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. I was so excited to hear that Jaden was hosting this month’s challenge, I instantly became a fan of hers after making a fantastic super easy three cheese soufflé a couple weeks ago that came out awesome. She presented to us not one, but two awesome challenges for this month. The first was this one – pho ga, or Vietnamese chicken noodle soup. This was my first venture into Vietnamese cuisine, and I instantly realized how sad a thing it is that I have waited this long to make Vietnamese food.
The recipe for pho ga was pretty straightforward, but a few twists were added for the Daring Cooks’ challenge. Most DC challenges offer a lot of room for freedom and creativity, however this recipe was very specific. Even the spices had to be followed to the letter. The one technique that was absolutely required that was not explicitly a part of this recipe though was toasting the spices. I LOVED the spices in this broth. The star anise, cloves, and coriander, once toasted, offered a fragrant warmth and complexity to the broth in a combination my taste buds had not embraced before. Toasting was actually pretty easy – all that is needed is to heat spices on a hot pan for a few minutes until they brown and become fragrant.
I really think that the key to this broth is the slow simmering of the broth with the chicken, toasted spices, and char-broiled ginger and onion. The combination is just heavenly. A little bit of sugar (or diabetic friendly erythritol) and the broth is perfect. I did make a few changes – I used chicken broth rather than water, subbed the hoisin sauce in order to be gluten free, and also used fennel with the veggies for the soup. I thought the fennel would be a great addition given the licorice flavor that would match the star anise well. I also just added the rice noodles directly to the broth rather than cook them separately, that way they could absorb some of the broth flavors – to be diabetic friendly, my mom just did not eat any of the noodles, which was easy enough to do.
Overall, the dish was a great success!