Wednesday, December 18, 2013

New Recipe: Chicken Phosole

© Constantine William Spyrou

I come from a very interesting family. All of us have ended up pursuing different interests - my dad is a software designer, my mom has a MBA, my older sister is into criminology and education, I'm a foodie, and my little sister is the athlete. We also all have varying forms of some kind of genetic diseases and allergies, which can make dinner plans a little chaotic. My sister has a fish and gluten allergy, my dad has a nut and egg allergy, my little sister hates cheese, I'm the lucky one who has no food allergies as of now, and my mom has a severe fish allergy. She was recently diagnosed with it, and she's been sad because there's a lot of food she can't eat because she can't eat fish.

A lot of foods have now become inaccessible to her because of the fact she can't eat fish. Anything with Worcestershire or fish sauce is off limits, so a lot of South Asian cuisine and British cuisine is off of her plate. My mom grew up in Hong Kong and loves Asian/South Asian food a ton, and now she can't really eat it because a lot of it uses fish sauce. One of the dishes she loved the most was Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup. The Vietnamese use fish sauce in a lot of their cooking, and it is one of the central ingredients to Pho. Because of this, my mom can't eat it. I decided to try to make a recipe that slightly resembled Pho that would still be okay for my mom to eat. 

Fish sauce adds a deep, pungent, but lightly salted flavor to dishes, so the goal of my Pho was to achieve that without fish sauce. I decided to use a blend of Vietnamese and Mexican cuisines (which use a ton of similar ingredients already) to try to achieve this balance. To get the umami from the fish sauce replaced, I drew on garlic and lightly smoky chilies such as chipotle and dried Guajillos to get an umami level of flavor. This is very much a Pho that uses some Mexican ingredients, however, so it still has that distinct Vietnamese flair with a little Mexican kick. 

Recipe serves up to 12 people.

For the Pho Broth:

2 gallons chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 cup chopped and bruised lemongrass
2 large white onions, sliced
2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon Chinese Five Spice
1 cup chipotle chilis in adobo sauce
1/2 pound dried Guajillo chilies
12 cloves garlic, whole
1/4 cracked black peppercorns
2 bunches cilantro stems
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh ginger
2 tablespoons star anise, whole
2 sticks cinnamon, broken
2 blocks rock sugar (if you can't get this, chopped sugarcane or brown sugar both work great)
Zest and juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons whole cloves

For the Pho Bowls:

4 pounds chicken breast, thinly sliced
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
4 packages dried rice noodles
2 pounds bean sprouts

Cilantro leaves
Sriracha hot sauce
Thinly sliced jalapeno
Thinly sliced radish
Whole basil and mint leaves
Chopped green onion


1. Soak your dried chilies in warm water for about 2 minutes to let them reconstitute. Remove the seeds and stems from the chilis, and puree them until smooth.
2. In a hot large pot on a high heat, add olive oil. Place in your onions, ginger, and garlic, and cook off until the onions turn translucent. Deglaze the pan with your regular soy sauce, and in the five spice, Mexican oregano, chipotles in adobo, and sesame oil. Cook out for a couple more minutes.
3. Pour in all of your chicken stock, and add in the rest of your broth ingredients. Bring to a boil, then cook at a simmer for about 45 minutes. Strain your broth once it's cooked, and bring back up to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, reduce the heat to low so the broth stays hot.
4. Soak your noodles in warm water according to package instructions.
5. In your bowls, place in the sliced raw white onion, bean sprouts, and raw, thinly sliced chicken meat. Add in the noodles, then ladle in the broth until the bowl is full. The amount of onion, bean sprouts, chicken, and noodle depends on the size of the bowl you plan on serving the pho in. Serve with all of the garnishes so people can pick and choose what they want.

The pho broth itself is complex and has a ton of ingredients, but once that's out of the way, making the rest of it and serving to people will be a cinch. It has tons of layers of flavor, as you can see from the multitude of ingredients in the broth. It's also customizable, making it a fun and enjoyable dish.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! Let me know what you think and what you would change. If you make it at home, let me know how it turns out! Enjoy! =) 

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