No, I am not heading off to South East Asia any time soon. I have, however, been making a lot of Asian inspired food this summer. It's hot, it's sticky, we're all sweating and I do not feel like slaving away in front of a stove or oven to make dinner. My go to of late has been quick, easy and delicious without much effort. I love the flavours of South East Asia. Hot, sour, umami, fragrant and fresh all in one mouthful. If you sweat its from the heat of the chilli and you're instantly refreshed by the flavours of crisp mint, lemon grass and spring onions. Another bonus is most of the recipes I have been making take minutes to throw together.
A favourite in our house in Pho (pronounced fuh). I love the lightness of this dish, but it is so incredibly comforting and nourishing that it can be eaten in the heat of summer or the depths of winter. The flavours are full and savoury, bright and vibrant. You can find a number of recipes online for Pho and when made from scratch you may think I am mad for suggesting this is an easy fix. BUT, if you know me and have been following our blog or Instagram page for some time, you will know I am forever making stock and stashing it in the freezer for a rainy day. Although not rainy at the moment, pre-made stock makes this process a lot easier. Traditionally Pho is made with thinly sliced beef that cooks in the broth when served but this is a variation on the theme using chicken.
Nix's Chicken Pho
1.5 - 2 Litres clarified chicken stock (pre-made using roasted bones or the carcass of a roast chicken)
1 Thumb size knob of ginger, peeled
2 Whole cinnamon sticks
6 Star anise
6 Whole Cloves
1 Cardamom pod
1 Tbsp Fish Sauce (Nam Pla)
2 Tbsp Light Soya Sauce
Salt to taste
3 Chicken breasts, poached in a little bit of plain chicken stock and shredded
Flat rice noodles, cooked and refreshed in cold water as per pack instructions, 1 nest per person
Shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and finely sliced
6 Spring onions, washed and finely sliced
1 Cup picked fresh mint and Thai basil leaves
2 Red chillis finely sliced
1 1/2 Cups bean sprouts,
1 Lime quartered
Freshly ground black pepper
Lightly toast the dry spices in a pan for 1 minute. Set a large pot on the stove on a medium heat and add the chicken stock, toasted spices, ginger, fish sauce and soy sauce. Bring to the boil and then lower the temperature. Allow to simmer for 20 - 30 minutes to infuse the flavours. Do a taster and adjust the seasoning, soy and fish sauce to your palate.
In your serving bowls portion out the cooked noodles, shredded chicken and shiitake. Strain the stock, removing the spices and then portion between the bowls over the noodles and chicken. Serve straight away with the spring onions, bean sprouts, fresh herbs, chilli, black pepper and lime on the side.
Each person can adjust the seasoning and condiments as they like. I also leave a bottle sriracha on the side if anyone wants to add an extra kick of heat to their meal.
Simple, tasty, heart warming and refreshing.
Picture credits to @lelencjud my fabulous photographer friend
Good food is very often, even most often, simple food. - Anthony Bourdain