Best Pho Tai Ever!

Ingredients:

Broth –

  • 5 lbs. of beef/pork neck bones (this is a beef soup but I used pork bones to help sweeten the broth)
  • 2-3 lbs. of beef marrow bones
  • 2 pieces of fresh ginger (about 2-4 inches long), halved and smashed
  • 2 large onions, halved
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil (to help broil the ginger and onions)
  • 2 carrots, quartered (optional, this helps make the broth sweet)
  • 3 tablespoons of brown sugar (Optional: additional 2 tablespoons of white/cane sugar based on your taste)
  • ¾ cup of Vietnamese fish sauce (this is a lot but there is a lot of broth to flavor)
  • 1 tbs. of salt
  • 1 packet of Pho spice pouch
  • 2 Pho soup cubes
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • Fill a 12 quart stockpot ¾ of the way full of water
  • 8 quart stockpot to soak the bones

Accoutrements – (all optional toppings for your bowl)

  • 2 ½ lbs. of beef round eye, thinly sliced/paper thin
  • The meat from the beef/pork neck bones
  • 1-2 bags of dried pho rice noodles (flat, round, large, thin, whatever you prefer)
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped
  • 1 large yellow/white onion, halved and then thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch of bean sprouts
  • 1 bunch of Thai basil
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (and seeded for less heat)
  • 2 red chili peppers, chopped
  • 2 limes cut into wedges
  • Bunch of baby bok choy, stalks torn off or cut off from the stem (this is not typical for Vietnamese pho but I like to add it to have a vegetable in the soup)
  • Ground black and white pepper
  • Sriracha/Fine Chili Sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Fish sauce (if you would like to add more to your bowl)

Directions:

  1. In a large stockpot (I use a 12 quart All Clad stockpot), fill it ¾ of the way with water and turn heat on high and cover. It’s going to take awhile for it to come to a boil.
  2. In a separate smaller stockpot (I use an 8 quart All Clad stockpot), place the pork and beef bones and cover with water, add about a tablespoon of salt and let it soak. This will help clean your bones when you boil them later. It’s an added step but a definite time saver in the end when you don’t have to ladle out the top of your soup to keep it clean and clear. Drain and rinse thoroughly to make sure the bones are clean after 30-60 minutes.
  3. While the bones are soaking in the salt water, prepare the onions and ginger for charring. Cut and onions in half. Cut the ginger pieces in half and smash them so that they are not one solid piece. I don’t have a meat tenderizer so I used the back of my stainless steel ladle and smashed the ginger on the skin side. If you don’t have a gas stove to char you can broil the onions and ginger in the oven. Use tin foil and cover a baking pan. Add the onions and ginger and coat generously with cooking oil. This will help them brown in the oven. Broil for 5-7 minutes on each side or until they are slightly browned. When finished peel the skins off and can place them into the large stockpot that should be heating with water.
  4. After rinsing out the bones, in the same pot, add water back into the pot and boil for 5-10 minutes until the bones look cooked on the outside and the water is not clear. Drain the water again and rinse the bones again. This is to help keep your broth clean and clear. Trust me, it’s so worth it and you’re not losing any flavor either!
  5. When done cleaning the bones, place them into the large stockpot of boiling water along with the charred onions and ginger.
  6. When the large pot has come to a boil add your tea strainer with all the spices and pho cubes. I have a large tea strainer and I add my pho packet inside along with the other dried spices. Let them soak in the boiling pot for an hour. Remove from pot when done and discard contents. Make sure the water is at a low simmer.
  7. Add 1 tbs. of salt and ¾ cup of fish sauce and let the broth simmer for an hour at a low heat, partially covered with a lid. Don’t let the broth boil vigorously. You can remove the onions and ginger if they start to break up in your broth. If your broth is not clean skim the top with a spoon and discard it to keep your broth clear. If you’ve soaked and cleaned your bones then you shouldn’t really have to do this much.
  8. After simmering at low boil for a couple of hours, you can also remove the bones. They should be fork tender and fall apart. You can break this up with a fork and also add it to the individual bowls later.
  9. While the broth is simmering you can prepare all of your vegetables and fixings to add in the bowls.
  10. Skim the broth at the top for any impurities and fat and adjust your seasoning to taste by adding salt, fish sauce or sugar. The broth can simmer for 2-4 hours for best tasting results.
  11. Soak the pho noodles in hot water as per directed by the package instructions.
  12. 5 minutes before serving add in the bok choy into the large pot if so desired but this is not part of authentic Vietnamese pho. I just like to add it in for extra vegetables and it doesn’t take way from the rest of the pho taste and experience.
  13. Using a spider ladle (looks like a strainer) dip the strainer into the broth with the noodles to reheat them. Put it into a bowl.
  14. Add about 5-6 slices of the rare beef and any of the meat from the bones into the individual bowls along with the green and white onions to the hot noodles.
  15. Make sure the broth from the pot is boiling and very hot before pouring it into the bowl. Using a large soup ladle, pour the broth into the bowl. The hot broth should cook the rare beef in the bowls. You can also add in the bok choy at this time, if you added it to the pot.
  16. Add in any other accoutraments and sauces that you like, lime juice, ground black pepper and ground white pepper to taste.

Tips:

I get my local grocery store to machine cut the beef round eye into paper thin slices for me. This saves a lot of time. If your grocery store can’t do that for you then you can partially freeze the meat for about 15 to 20 minutes until it is firm. Then take it out and slice it paper thin.

Cheat Chicken Phở ~ with Lemongrass & Ginger Chicken

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When you have a choice, always choose Phở. You just can’t go wrong and there are so many variations to choose from; beef, meatballs, chicken, seafood, vegetarian, etc. How can you go wrong with the national dish of Viet Nam? I don’t know if that’s true or not but I’ve never met a Vietnamese person who didn’t like phở or who’s family didn’t make it. It’s like how pizza and hamburgers are to Americans.8-)

But first, let’s step back for a minute and talk about the pronunciation of the word, Phở. Please click on the You Tube link for the pronunciation, PLEASE, I beg of you! It sounds more like “fuh” and not with the long “0” sound like I hear a lot of people say. That is like nails on a chalkboard to me. I’ve taught my husband who is not Vietnamese how to say it and even he corrects people now. It’s a phenomenon people, get on board.

Now, onto the good stuff. I call this “Cheat Chicken Phở” because I’m not making the broth from meat and bones. I’m using a soup base and adding some spices so you know there’s very little fat in this. I’m also baking marinated chicken in the oven instead of the traditional method of boiling the chicken and bones and shredding it after. My husband doesn’t like the taste of boiled chicken so I’m trying out a more flavorful way of cooking the chicken this time.

First I turned the oven on to broil and cut a large onion in half. A small or medium-sized onion would’ve worked also. I saved the other half to slice later to garnish the phở bowl. I also peeled the skin off of a knub of ginger. Then I drizzled some extra virgin olive oil on it to help it brown. If you have a gas stove top you can just brown them on there without the oil.

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This is what it will look like out of the broiler after 5 minutes and the best part is you can just toss the tin foil afterward.

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I took the other half of the onion and thinly sliced it.

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WARNING: I strongly advise you use gloves whenever you chop chili peppers and jalapeño peppers! I think I picked these gloves up at Dollar Tree.

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I just use whatever I had in my fridge for the garnish; sliced white onions, chopped green onions, lime wedges and jalapeños and chili peppers. I didn’t have cilantro but I did have some fresh basil that I garnished on top later. It helps to have all of your accoutrements ready to go when the phở is ready to eat.

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For the chicken, I used thinly sliced breasts and marinated them with lemongrass and ginger paste, fish sauce and soy sauce, salt and pepper and extra virgin olive oil. I placed them in a pan and baked them in a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes, turning them over half way through.

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This is what the chicken looked like when they were done cooking and resting before I sliced into them.

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While the chicken is resting, you can put together the spices. I use a large tea strainer to hold all of my spices and it conveniently has a hook on it to keep it from sinking into the pot. I also used a mortar to crush the coriander seeds before I added it to the tea strainer.

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Since I wasn’t cooking any meat and bones to make the broth I used these pho bouillon cubes to help flavor it instead. You can use this for beef or chicken phở.

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After you broil the onion and ginger, you can add it into a pot of boiling water with the strainer of the spices, the bouillon cubes, fish sauce, salt and sugar.

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At the same time that you have a pot of water boiling for the pho you can start another one to boil the rice noodles. These are pretty easy to find at your local grocery store in the ethnic foods section.

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While the broth is boiling, slice the chicken into bite-size pieces against the grain.

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Traditional pho takes at least 6 hours to cook so that the spices and flavors are concentrated. This Cheat Phở is ready right away because you’re not waiting for the bones to cook and the flavors to absorb into the broth. You can assemble it once the noodles are done cooking and then pour the hot boiling broth on top.

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I taste-tested the recipe at lunch 😉 and then assembled these bowls for dinner. Sadly my youngest child, Lucy does not eat pho yet so I gave her some of the chicken and some left over pasta for dinner. I’m still working on her and haven’t given up yet. After all, she is part Vietnamese!

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Although Lucy didn’t eat it she still loved smelling the aroma of the spices while I was cooking. She also wanted me to take a picture of our Lazy Susan in the center of our table with all the sauces and accoutrements. She has this weird thing of loving watching me add all of the sauces in and the basil, cilantro and bean sprouts (which I didn’t have) and squeezing in the fresh lime juice. I imagine it’s like watching a ritual for her. I’m hoping this will translate into her eating it one day. We just got her to love eating Vietnamese egg rolls last year so baby steps.

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So after my little experiment of not cooking the chicken on the bone in the broth and baking it instead, my husband and oldest daughter declared it was the BEST Cheat Chicken Phở I’ve ever made. MAD Goddess For The Win!

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I’ll post the exact ingredients shortly but wanted to get the method on here first.

 

 

Vietnamese Tofu Tomato Soup

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Please, if you haven’t run for the hills yet then at least read the recipe and then you can add whatever you like in it if you’re not a tofu fan. I even used basil instead of cilantro for the cilantro haters!

Seriously though, this is a childhood favorite of mine and something that my mom used to make all the time. It brings back so many fond memories of my mom cooking in our old kitchen and me just watching her do her magic.

A traditional Vietnamese family meal would consist of steamed rice, a meat dish, a vegetable dish and a soup and the whole family would share it. The dishes would be in the center of the table and each family member would have a small bowl with rice. We used our chopsticks to pickup the food and then eat it in our rice bowl. Unlike American traditions, the last part of the meal is the soup. We would pour the soup into our rice bowls to finish it off with our remaining rice.

Ingredients

  • 14 oz. package of extra firm tofu, sliced into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 stalks of green onion, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced into bite-sized pieces about the same size as the tofu
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce to stew the tomatoes and onions and 2 tablespoons of fish sauce for the broth
  • Cilantro/basil for garnish
  • Sriracha hot sauce, optional

Here’s a the tofu package that I used that I bought from Kroger. Normally I buy the extra firm tofu that is already pre-sliced.

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It just saves me a step but no biggie, it’s not like tofu is hard to cut.8-) IMG_8042

I laid the tofu on the side and first cut it in half length-wise. Then I sectioned it into thirds and then cut it into half-inch sized pieces.

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I used a small 6 quart sauce pan because I wasn’t planning on making a lot of soup. On medium heat, sauté the onions and garlic for a couple of minutes and lightly salt and pepper. I like to add salt and pepper to every layer so that it is well seasoned. Then add the tomatoes, fish sauce and black pepper.

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When the tomatoes have been stewed for a few minutes, add water to the pot about 3/4 of the way full. Turn the heat on high and add the tofu, rest of the green onions, fish sauce, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Let it simmer on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes until the soup has reduced a little.

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Spoon into a bowl and add fresh basil or cilantro to serve.

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A more traditional Vietnamese way of making this soup is frying the tofu pieces first. You could do that but I think this is a quicker, healthier version of it. Sometimes I like to add in chopped chicken breast or ground pork as another protein in the soup if I have some left over from another dish I’m making that day. I suppose if you are not a tofu fan at all you could omit it and just use another protein like chicken, pork or shrimp.  That’s not really the soup I’m making here but as always, if you like the basis of the soup then you can change it up according to your liking. You could also use a chicken stock or vegetable stock as well but I’m fine with just the water as long as it is well seasoned.

Oh and by the way, if you haven’t figured out by now that Vietnamese cooking requires fish sauce then you might not want to read the rest of my blog posts.;-)

Thai-Vietnamese Curry Chicken Noodle Soup

Serves: 6 to 8               Prep Time: 30 minutes              Cook Time: 15 to 20 minutes

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I’ve never done this before but I made this dish on a Friday night and then three days later I made it AGAIN! That’s how much we liked it. Except, I can’t leave well enough alone and had to put my Vietnamese spin on it. I first found the recipe on Pinterest for 15 Minute Coconut Curry Noodle Soup and since I already had most of the ingredients I thought I’d try it. I love to take simple recipes that are easy to make and then add more depth and flavor to them by adding more spices and ingredients such as veggies.

This photo below was my 10 year old daughter’s bowl and yes, she actually ate it!

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The photos that have more of a red sauce are from the original recipe and the photos that have less red in them are the ones from when I added my additional spices to it. I’ve also added in links to products that I use if you would like to see brand suggestions. Most of my links are to websites where you can purchase the items if you do not have an Asian grocery store near you, like Amazon for instance since they seem to carry most items.

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(I forgot to include the coconut milk cans in this photo.)

Here’s the original recipe with my changes and additions below in blue.

Ingredients – 

Soup Base

  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemongrass, grated OR 1 tablespoon of lemongrass paste OR 1 tablespoon of lemongrass powder (fresh is always best)

Here’s a photo of the kind I have in my pantry that I picked up at our Asian grocery store.

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  • 3 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons of madras curry powder (This is what gives it the Vietnamese/Indian curry flavor. You could use curry powder for convenience but it just won’t have all of the same spices in it.) 

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  • 1-2 tablespoons of light brown sugar (to counteract the savory spices, add to-taste)
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to-taste

Other Ingredients

  • 8 oz. boneless chicken breast or thighs, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 4 cups chicken broth (=32 oz. box of chicken broth)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cans of coconut milk OR 1 can of coconut milk + 1 can of light cow’s milk for less fat
  • 16 oz. dried rice vermicelli noodles OR flat rice noodles

Vegetables (and other optional ingredients) – sautéed in a separate pan before adding to the broth

  • 1 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 1 carrot, shaved with a peeler so they are thinly sliced
  • 1 red and 1 orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup of shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thick slices
  • 8 oz. of shrimp, de-shelled, deveined with tail on

Garnish

  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Sliced red onion, cilantro, green scallions to garnish
  • Thai basil
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Sriracha sauce
  • Red chili peppers, chopped

Preparation – 

  • Chop all of the ingredients and set them aside.

(I had chopped all my vegetables for the week earlier in the day and this is a photo of them.)

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  • Thinly slice the chicken breasts on a diagonal and set aside.
  • In a large pot over high heat, prepare the noodles per the package instructions. If you don’t have or can’t find flat rice noodles you can use 4 Ramen noodles packages, leaving out the spice packets.
  • While the noodles are being prepared, in a large frying pan over medium heat, add the oil, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and add salt and pepper. Sauté until browned. Set aside.

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  • In another large soup pot over medium heat, add the coconut oil, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and Thai red curry paste and sauté for about 5 minutes.

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  • Then add the chicken and cook for a few minutes until the chicken is cooked.

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  • Add the chicken broth, water, fish sauce and coconut milk. Bring to a boil and add the vegetables and the rest of the spices (madras curry powder, brown sugar and bay leaf). Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  • Then pour the boiling soup over noodles prepared and set into a bowl.
  • Garnish with your favorite toppings. I have diced scallions, red onions and basil below. You can use cilantro as well.

Enjoy!

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Won Ton Noodle Soup

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To me comfort food is something in a bowl, a hot soup with a clear broth filled with delicious savory flavors and noodles. Something that takes me back to my childhood, when my mom would be cooking in the kitchen brewing over a big pot of broth and making something filled with warmth and love. It’s my Ratatouille movie moment when the restaurant critic is blasted back to his youth when he takes in his first bite. To me, that’s in my won ton soup. The flavors of the grated ginger inside the perfect bite of pork that melts in your mouth with each won ton while you slurp the hot chicken broth is transforming and time stands still with each bite.

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It takes about an hour to make this dish from beginning to end but each time I make it I tell myself it is worth every bite and every minute it takes because it’s that good and comforting. Tonight my family loved it and my nine year old deemed it her #1 dinner! She said she didn’t know that her mouth would be bursting with the great ginger flavor until she took her first bite and that it was unexpected. She loved it! I used a little more ginger than usual this time because I really like the flavor. It’s a strong flavor but I just love it. Here are the ingredients you will need to make this dish;

Won tons:

  • 1-12 oz. (approx. 50) Package of Nasoya small square won ton wrappers (can usually find near tofu/organic section in produce, I buy Nasoya brand)
  • 1 lb. of ground pork (I buy lean ground pork)
  • 1/2 lb. of medium shrimp, peeled, deveined & cut into pea-sized pieces (optional)
  • Handful of shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped (optional), make sure they are the same size as the shrimp and/ other ingredients
  • 2-3 Shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 scallions, white part only, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. to 1 Tbs. of freshly grated ginger, depending on your preference

Mix together the rest of the wet ingredients and spices in a small bowl and then combine with the won ton filling mixture:

  • 1 tsp. of corn starch
  • 1 tsp. of sesame oil
  • 3/4 tsp. of salt
  • 1/4 tsp. of ground black pepper
  • 1-2 Tbs. of soy sauce (add more soy sauce if you are not using fish sauce)
  • 1-2 Tbs. of Vietnamese fish sauce (optional but I have found it in Target if you are not near an Asian super market)

Soup broth:

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. of canola/vegetable oil/coconut oil (whatever you prefer)
  • 3 (32 oz.) cartons of chicken broth (12 cups total), with 1/4 cup dried shrimp added during simmering (optional)
  • 1-2 Tbs. of low sodium or regular Soy sauce (add more if you are not using fish sauce)
  • 1-2 Tbs. of fish sauce (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • dash of black pepper
  • 16 fluid-ounces of water
  • 1 lb of Egg noodles (optional), cooked in boiling water for 2-3 minutes, drained and flushed with cold water. If I don’t have any egg noodles I will use 2 packages of Ramen noodles, just the noodles.
  • Vegetables of your preference: baby spinach, bok choy, mushrooms, etc.
  • Shrimp – you can also add some cooked shrimp to your bowl

Garnish: (All optional to your taste)

  • Sesame seed oil and/ chili oil, drizzled on top of the bowl
  • Sriracha hot sauce, to-taste
  • Chopped cilantro, scallions, thinly sliced white onions
  • Ground white and black pepper
  • Chili-Garlic mix

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One of the greatest inventions and one of my favorite kitchen gadgets that make sense is the microplane zester! This thing is so cool and not like other gadgets that just take up space in your kitchen when you could easily use a knife or spoon. I usually use it to grate fresh ginger or chocolate and even parmesan cheese. Fresh nutmeg adds a nice touch of flavor too.

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In a large bowl combine the minced shallots, garlic and grated ginger with the ground pork. Add the fish sauce and soy sauce and ground black pepper. Using a spatula or large spoon gently stir the ingredients together but not to over mix, this will make the filling tough. Then layout the won ton wrappers across a cutting board and fill each wrapper with about a tablespoon of the filling, about a bite size each. Using a basting brush wet all four sides of the wrapper. Pinch together two opposite ends of the wrapper and then the other two opposite ends so the edges all meet up at the top in a point. Make sure there are no air bubbles, gaps or openings in the won ton. You want to seal up the won ton completely or else your filling will end up breaking up all over your broth. I usually try to wet 3 to 4 wrappers at a time. Repeat until all of the wrappers and or filling are gone. This should make about 48-50 won tons. You could also add chopped shrimp and or finely chopped shitake mushrooms in the filling. I like to keep it simple so everyone in my family will eat it but it would certainly enhance the flavor!

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You can make the won tons ahead of time and refrigerate them until you are ready to serve but don’t cook all of the won tons at once. Only cook the ones you are ready to eat and refrigerate the rest. You will be able to make several meals from this and you can also pan fry them as dumplings too. When you are ready to eat, use half of the minced garlic and brown them in about a tablespoon of cooking oil on medium heat in a large pot.

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Be sure not to burn the garlic. Immediately once the garlic is browned (about 30 seconds to a minute), add the chicken stock. Add water using about a 1-4 ratio of water to chicken stock and 2-3 tablespoons of fish sauce to your liking and turn on high heat and cover until boiling. If you’re not use to using fish sauce and are intimidated by it don’t worry. It really enhances the flavor. Once the broth has come to a boil, add the won tons that you are serving only and cook for 5-6 minutes on medium heat. You can estimate serving 4-6 won tons per person. If you would like, you can add in fresh baby spinach or bok choy about a minute before the won tons will be done to wilt them. Drizzle some sesame seed and/ chili oil on top with ground black pepper and/or white ground pepper to-taste. I like to add a little Sriracha as well.

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I can’t believe my family gobbled this all up and asked for seconds. Guess it was comforting to them as well.:)