First and foremost, I would like to extend a big heartfelt thank you to everyone who voted for me and helped me to advance to the second challenge of the Project Food Blog contest. For the second challenge, we are asked to tackle a classic dish from another culture and go outside our comfort zone. I chose to go to the other side of the world to the country of Vietnam and create my version of Pho Ga - Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup. Voting opens on Monday, September 27th at 6Am through 6PM September 30th. Please visit this link to learn more about Project Food Blog and cast your vote.
One of the distinct differences with this cuisine is the Nuoc Mam or fish sauce. It is derived from anchovy and is spiced with a little chili, garlic, lemon juice and vinegar. The fish sauce provides the inimitable distinction from other Asian flavors.
For many years, I have enjoyed and admired this cuisine for the flavor profiles and the simplicity which appears to be complicated. A few months ago, I was dining with one of my employees for lunch at a local Vietnamese-French inspired restaurant. He decided to have the Pho Tai, which is a noodle soup with rare beef. Being adventurous, I ordered the identical item. When it arrived, I had no idea on how to eat it or what to do with the beautiful side dish of garnishes.
Quickly I learned that you first mix in the desired amount of sriracha and hoisin sauce to enrich the already flavorful broth. Once that is mixed, more flavor and texture is added to this amazing soup by topping with crispy bean sprouts, cilantro, jalapenos, basil and lime juice to add a touch of acidity. The beef is slowly cooked by the heat of the broth and you enjoy by using chop sticks and a spoon.
When I first read the ten challenges for the Food Blog Project, I began to jot down ideas that I would like to accomplish with each challenge. After reading challenge number two, “The Classics”, the idea came to me like a lightning bolt. After tasting the Pho Tai several months ago, I decided that I would tackle Pho Ga (Pho is pronounced ‘fuh’). Pho Ga is a delicious Vietnamese soup with chicken, loaded with spices, fresh herbs and rice noodles. The idea of this soup sounds simple, yet the taste is anything but. It embodies complex flavors with simple, healthy ingredients.
Many folks believe that Pho noodle soups originated in the 1920’s as a union of French-style cooking merged with local Vietnamese ingredients. If you ventured to Vietnam to the local food stalls, you would be guaranteed to smell the distinct flavors of the Pho noodles broth and see the locals hunched over enjoying a large bowl of Pho soup. This soup was customarily enjoyed for breakfast but today it is a round the clock treat. Typically, the broth takes 4 to 7 hours to prepare however, my style of cooking is much more simple and I went outside the box on this tradition.
To save time and put my own twist on this classic, I decided to use really good prepared chicken stock along with a rotisserie chicken. My husband had never enjoyed this Vietnamese delight, so I was even more excited to prepare this iconic dish. After adding the sauces and condiments to this flavorful soup, I took my first taste. I amazed myself and a feeling of such accomplishment ran through my head. I exclaimed to my husband – “I actually replicated the soup”.
I would like to personally thank each of you who voted for me in the first challenge and helped me to advance to the next round. Your support is greatly appreciated!
Pho Ga: Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup
12 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Large white onion
2 Medium pieces of fresh ginger
1 Rotisserie Chicken, 1 ½ cups shredded chicken
2 t. Salt
2 t. Sugar
2 T. Asian fish sauce
2 T. Whole coriander seeds
4 Whole cloves
3 Whole star anise
6 oz. Package dried rice noodles
8 oz. Bean sprouts
1 C. Cilantro leaves
1 C. Thai basil (regular basil can be used)
2 Limes cut into quarters
2 Jalapenos, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the onion into quarters, leaving the skin on and cut the ginger in half lengthwise. Lie onto a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. The onions should begin to char. Leave in an extra 10 minutes if more charring is desired.
In a large pot, add the chicken stock and put the burner on high. Add the charred onions and ginger along with the salt, sugar, coriander seeds, cloves and star anise. Let the broth come to a boil and reduce heat to low after it boils. Let simmer for another 30 minutes to develop the rich exotic flavors. After it has simmered for 30 minutes, then add the fish sauce. Keep the broth hot.
Soak the noodles in warm water for 15 minutes until pliable. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Drain the noodles and add to the boiling water. Boil until tender for about 3 to 5 minutes. Drain well. Transfer to four large bowls.
Divide the shredded chicken among the four bowls. Prepare four plates with the accompaniments to add to the soup. This would include: basil leaves, cilantro leaves, 2 quarters of lime, bean sprouts, and jalapenos along with a small bowl with the sirachi and hoisin sauce for each person to add to the soup. You can provide a small spoon for your guest to allocate the desired amount of sauces. Let them know to squeeze the lime into the soup and add the condiments to have the full Pho Ga experience.