Thursday, February 16, 2017

Easy Chicken Pho

Paul and I love trying new foods and dishes from around the world. We have been very fortunate to be friends and coworkers with so many first-generation immigrants who have been more than generous enough to have our family over to share in an intimate meal of their favorite recipes from their culture. We have discovered so many exciting and unique flavor combinations and recipes from our friends and we always love having the opportunity to learn how the art of cooking is accomplished in different parts of the world. Most recently, a friend of mine from Bosnia had us over for lunch and introduced me to some very unique "pita" as well as some delicious potatoes. I love learning from the experiences of others!

My brother-in-law, Paul's identical twin Peter, is very much of the same mindset. He is lucky enough to live in Los Angeles where he has access to an endless variety of foods to try and experience. If I had to pinpoint his favorite cuisine at the moment, I would probably say it was Korean but that probably changes for him on a monthly basis. While visiting us one time, he kept raving about an awesome Pho restaurant near him. I had heard of Pho but had no idea really what it was nor where I would be able to try some. No place near here makes anything like that...anymore. There is actually a broken down building near the airport that apparently used to be a Pho restaurant, at least from the looks of the barely legible sign that still hangs from the front entrance. Obviously our town was not ready to welcome Pho.

Pho (pronounced f - ah) is a Vietnamese street food consisting of a bowl of broth, rice noodles, herbs, and a meat, usually chicken or beef. In Vietnam, people eat it at all times of the day. It was introduced globally as a result of the massive emigration of refugees during the Vietnam War and became popular in the United States during the 1990s. Of course there are many different styles and interpretations of Pho and individual bowls may be doctored up to the diner's preference thanks to the wide variety of accompaniments typically served with the dish, including fresh herbs, vegetables garnishes, spicy pastes, and dipping sauces. I learned all this in an article I read in the Wall Street Journal - the same article that included a recipe for an authentic Chicken Pho that inspired me to finally try this much-heard about dish.

This was a really fun recipe to make! There is a bit of dicing and more than a few steps, but everything flowed seamlessly from one step to the next and I never once felt rushed or stressed during the preparation, even with more than a few interruptions from my needy little midgets. While the broth was simmering, the entire kitchen smelled so wonderful. Matthew and Emma both commented on how delicious it smelled before peering into my pot to see what was cooking and making a face of disgust.

This is the typical chaotic scene going down as I'm finishing up the last touches to dinner.
Dad's home and everybody wants to wrestle.

When I set out to make this, I was pretty sure none of my kids were going to touch it. But frankly, I've gotten to the point where if they don't want to eat what I make, then they can wait until breakfast. None of them are suffering in the weight department, especially the little girl who has been giving me the biggest problems with eating her dinners as of late. Yes, I mean Emma.

But much to my surprise, when I served up heaping bowlfuls to each and every one of my babies, not a sound of complaint was heard. They were completely silent other than the sounds that ensued as they slurped up their noodles and the occasional comment, "This is so good, Mommy!" Who would have thought?

This recipe was a delight to make and a joy to eat. It tasted so refreshing, light, and comforting. Paul's only complaint was that he found it a little difficult to eat - we had to use both a spoon for the broth and fork for the rice noodles - because he couldn't manage to get the slippery rice noodles to stay on his fork. In all honesty, nobody else really seemed to have issues with it. Paul just hates it when his food outsmarts him.

If you're looking for a great ethnic dish to add to your meal rotation, try this at home!

Easy Chicken Pho
from The Pho Cookbook, as seen in The Wall Street Journal

Note: We doubled this recipe for our family and it was more than enough. I had the leftovers for lunch two days in a row!

For the Pho:
1 (3/4-inch) piece ginger, peeled
2 large scallions
1 bunch cilantro
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 whole clove
4 cups low-sodium chicken roth
2 cups water
1 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 ounces dried, flat rice noodles
3 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Ginger-Dipping Sauce (they say optional, I say essential):
1 packed tablespoon peeled and finely chopped ginger
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon seeded and finely chopped jalapeno

To Garnish:
Bean Sprouts
Thai Basil
Lime Wedges
Sliced Chili, such as Fresno, Thai, Serrano, or Jalapeno

Slice the ginger into 4-5 rounds. Smack the ginger with a mallet or flat side of a knife to bruise. Thinly slice green parts of scallions to yield 3 tablespoons and set side for garnish. Cut remaining parts of scallions into pinkie-size lengths, then smack to bruise. Chop leafy tops of cilantro to yield 2 tablespoons and set aside for garnish.

In a 3-4 quart pot over medium heat, toast coriander seeds and cloves until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Add ginger and scallion strips to pot. Stir until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Remove pot from heat, wait 15 seconds or so to briefly cool, then pour in broth.

Return pot to heat and add water, remaining cilantro, chicken and salt. Bring a boil over high heat, then lower heat to medium-low and gently simmer until chicken is cooked through, yielding only slightly when pressed, 5-10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a bowl, flush with cold water to stop cooking, then drain. Let cool, then cut or shred into bite-sized pieces. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Meanwhile, continue simmering broth until reduced by about one-third, 20-25 minutes.

While liquid simmers, soak noodles in a bowl of hot water until pliable and opaque, about 15 minutes. Drain, rinse, and set aside.

Make the ginger sauce by combining all the ingredients in a small bowls. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Once broth is done simmering, place a fine-mesh sieve over a 2-quart pot. Strain the broth and discard the solids - you should have about 4 cups of broth. Season with the fish sauce and sugar.

Bring the both to a boil over high heat. Put noodles in a strainer or sieve and dunk into hot broth to warm and soften, about 1 minutes. Remove noodles from pot and divide between bowls.

Divide the chicken and place on top of noodles. Garnish with chopped scallions, cilantro, and pepper. Adjust broth seasonings to taste. Return broth to a boil, then ladle into bowls. Enjoy with any or all of the garnishes! Serve individual bowls with the ginger sauce on the side for dipping the chicken. I also personally liked dolloping spoonfuls of the sauce into my broth - it was so refreshing!

1 comment:

  1. So glad you found something the kids will eat :D I went to Pho78 with my husband and, at the time, 2 kids. It was delicious, but very light. People here want to feel very full when they walk out of a restaurant. I wish it was still in business though. They played Asian TV shows on a huge screen tv and had nice asian music.