“The secret ingredient is nothing” – Mr. Ping, Kung Fu Panda
I find it funny when people ask me “can you cook?”. If you’re asking because you want to mentally check it off the my skill set list you’ll share with your mum, then bro, I’m already off the shaadi-tayar list. And FYI my mother-in-law approves of my chai *wink*. Also, I feel cooking really is something you learn. Once you’ve mastered the way to use spices and put flavours together, no one really cares whether you cook the garlic first or the onions first (I do the later). For me, cooking has become a steadily brewing passion I’ve inherited from my mother, the supernova behind the blog, Mayuri’s Jikoni. I love talking food and spending time with my mum in the kitchen because its amazing to watch and learn from her.
Since my 9-to-5 days are on a bit of a hold at the moment, I like spending time experimenting (even if it means burning) and cooking up dishes I’ve always wanted to make. One of them is the infamous hearty, soul warming dish from Vietnam. Ladies and gentleman, say hello to Pho.
Since I had lots and lots of time on hand (my life nowadays), I decided to make my stock at home to give a real authentic feel while keeping intact all the nutrients from the vegetables (read: I’ve been adulting like a pro). This recipe is a chicken pho noodle soup, however I used vegetable broth for the same (cause the husband shudders when he sees raw chicken).
Here is what you need for two servings of pho (say it fast, for pho, for pho, for pho).
In order of what goes in first:
1 cinnamon stick
2 star anise
1 red onion
2 inch ginger
2-3 celery stalks
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Boiled rice or egg noodles
250 grams of boiled chicken breast
2-3 cloves garlic
1 carrot (julienne)
1 yellow bell pepper (julienne)
150 grams of mushrooms (sliced)
A handful of snow peas (sliced diagonally)
1 sweet red chilli
First things first, you need to roast your onion and ginger so that it gets a little charred. Guys, don’t get lazy, this really helps to add a smokey flavour to the broth. While it’s getting done, roast all your dry spices and add in a litre of water, to which you’ll add the onion, ginger, celery (the flavour culprit), carrot and dark soy sauce. Now put your patience to the test and wait for 45 minutes or sneak in an episode of Money Heist or prep your other ingredients. Put your noodles to cook and eggs to boil- this shouldn’t take more that 10 minutes. Also, this is the perfect time to cook your veggies in some sesame oil. For the veggies, put the carrots and yellow pepper to cook first, then add in your mushrooms and let the excess water dry out, and lastly toss in the snow peas to keep them crunchy *c-r-u-n-c-h*.
Once all this done, go light the candle on the dinner table, pull out your favourite soup bowls and start the assembly. I first put in the chicken and noodles, pour in some broth over it and then go in with the stir-fried vegetables. I then methodically place the perfectly cooked eggs, a sprig of celery leaves and the sweet red chillies for that all-authentic Asian look. And there you have it. A chicken pho that’s got you halfway to Vietnam.