Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Daring Chicken Pho and Eastern Apple and Fig Turnover Wontons

This month's Daring Cooks challenge is a delicious Vietnamese Pho, from the new cookbook of star foodie blogger Jaden of Steamy Kitchen.
This is a quicker version of Pho, the perfect introduction to this tasty soup.

Challenge #1: Vietnamese Chicken Pho
Recipe Source: Jaden of Steamy Kitchen from her new book The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

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.

Variations – Pho:
1. Chicken, beef, pork, seafood or vegetarian/vegan.

• 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

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.
In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) 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, 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 the solids.
Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded 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.

My Changes, Results:
I made the soup as written, adding a little Thai basil as I realized that I didn't have a lot of cilantro. The results were delicious and fun to make. We enjoyed the "have it your way" presentation with all the additions and toppings.
I may have gotten a little carried away with the hot peppers and sriracha in mine... but this kind of behaviour with hot foods could explain why I never catch colds!

Challenge #2: Chocolate Wontons (Optional - my changes below)
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

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 with a 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.
My Dessert Wontons:
Ok, so since we got to be creative with this one, I made mine with chopped apples and dried figs, tossed together and sprinkled with cardamom and cinnamon. The results were delicious Eastern flavoured apple and fig turnovers that tasted like autumn itself. The finished wontons were dusted with icing sugar, the only added sugar involved in the sweet and crispy turnovers.