Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Daring Cooks: Pho and Wontons!

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.

Chicken Pho

I don't think I've been as excited before as I was when I found out the recipes for this month's Daring Cooks. Jaden Hair, one of my favorite bloggers, was going to be featured. Jaden is one of the nicest and funniest bloggers around. Though I haven't been fortunate enough to meet her in person, I was lucky enough to be able to participate in a group conference call with her and some other awesome bloggers through the Daring Cooks.

Her choice of Vietnamese Chicken Pho and Chocolate Wontons sounded amazing. Until this challenge, I had never tasted Pho but thought it seemed similar to chicken noodle soup which I love. And the wontons...come could FRIED anything be that bad?

According to Jaden, the proper pronounciation of pho is:

By the way, the correct pronunciation of Pho is “fuh?” Yes, you say the word like it’s a question!

I had heard of pho (especially in the last few months) but my American brain always pronounced it as fuh-0h. Add a little Texas accent on that and it was probably more like fuuh-0h. Though according to some accent quiz I've taken a time or two, I have a Midwestern accent (something about being born in Texas after 1980)...I know...especially around my family that a little country (i.e. hick) accent comes out at the worst of times. So it may really have come out as fuuuuh-oh. I'm pretty sure I just embarrassed myself there.

Anyway...back to our regularly scheduled rambling...

We were given the option of doing the quick chicken pho or the longer version if we wanted. Being the first time I had made pho, I went with the quick version. I bought a good quality stock since I was not going to make it from scratch. One thing we could not make any variation was the spices. We had to use the whole and toast them. I had to do a little digging to find whole star anise...apparently its not one my local grocery carries. However, I did find out that there is a Penzey's not far from my apartment. Of course I had to check it out and ended up with more than just the whole star anise. But it was so much fun shopping for spices and seasonings! I couldn't help it! I even bought some of their mint hot chocolate mix (delicious by the way!).

My apartment smelled sooooo good after I toasted the spices. Hopefully they were toasted enough because I took them off the stove at 3 minutes exactly. I was too afraid they would burn!

I did cheat slightly, however. The recipe calls for one whole chicken breast but I used the remainder of a rotisserie chicken that I had leftover. It needed to be used up and this soup seemed perfect for it. Next time I'll use a fresh chicken breast!

Noodles for Pho

I wasn't sure if I had the right noodles or not. The recipe calls for dried rice noodles. All I could find was rice sticks or rice vermicelli. I did some quick research on the web and from what I found I think I got the right thing but I can't say I was happy with them after cooking. The texture seemed off...almost like eating styrofoam. Perhaps they should have been used for frying as the package said (though it did list boiling as a cooking option too). Next time I think I'll just use angel hair pasta.

Chicken Pho

The broth with its seasonings was amazing. Rich and full of flavor despite being store bought (I used Kitchen seemed the healthiest of my options). I loved the fish sauce addition. I've only recently found the wonders of fish sauce. I've used it in everything from soups to fried rice and have been blown away by the depth of flavor it gives to all. I'm pretty sure its going to be a constant staple in my pantry from now on. I topped the pho with a little sriracha to give it some kick and I also used some shredded zucchini instead of bean sprouts (not a fan). Without the funky noodles, this was a delicious weeknight dinner. I was able to have it on the table in about 45 minutes. I will be making this again for sure!

Pumpkin Wontons

Now on to the wontons. We were given the option of using whatever filling we wanted. With it now being fall I had to use pumpkin. The recipe I went with was a Pumpkin and Cream Cheese spread from Pinch My Salt. I only made two small changes to it based on what was in my pantry. I used honey instead of maple syrup and I used dark brown sugar as well. It was out of this world good by itself. I also spread it on toast for breakfast. Delish! In the wontons it was amazing. Dusted with a little powdered sugar...perfection.

Pumpkin Wontons

I did discover that I do not like frying. My oil heated up way to quickly and I had to wait for it to cool down before I could fry. Then I was only able to get one good wonton before the temperature dropped and the two I had in there soaked up too much oil. I want a deep fryer like this one. It would have hopefully made this a little more idiot proof.

By the way, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook is amazing. I've marked so many recipes that I want to make. So far I've made the pho and wontons (duh!) as well as the perfect fried rice. All of them delicious! If you love Jaden's blog, you'll love her cookbook. The writing retains all the charms you find on her posts and frequently a smile will no doubt come to your face!

Check out the Daring Cooks Blogroll for more Pho and Wontons! Thank you to Jaden for allowing us to cook her delicious dishes this month!

Vietnamese Chicken Pho
Recipe 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 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

  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.

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.


6 Treats for Charlie:

Jenni said...

Great job! Your pho and your wontons look great! Actually, I really want one of your wontons right about now. Great choice!

Lauren said...

Wonderful job! Everything look amazing, and I love the sound of the pumpkin and cream cheese wontons =D.

Rose said...

Great job on the challenge! Frying is a bit tricky and messy, I agree. Your wontons look beautiful though :D

Cheri said...

Your pho looks wonderful. I would never have thought to add zucchini. And, the pumpkin wontons sound delish!

Cecille said...

I do not like the smell of oil in my house, but fried food is soo yummy! Good thing it's the time of year where we can open the windows and air the house! Pho and Wonton looks great!

Lori said...

Yes I find the rice sticks to taste completely different from regular-durum pasta. It was a delicious soup, wasnt it.

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