pho broth (including the toasted spices and charred and scraped onion and ginger) 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 or slice it like I did, 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 all the solids.
- Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
- Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded or sliced 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.
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon.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
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water to make an egg wash.
- On a clean, dry surface lay 1 wonton wrapper down witha point toward you, like a diamond.
- Place 1 piece of chocolate near the top end of the wrapper. Brush a very thin layer of the egg wash on the edges of the wrapper.
- 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.
- Repeat with the remaining wrappers and chocolate pieces. 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.