Archive for SOUPS & STEWS

Easy Phở

Phở is a Vietnamese noodle soup made with an intensely flavorful broth poured over flat rice noodles and garnished with thinly sliced meat.  A friend once told me that what I just described is considered the “northern Vietnamese Phở” whereas the “southern Vietnamese” version adds aromatic herbs.  I like the southern version myself.  The more vegetables and herbs, the better. 🙂

Phở also varies with the types of condiments, vegetables and noodles used.  Most Vietnamese restaurants serve phở with a side of bean sprouts, Thai basil (not the sweet basil commonly added to pasta sauces), cilantro or coriander leaves, and various hot chili peppers.  You might see a squeeze bottle filled with hoisin sauce, or get a small bowl of fish sauce served alongside your phở.  Hot pepper sauce in lieu of fresh hot peppers is also an option.  As for the varieties of noodles used, rice is most common, but you can use potato noodles as well.

I’ve also had phở a little more on the sweet side, and other restaurants I’ve been to serve their phở less sweet or not sweet at all.  My preference is to omit the sugar.  I like a savory and aromatic broth, not a sweet one.

You can use beef or chicken in your phở.  Your choice of meat will determine your choice of broth.  My family likes beef phở so I use beef broth.  Chicken phở, logically, uses chicken broth.

Speaking of broth, I think this is what determines a GOOD Phở from an average or so-so one.  You can serve as many different herbs and vegetables as you like with the broth, but if the broth is flavorless, you might as well call your concoction a tea, or water infused with herbs.   As your broth cooks, get a whiff of it — if the aroma doesn’t make you want to dunk your face into the pot, then you need to add some spice to it.

You can find my complete recipe at the bottom of this post.  Give it a try.  I think you’ll like it. 🙂

These are the ingredients I like to use.image

If you have the time, homemade beef broth from scratch is always best, but you can use good quality ready-made broth.  To save time, I use 100% natural, low sodium broth.  If you want a less concentrated broth, you can use 1/2 broth and 1/2 water, but you may need to add some salt.  Just make sure you have enough liquid as called for in my recipe below.

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Fish sauce goes into the broth, but a little goes a long way.  You only need a couple of tablespoons of this pungent but flavorful sauce.  Don’t omit it…while you can’t really tell it’s in the broth, you CAN tell that something is missing from it if you don’t add it.  I recommend using Three Crabs Brand fish sauce.  It’s not as pungent as most other brands.

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Look in the Hispanic foods section of your grocery store for a small package of cilantro cubes.  It will most likely be next to other bouillon-type seasonings.  I add fresh cilantro leaves to the finished dish, but adding cilantro seasoning to the broth gives it a greater depth of flavor.

Anise seed and star anise

I also use anise seed to flavor my broth.  You can find it in the spice section of your grocery store.  If you have some star anise already on hand, you can use that instead of anise seed, but you’ll need 3 whole star anise to every tablespoon of anise seed for my recipe.  If these ingredients are new to you, star anise and anise seeds are two very different spices.  Anise is an herb in the parsley family and produces small seeds with a strong, licorice-like flavor.  Star anise is the star-shaped fruit of a tree that’s a member of the magnolia family.  The two spices contain the same flavor compound, a substance called anethole, but whole star anise is a bit more bitter in my opinion.

whole clovesWhole cloves go into the broth, and like the other ingredients I described above, this packs quite a flavor punch.  You only need a few — I use about 6 in my recipe.  If you’re not familiar with whole cloves, you might recognize it as those tiny wood-like spikes studding a baked ham.  See the picture on the right for what it looks like.  You can find it in the spice section of your grocery store.

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You’ll need a few more aromatic and savory ingredients to flavor the broth. Into the pot goes some whole cinnamon sticks, chopped garlic (lots of it), and fresh ginger.

Pictured on the left (clockwise from the top) are Whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, garlic, ginger, cilantro cubes, and anise seeds.

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At the local Asian market where I live, there are several different brands and types of dried noodles.  Look for the package that says “Bánh Phở”.  This is the brand I buy (see the photo on the right).  The noodles are in little bundles within the package.  I cook about half the package for my family of four, estimating about two bundles per person (my husband, who usually orders a LARGE bowl of phở at Vietnamese restaurants, gets three bundles).

Now let’s get down to the business of making Phở.

First, you’ll need to get the broth going.  Place the broth (or broth-water mixture) in a large soup pot.

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Add the fish sauce and the rest of the herbs and aromatics (cloves, cinnamon sticks, garlic, ginger, cilantro cubes and onions).  Cover the pot and turn the heat to medium-high.  Bring this to a rolling boil.  Most of the herbs will sink to the bottom of the pot as the broth cooks.  If you have a small cheesecloth, you can place all of the aromatics in it, creating a sachet d’espice.  Or, just before serving, pour the broth through a strainer and into a large bowl, discard the aromatics then return the broth to the pot.  Bring the broth to a boil again before serving.  I actually don’t bother straining this out.  You can safely eat the cooked onions and any anise seeds that find their way into your bowl.  However, I recommend discarding any cloves, cinnamon and large pieces of ginger that accidentally get poured into your bowl.

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While the broth is happily cooking, prepare the vegetables.  Rinse the leafy greens and bean sprouts.  Slice the onions and peppers.  Arrange everything on a large platter.

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Slice the limes into wedges.  That’s hoisin sauce in the little bowl.  My youngest daughter and husband like stirring some hoisin sauce into their broth.  My oldest daughter and I prefer it without.

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Slice the beef as thinly as you can.  It’s easier to create thin slices when the meat is still partially frozen.  I like using flank steak, but you can use any cut of lean beef.  The reason for slicing the beef as thin as possible is because it’s cooked only when you pour the boiling broth over it.  If you prefer to cook the beef instead of adding it raw, it’s simple — just add the sliced beef to the pot of boiling broth.

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Once the vegetables and meat are prepped, it’s time to get the noodles going.

Set a medium pot filled 3/4 full with water to boil.

Fill a large bowl with hot water.  Add the dry noodles to the bowl.  Let the noodles soak in the hot water for about 5 minutes, or until pliable.

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As soon as the pot of water comes to a boil, and once the noodles are soft and pliable, you’ll need to cook the noodles.  Place some of the noodles in a metal colander or strainer.  Use a strainer that can fit easily into your pot of boiling water.  You’re going to submerge the strainer — noodles and all — into the hot water.  Do not dump the noodles into the pot.  The reason for using the strainer is so that you can easily lift the noodles out of the pot.

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Keep the noodles submerged in the boiling water for about a minute.  The noodles don’t take long to cook.  Lift the strainer out of the pot, allowing the water to drain out.

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Place the drained noodles into your serving bowl.

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Add some sliced beef to the bowl.

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Pour the boiling-hot broth over the meat and noodles.

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It’s important to keep the broth at a rolling boil right up until you’re ready to serve.  The hot liquid cooks the raw meat.  If you’re cooking the beef in the broth, just be sure to scoop out some meat and pour it into the bowl along with the broth.

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Add some of the sliced onion to the bowl.  The hot broth will begin to cook this too.

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Now you can add the rest of your vegetables.  I like adding a couple of handfuls of bean sprouts to my bowl.

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Add some cilantro leaves and Thai basil, tearing up large leaves into small pieces.  Add sliced peppers if you like your soup spicy.  My husband adds a Chamorro twist to this by stirring in lots of Tabasco sauce AND donne’ dinanche. 🙂

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Squeeze some lime juice over the top, and add some hoisin sauce too if you’d like.

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Serve and ENJOY!

 

Easy Phở
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Serves: 4
Ingredients
Broth:
  • 3 quarts beef broth (4 quarts if you prefer more broth than noodles)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon anise seeds
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 6-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1 medium onion, cut into large pieces
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Vegetables:
  • ½ small onion, very thinly sliced
  • 4 cups fresh bean sprouts
  • 1 bunch cilantro, leaves only
  • 1 bunch Thai basil, leaves only
  • 2 limes
Other:
  • ½ pound flank steak or other lean beef
  • 8 small bundles dry phở noodles
Optional:
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, sliced
  • 1 hot red chili pepper (Thai, Dragon, or other pepper), sliced
  • Sriracha pepper sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
Instructions
Prepare the broth:
  1. Place the broth in a large soup pot. Add the fish sauce, anise seed, cloves, cinnamon sticks, garlic, ginger and onion. Bring to a rolling boil.
Prepare the vegetables and beef:
  1. Rinse the bean sprouts, cilantro and Thai basil. Remove the thick, large stems from the cilantro and basil. Place the clean vegetables on a large serving platter along with the sliced onion and peppers.
  2. Slice the limes into thin wedges. Place on the serving platter.
  3. Slice the beef as thin as you can. It's easier to slice partially frozen meat then when it's thawed out completely. Place onto a separate serving dish.
Prepare the noodles:
  1. Fill a medium sized pot ¾ full of water; bring to a boil. Meanwhile, soak the dry noodles in a bowl of hot water. Once the noodles are pliable, place in a metal strainer, one that can fit into the pot with boiling water, and one that can be removed easily. Dip the metal strainer (with the noodles) into the boiling water. Let the noodles cook for a minute then lift the strainer from the pot and allow the water to drain. Place the noodles into your serving bowl.
Assemble the soup:
  1. Place the beef slices on top of the noodles. Pour the hot broth over the meat; the boiling hot broth will cook the raw meat. If you prefer not to use raw meat, you can add the slices of beef to the pot of hot broth to cook it.
  2. Add the thinly sliced onion next, then add the bean sprouts, cilantro and Thai basil.
  3. Add sliced peppers and pepper sauce if you like your soup spicy.
  4. Drizzle some hoisin sauce over the top if you want your broth a bit more salty.
  5. Enjoy!

 

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Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

Chicken pot pie is a favorite in my family.  There’s something about the tender chicken, delicious vegetables and cream sauce that makes us happy-happy-happy.  My favorite part of chicken pot pies, however, is the crust.  Sometimes I go the extra mile and make a homemade crust, but lately I’ve taken to using frozen puff pastry.  You can also substitute the puff pastry with biscuits (find my homemade biscuit recipe here).  Just top the filling with cut out biscuit dough and bake as directed below.

Rather than bake up individual pies, I make it casserole-style, baked in a 9×13″ pan and topped with the puff pastry.

Give my recipe a try.  I think you’ll like it. 🙂

Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 small bag baby carrots
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons powdered chicken seasoning (or you can use 3 bouillon cubes)
  • 1 small bag frozen peas (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 2 egg whites

Directions:

1. Place a large pot over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and chicken to the pot. Cook until the chicken is no longer pink. Remove the chicken from the pot; set aside.

2. In the same pot used to cook the chicken, add the onions, carrots and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent.

3. Add the mushrooms to the pot; cook until the mushrooms begin to soften.

4. Add the chicken back into the pot.

5. Stir in the flour.

6. Mix the water with the chicken seasoning then pour into the pot (or you can just add the seasoning or bouillon to the pot and pour in the water). Stir the chicken mixture as you pour the water into the pot to prevent clumping.

7. Add the half-and-half. Stir to combine the ingredients.

8. Cook for 15 minutes or until the mixture slightly thickens.

9. Add the peas to the pot.

NOTE: We forgot to add the peas when we made this last night (oops!), but this is the step where you’d do so. 🙂

Add the black pepper.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  If you like it more salty, add more chicken seasoning.

10. Pour the chicken mixture into a 9X13 pan.

11. Top the chicken mixture with the puff pastry sheets. Cut off any excess puff pastry.

12. Lightly beat the egg whites. Brush the top of the puff pastry with the beaten egg whites.

13. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown (I baked this for a few more minutes so that the puff pastry was a deeper golden brown than what’s shown in the photo below.)

14. Let the pot pie cool for about 5 minutes before cutting.

Serve and ENJOY!

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Gumbo-laya

My family loves both Gumbo and Jambalaya. Today, we couldn’t decide which dish to make so I combined the two and made a combo that I call Gumbo-laya. 😉

What’s the difference, you ask?

Gumbo is a soup, made with a base of a very dark roux (made from cooking oil and flour until it turns dark brown). Gumbo also has okra, which helps to thicken the soup. The meat in gumbo depends on what you prefer, but it usually has some type of sausage (usually pork Andouille sausage) and seafood (shrimp and lump crab meat).

Jambalaya is a rice dish (not soupy at all) where the rice is cooked with the meat, along with onions, celery, peppers, stock and seasonings. It does not contain a roux since it isn’t soupy. Jambalaya also usually adds tomatoes.

My Gumbo-laya has a combo of the two. It’s soupy, uses a roux (but not a dark one) to thicken it, has okra and tomatoes along with the trinity of onions, celery and peppers, and of course, rice too. I use a wild rice medley in this recipe to up the health factor, but you can use the rice you have on hand.

Speaking of healthy, this recipe is actually pretty nutritious, believe it or not. Aside from the 1/2 cup of flour I used to make the roux, everything else is good for you. Here are the highlights:

  • Organic chicken stock made from free-range chickens
  • Turkey kielbasa instead of traditional high-fat Andouille sausage
  • Heart healthy olive oil (a good fat), and only a couple of tablespoons, not a half CUP like traditional gumbo
  • Organic wild rice

To keep the health benefits high, you can omit the shrimp and use shredded boneless, skinless chicken breast instead.

Give my recipe a try. It’s delicious…and I think you’ll like it. 🙂

Gumbo-laya

Ingredients:

  • 1 package turkey kielbasa
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup wild rice medley
  • 3 cups sliced okra (you can use frozen okra)
  • 3 stalks green onions
  • Optional: Tabasco sauce

Directions:

1. Slice the kielbasa into 1/4-inch pieces, then cut each piece half. Place the sausage into a large soup pot.

2. Add the onions, bell peppers and celery to the pot. Cook over medium high heat until the onions are translucent.

3. Make a small well in the middle of the pot by pushing the sausage mixture to the side. Pour the olive oil into the well.

4. Pour the flour (all at once) into the well, on top of the olive oil. Stir the flour and oil together, then stir it into the sausage mixture.

5. Pour the chicken stock into the pot, stirring as you pour.

6. Add the shrimp and chopped garlic to the pot. Place a lid on the pot; continue to cook over medium high heat.

7. In a small bowl (I used the measuring cup I used for the flour–why dirty more dishes?), mix the spices/seasonings together (paprika, sea salt, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, dried oregano, dried thyme).

8. Stir the seasonings into the pot.

9. Add the drained tomatoes.

10. Add the rice.

11. Add the okra.

12. Turn the heat down to medium low and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the rice is done. Stir occassionally. Taste to adjust for seasonings. Optional: Add a few shakes of Tabasco sauce.

Sprinkle sliced green onions on top, serve and ENJOY!

 

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Beef Shank Kådu with Fresh Vegetables and Vermicelli Noodles

It’s currently 9 degrees outside, with a windchill of -11 degrees — it’s the perfect time for a pot of my delicious Beef Shank Kådu (which means soup, in Chamorro) with fresh vegetables and vermicelli noodles. Come to think of it, this soup is good at ANY time, not just when it’s cold and blustery outside. After all, we make kådu on Guam, where the temperature is in the 80’s year-round! 😉

I used beef shanks (with bones) for this recipe, but you can use any lean cuts of beef you like. I like shanks because the bone marrow in the bones give the broth an extra rich and concentrated beef flavor. Most shanks are marbled with sinew. If I’m pressed for time, I’ll cook the meat in a pressure cooker, along with some onions, garlic and water, just long enough to break down the sinew and tenderize the meat. I started this soup around 8 am, cooked the meat low and slow for a couple of hours, then added the vegetables the last half hour before eating. If you don’t braise the meat long enough, the sinew in the meat won’t break down enough and you’ll end up with tough, dry meat in your soup.

I prefer using fresh vegetables when I make soup (with the exception of canned tomatoes and corn). I know, you can cut your prep and cooking time by more than half if you use frozen vegetables, but I don’t particularly like that the frozen vegetables are cut so large (I end up cutting each one smaller–that’s very time consuming), nor do I like that it’s overcooked by the time my soup is done. Nope — it’s fresh vegetables for this soup or I don’t make it.

I know what you’re thinking by now…you’re probably thinking, “gosh, she sure is picky.” Well, for this soup, I am. I think it’s because this is how my mom made it, using vegetables picked fresh from my dad’s ranch. Sometimes we’d have wing beans and green beans in our soup, along with squash and onions. Other times we’d have fresh corn and tomatoes picked fresh off the vines.

If you thought I was picky with my choice of fresh over frozen vegetables, let me tell you about my choice of noodles. I’ve tried making this soup with rice noodles, but it’s just not the same as using vermicelli or glass noodles. There are many brands of vermicelli noodles (not the kind used for Italian pasta dishes, mind you). I like using Korean vermicelli noodles, namely the kind used for Jap Chae (or Chap Chae). If you don’t know what type to buy, go to your local Korean or Asian market and ask a clerk for Korean Jap Chae noodles.

Give my recipe a try. I think you’ll like it. 🙂

Beef Shank Kadu with Fresh Vegetables and Vermicelli Noodles

Ingredients:

  • 5 medium sized beef shanks, with bone
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder (or 6 cloves fresh garlic, minced)
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder (or 1 small onion, diced)
  • 6-8 tablespoons Dashida (Korean beef flavored powdered seasoning)
  • 10 cups water
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 (2-inch) piece of ginger root
  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 handful of green beans
  • 1 can (28 oz.) petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 can (15.25 oz.) corn kernels
  • 1 bag Korean vermicelli noodles (plus enough hot water to submerge the noodles in)

Directions:

1. Rinse each piece of meat. Trim off and discard any excess fat around the meat. Cut around the bones to separate them from the meat. Place the bones in a large stock pot over medium low heat.

2. Cut the meat into small pieces; I cut the shank meat that had a lot of sinew marbled through it into large chunks.  Place the meat into the pot. Cook over medium low heat until the meat starts to brown. After most of the meat has browned, add the black pepper, garlic and onion powders (or fresh garlic and onions), and Dashida. Stir to combine, then add the 10 cups of water. Keep the heat at medium low. With the pot covered, simmer for about 2 hours. Every now and then, skim off any fat and sediment from the surface of the broth and discard.

Tip: After cooking, let the meat and broth cool to room temperature then place in the refrigerator. After several hours, remove the solidified fat off the surface of the broth and discard. Continue with the remaining steps below.

3. While the meat is simmering away, prepare the vegetables.

Prep the carrots: Peel the carrots. Slice into sticks, then dice.

Prep the celery. Cut into sticks then dice.

Prep the ginger. Peel (scrape the skin with a spoon) then thinly slice the ginger.

Prep the potato. Peel the potato. Cut into sticks (like french fries) then dice.

Prep the beans. In my list of ingredients, I stated “a handful” of beans was enough. This is what I mean by “a handful.”

Cut the tips off the ends of the beans, then thinly slice them.

4. After a couple of hours of simmering, the sinew in the large chunks of shank meat should have broken down and softened. Remove the large chunks of meat from the pot. Let it cool then cut the meat into small pieces then return the meat to the pot.

5. Add the tomatoes (don’t forget to drain the liquid!) and cut vegetables to the pot. Stir to combine.

6. Simmer the vegetables over medium high heat for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the noodles. Place the noodles into a large bowl. Pour hot water (I used hot water from the tap) over the noodles; use enough water to completely submerge the noodles. Let the noodles sit in the hot water for 5 minutes to soften slightly. After the noodles have softened, use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the noodles into small pieces, about 3 inches in length. Drain the noodles in a colander then add them to the pot, stirring to combine.

7. Add the drained corn to the pot. Stir to combine. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, or just until the potatoes and carrots are cooked through (don’t over cook them).

8. Remove from the heat and serve while hot. ENJOY!

Save the bone marrow for me, please! 🙂

 

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Arroz Caldo

Arroz Caldo is a classic Filipino dish that made its way into Chamorro kitchens. This is my version of this delicious comfort food. It’s very quick and easy to put together. In fact, the longest part of making this dish is waiting for the rice to cook. 🙂

Give my recipe a try. I think you’ll like it. 🙂

Arroz Caldo

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 8 chicken tenders, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon achote powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 4 tablespoons powdered chicken bouillon (or 4 bouillon cubes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 cups uncooked rice
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • Hot pepper flakes

The only ingredient not shown above is the fish sauce. I like to use the brand that has three green crabs on the label; it’s not as pungent as most other brands of fish sauce. This is what the bottle looks like. You can find it at most Asian supermarkets.

Directions:

Place the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic. Stir it around in the hot oil and fry until browned slightly. Place about 3/4 of the fried garlic in a small bowl and set aside.

Add the diced onions to the pot. Cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the chicken pieces to the pot. Stir to combine with the onions.

Add the fish sauce, achote powder, ginger, chicken bouillon, and black pepper to the pot.

Stir to combine the ingredients. Cook for a couple of minutes, just long enough for the chicken to be cooked through and is no longer pink.

Pour the water into the pot. Turn the heat up to medium high.

Add the rice, stir, then cover the pot.

The easy part is done. Now for the hard part — waiting for the rice to cook. You want to cook the Arroz Caldo for about 45 minutes–this is so the rice can begin to break down and really thicken the soup.

In the meantime, you can be boiling the eggs if you haven’t already done so.

This is what the rice looks like after only 10 minutes of cooking. Give the mixture a stir, put the cover back on, and wait patiently. Trust me, it’s worth the wait. 🙂

This is what the rice and broth looks like after 20 minutes. The rice is done at this point, but you want to cook it longer so that the soup gets nice and thick. Notice that the broth is starting to thicken up a bit.  Give the soup a stir, then place the cover back on the pot. Turn the heat down to medium.

After 30 minutes, we’re almost there, but we still need to cook the soup for about 10-15 more minutes.

After 10-15 more minutes, the rice is cooked just how it should be and the soup is nice and thick — now it’s time to finish up the soup. Turn the heat down to low. Add the coconut milk to the pot.

Stir to mix the coconut milk into the soup. Cook only long enough to heat up the coconut milk — do not boil the soup. Remove from the heat.

It’s time to dish up some goodness! Pour some soup into a bowl. Garnish with green onions, fried garlic, and a couple of slices of hard-boiled eggs. If you’d like, add a lime wedge as well.

ENJOY!

 

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