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.
Having grown up overseas due to my Dad's job, and spending 6 years in Asia, I was really excited to see that this month's challenge was a noodle soup - one of my all time favourites. I mostly make Japanese Ramen, or a Chinese wonton soup, but I have not really ventured too far into Vietnamese cuisine, so I was really looking forward to this recipe. When I think of Vietnamese food, I think of fresh, tangy dishes, full of flavour and zing. This one was definately all of those! Aromatic, wholesome, tasty, and with optional levels of chilli, it was bound to please all. We had another family over for dinner the night I cooked it, and all of the kids went back for seconds - even knowing full well that there was dessert too! Us adults had to make do with the few bits and pieces that the kids left!! Both recipes were fantastic for entertaining as it could all be prepared ahead of time, and when I wanted to serve, all I had to do was bring the broth back to the boil and prepare the noodles. Everyone loved the idea of adding their own condiments at the table - they could have extras of their favourites, and leave out anything that they didn't feel like. If you would like to see a printable copy of the recipe, you can find it here: Printable Version of Vietnamese Pho. And yes, I did change one or two things. My 6 year old daughter is vegetarian, so I made a vegetarian broth and cooked the chicken fillet separately. Also, bean sprouts were unavailable (I'm in a rural area), so I substituted with fresh snow peas and sugar snap peas from my garden which I sliced as thinly as I could. They did the trick in adding a crunchy texture and freshness to the soup as bean sprouts would have. I've never used hoisin sauce as a condiment, only as a marinade, and it was fantastic!
As a little something different, Jaden gave us a second course to play with. Sweet wontons. My family are HUGE fans of all things wonton, so there was no question that I would have to make both parts of the challenge. We had never had sweet wontons before though, and I really liked the idea. In the brief, Jaden encouraged creativity not only with flavours and fillings, but with shape as well. Having spent 3 years in Japan as a child, I have always been intrigued with origami, so I figured wonton wrappers are a square...why not? The traditional crane has always been a fave, so I had to go with it. I decided to sit it atop an island of dark chocolate ganache amidst a sea of rich, luscious creme anglaise. The cranes were a little fiddly as the wrappers are much thicker than origami paper, and they tended to stretch a little out of true square when separating them, but all in all, I was thrilled with the result. Here is a printable version of Jaden's Sweet Wontons. Mine was pretty simple. The wontons were folded and then deep fried. The ganache was just one block of dark chocolate melted with half as much cream, and the creme anglaise was from Ann Amernick's book "The Art of the Dessert". Here is a printable version of her creme anglaise which I used.
Yum Yum! Bring on the November Challenge I say!!