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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.

After my first Daring Bakers challenge of vols-au-vent, I was very pleased to see the challenge for my first month of Daring Cooks was pho. Something easy!

I had never made pho before but I love making soups, so I was ready for this challenge. I went with the quick method and used store-bought organic chicken broth instead of making my own. For some reason I was excited to buy the spices I needed. My favorite local grocery store, Central Market, has a large bulk spice section that has never let me down. Buying empty jars at IKEA and filling them from the bulk section is the absolute best way to create and maintain your spice pantry, no contest. Those tiny McCormick jars are a ripoff when I can get twice as much cream of tartar for less than a dollar.

Since each person puts together their pho at the table, presentation is a big part of serving it. I don’t often get the chance to make pretty plates, but I took the time to pile up the ingredients just so, even if it would only last for five minutes.

Pho plate

I kept things simple and made my pho chicken with thin rice noodles. I couldn’t get my broth as clear as others did, perhaps because I used premade, but the flavor was amazing. I forgot about lime, and I’m not a huge fan of bean sprouts or cilantro, but they added their parts to the soup. I also put some sriracha and hoisin sauces in mine, to add heat and sweet. I really enjoyed the soup and all its layers, and it was a perfect meal for a somewhat chilly evening.


Unfortunately my husband didn’t seem to like it – not necessarily the taste, but the fact he had to “make” his soup himself. I do want to try the long version one of these days, and make a few adjustments based on the experiences other Daring Cooks had.

There was also an optional challenge to make dessert wontons. My first idea, since we had just gone to the apple orchard, was to make an apple pie wonton. Sadly I couldn’t get the filling right and it was just wonton with apple, not pie-like at all.

On my second attempt I made wonton s’mores, mainly because I had the ingredients on hand and I wanted something quick. Just some bittersweet chocolate, a couple mini marshmallows, and a roll in crushed graham crackers after frying. This was better, but I think the filling-to-wonton ratio needed to be higher, and it was hard to get the graham cracker crumbs to stick, even though I rolled them when they still had some grease from the pan.

Wonton s'mores

It was a nice departure from savory wontons, and I’m definitely going to keep trying until I come up with a great combination.

Thanks for the challenges Jaden!


  1. Gorgeous and yummy looking pho and photographs, but wow, s’more wontons are just the ultimate and yours look spectacularly nummy! Great job!

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