project food blog challenge #2: classic pho

I had to have more Pho and I had to have it now. But we went out because the recipes were overwhelming, it takes too long to make and it is dirt cheap in restaurants. Oxtails? Beef knuckles? Star Anise Pods? Where do I even buy such things?

Then came the news that I had made it to Challenge #2 for the Project Food Blog and the challenge was a classic dish from a culture you aren’t familiar with.  There was no question in my mind and I’d be making Pho sooner than I thought.

Pho is a dish that I have never made or never attempted, but if you follow me on twitter, you know that I dedicated a whole day to finding the perfect Pho restaurant in Minneapolis and recipe, only to decide the recipe was a little too much work. I normally don’t take the easy way out, but a dish that requires over a day to prepare is a little much for my healthy, simple and delicious mantra.

But there was a challenge and I had a recipe, so the cooking process began with the broth. As the onion and ginger were browning, and the meat simmering with water, I started to smell the Pho and my worries of it not turning out faded away. The aroma coming from the broth was so enticing I almost didn’t want to wait for the next day to start slurping.

The ample soup is spicy, savory, filling and fresh tasting all served up in an oversized bowl with chopsticks and an asian soup spoon. One of the reasons I love Pho, and Vietnamese cuisine, for that matter is because the majority of the seasoning is done at the table, to your own taste. Need more sriracha? A little more hoisin? It’s all there.

The components are layered in a deep bowl – the short ribs, the beef, the noodles and finally the broth. Then the toppings and flavorings are all up to you. My favorites are lime, bean sprouts, jalapeño slices, fresh basil and mint. Oh and lots of sriracha.

How did the pho turn out? It didn’t taste exactly the same as in the Restaurants, and I may be lacking some Vietnamese cuisine experience, but that just means I’ve got some experimenting to do in the kitchen, and that’s something I’m perfectly fine with.

Voting begins Monday!

thai coconut-lime soup with chicken

Since I often feel the need to live vicariously through my family – my brother just returned from Thailand and my parents were there last year – I’m determined to eat like I’m there! Until I can get there myself, Thai food will have to hold me over.

I love Asian cuisine (if that wasn’t obvious) but the flavors of Thailand are some of my favorites. As soon as I came across this recipe I knew I would need to make it – and that it would be at the top of my ever-growing recipe list.

Also please note the use of my authentic Thai “spootula”. I’m not sure what they are called in Thailand (anyone?) but I decided to call it a spootula – it is half spoon, half spatula and pure genius.

Thai Coconut-Lime Soup with Chicken – adapted from Bon Appétit

  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass (forgot to pick this up so used some lemon zest instead)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 jalapeños, thinly sliced
  • 1 red chile pepper, thinly sliced
  • 3 cups organic chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 4 cups light coconut milk
  • 3 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 4 Tbsp cilantro leaves
  • juice from 2 limes
  • 1 Tbsp agave
  • 16 oz chicken breast, cut into thin strips
  • cilantro and chives(or green onions) for garnish

Heat oil in large pot. Add onion and ginger, cook for about 3 minutes. Add peppers and lemon zest; stir 1 minute. Add broth and rice vinegar; simmer 5 minutes. Add coconut milk, lime juice, fish sauce, cilantro leaves and agave; simmer 30 minutes. Add chicken and simmer just until cooked through, about 4 minutes. (or in my case, about 10 just to make sure it is indeed cooked)

Garnish with cilantro and chives or green onions.