Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Daring Cooks/Pho (Fuh?)

So apparently, the classic Vietnamese noodle dish Pho, is actually pronounced fuh? Yes, the question mark is part of the pronunciation. I am all about authenticity, but fuh?, seriously? I was home this weekend and I kept talking about the pho (fuh?) I had to make for this month's Daring Cooks challenge. Each time I said pho the Americanized way I would correct myself, try to say fuh? and then my sister and I would just erupt in laughter. Maturity central. I eventually had to resort to mispronouncing this dish because the absurdity was getting really out of hand. I am all about authentic flavors, but when it comes to pho, I think I am going to have to stick with the inauthentic pronunciation.

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.

At least this challenge made me laugh a lot, because to be honest I didn’t really love the outcome. My mom and my sister both said they liked it, but I think they were just being nice. I mean it was fine, but it definitely wasn't real fuh? (giggle). It was also one of the messiest things I have ever eaten, noodles were slipping all over the place, I couldn't manage to get a piece of meat and noodles on my fork at the same time, and by the end of dinner my sister proudly announced "Oh my god, I made such as mess!" My mom just seemed pained, as if she realized that all the time and effort she put into teaching us good table manners had officially gone to waste. Don’t worry Mom, I still behave myself in public.

Although the official Daring Cooks listed a chicken pho recipe, we had the freedom to choose what kind of meat to use. I decided to make it with beef, which I felt was more authentic. Each of us personalized our bowls of pho at the table. On a big serving platter I laid out all the fresh ingredients: lime, cilantro, red onion, hot peppers, hoisin sauce, and sambal oelek (although the recipe called for sriracha, this is what we had on hand). Oddly, I had trouble finding bean sprouts the recipe called for. I don't really like bean sprouts, so I never buy them, but on the one and only day I actually needed them, not one but two supermarkets were all out. Come to think of it, maybe there were a lot of Daring Cooks buying out Manhattan's supply of bean sprouts. That sounds like a great plotline for a scary movie, doesn't it? "The Daring Cooks that Took Over, and other Ingredients that Disappeared Along the Way." Maybe I should become a movie producer, with movie titles like those I would probably have an audience of 1 (myself), but at least I would finally get to watch a thriller that I like. Hmm....Anyhow, I have to stop my imagination from running wild before I say or write something I will regret. Forgive me, I am just a little fuh?-happy.

Even though I didn't love the outcome of this recipe I think the problem is that I just tried to hard to make it top-notch. We used high quality stock that was already so flavorful that the toasted spices and charred ginger and onions didn't get a chance to shine through. I was also rushing a bit, which is always bad news in my books. I am going to make this again very soon, my roommate is dying to try it (I promised her that I wouldn't secretly sneak cilantro into her bowl) and I really want to make a bowl of pho that I love. I will update you when it is a success. In the meantime I am posting the basic Chicken Pho recipe that Jaden shared with us. Give it a shot, it's your turn to get fuh?-happy.

Vietnamese Chicken Pho
Preparation Time: 45 cooking time + 15 minutes to cook noodles based on package directions
Servings: Makes 4 servings
My Notes:
• I used beef stock rather than chicken and just eliminated the chicken that the recipe called for. This also means that you won't need to skim the surface of the broth as listed below.
• I used 1 lb. of flank steak, sliced thin (keep it in the freezer for 15 minutes to make it easier to slice)
•The thin slices of beef cook as you pour your hot broth over them, so just make sure the broth is very hot.
•If you're feeling bold and you want to make your own broth, check out Jaden's website: longer chicken version listed here: or the beef version listed here:


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

1) 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.
2) Set your oven to broil. Put the onion and ginger on a baking sheet. Broil for up to 15 minutes, turning frequently, until charred and fragrant, but not burned.
2) In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices and charred ginger and onion) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
3) Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.
4) Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
5) Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
6) Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
7) Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.


Mike said...

What a feat! I've always wanted to try my hand at homemade pho, but its pretty intimidating.

Cheri said...

I agree! I have such a hard time saying fuh? with a straight face. I always have a hard time speaking other languages without feeling like I am making a fool of myself. It is too bad that you were not happy with the results. Your Pho does look beautiful though!

Amy I. said...

Even though you didn't love it, at least it looks pretty! Your post made me laugh :) Nice work!

pdc said...

Do not know how it should taste, and what I had was excellent, the thin slices of beef cooking in the broth certainly added to it
yes many dirty napkins and table mats, and what a pleasure to finally share one of the dishes I keep seeing on pictures !!!!!!!!!!!

Rose said...

Mmmmmmm looks good! Now I want to eat pho again! Ah! Great job :)

Lauren said...

I'm sorry you didn't love it - The pho looks amazing, and the post was wonderful =D.

Anonymous said...

What a delightful and amusing post! And you're pho looks absolutely scrumptious.

Winnie said...

Looks incredible...I want to make the beef pho next...and soon!

Jenni said...

Your pho looks great! I didn't find it to be utterly amazing, either, but it did still taste good! And I am glad to know that my husband and I were not the only ones slurping noodles and splashing broth everywhere! It was a super messy meal!

Shandy said...

You tried it though and did a marvelous job! Sorry you were not overly excited about the flavor. Maybe the next challenge will beat all your expectations and be the BEST EVER! =)

Patti said...

My pho was such a mess as well - it was almost impossible to eat! But I am told that this is part of the "authentic" experience. Either way, it was crazy fun.

I have trouble saying "phuh?" with a straight face, too. My roommates always look at me like I'm crazy (not that this is rare). I've started calling it "phuh!" with raised eyebrows and a lilt at the end, but not quite a question. With my luck, I'm probably calling the soup something awful, but it works for me. :)

Jenn said...

Great pics! Ha yes it was very messy when I ate it too! Messy, but tasty :)

chef_d said...

I would definitely see the movie! Your pho (fuh?) looks great, and i like your presentation, it'sso pretty!

Anonymous said...

I had to read another DC blog that actually gave some great eating instructions. Chopsticks in right hand and soup spoon in the other.

bake in paris said...

You got it so right! By looking at the photo, I definitely crave for one bowl already. Outstanding picture that is :-)


mub said...

I really had a laugh over there being a mad rush on bean sprouts!

Olga said...

Sorry you did not love this soup. At least your looks very nice :)

Before cooking my noodles, I broke them in half: made the job of eating them a lot easier.

Debbie said...

Maybe your next "pho adventure" will be more to your liking. What you created this time looks really good. Love the pictures.

Lisa Michelle said...

Even though you didn't love it..I do. That beautiful rare beef is beckoning to me right now. Trust me, I'd scarf that down faster than you could say 'fuh' ;D

Jackie at said...

My favorite Asian dish. Pure comfort food. Check out my version at

Deeba @Passionate About Baking said...

Well done on the DC challenege. That first pic is gorgeous!!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Frenchie! You're pieces are not only inspiring, but they're entertaining and enjoyable to read! I can't wait to try this one on my own!

maybelle's mom said...

we did the beef too. I love the idea of a mugful of pho.

Maria said...

I just saw an episode of Next Iron Chef and even the seasoned chefs on the show were intimidated by making Pho and there bowls looked nothing like your own ... so kudos cause from here it looks like you did a fabulous job!