Books/ Recipes

Book Review: Andrea Nguyen’s The Pho Cookbook

the pho cookbook chicken pho

**ARC provided by publisher via Net Galley in exchange for honest review**

Andrea Nguyen’s The Pho Cookbook is a must have for pho-lovers. Garnished with history and personal stories of her travels in Vietnam, it has an avenue for *every* cook to make pho at home. Quick or classic, vegetarian or not, the Pho Cookbook has it all. I can’t wait to fully dig in when my hard copy arrives. 5 stars.

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I grew up in and around Garden Grove, California, part of the largest Little Saigon in the United States. The number-named pho shops in Westminster were plentiful, and so were the “What the pho?” jokes with the kids I grew up with.  I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t think I actually ate pho until we moved to Seattle. I just can’t remember ever having a bowl of that deliciously beefy noodle soup at a friend’s house or a noodle shop. How is that?  We were teenagers, too busy eating In-n-Out or Taco Bell or Apollo Burger to care that pho was something delicious and special.

Making up for lost time,  I’ve made chicken pho (pho ga) at home a couple of times using a recipe from Taylor Hoang, owner of Seattle’s Pho Cyclo. I’ve done a somewhat more traditional pho broth in the slow cooker, and even used a leftover Thanksgiving turkey to make a pho-inspired broth. When I got my hands on an advance copy of Andrea Nguyen’s Pho Cookbook, I went right for the chicken. Instead of going the traditional route though, I wanted to know what you could pull off using store bought broth. And damn if Nguyen hasn’t figured out a really tasty version that you can do in about 45 minutes. It’s the kind of on-ramp that’ll give any cook the confidence to make pho at home.

Pho is usually a breakfast food, so once the sun came up on Sunday morning, I broke out my iPad and got to work. I was amazed at how clean Swanson’s boxed broth tasted — note that the low-sodium and organic low-sodium versions have different ingredient lists. Pick the non-organic. Simply simmering ginger, green onion, coriander seeds and cilantro made an extraordinarily delicious broth.

By poaching the chicken breast in the broth, you will get some schmutz in there, so straining it through cheese cloth or muslin is key if you really want a clear broth. I used a fine mesh strainer and a coffee filter, which worked ok, but takes awhile. Bottom line, the end result is really delicious, amazingly quick and I can’t wait to really get down to business once my hard copy of the book arrives.

What’s great is that the Pho Cookbook isn’t just a bunch of soup recipes. Andrea has also included a number of pho-adjacent dishes — noodle salads and pho fried rice and even a beef pho banh mi. If you’re really into banh mi, Nguyen’s got a whole separate book, the Banh Mi Handbook, that’s worth checking out.

Nguyen will be hitting the road with two stops in Seattle in April at Ba Bar South Lake Union and Book Larder in Fremont. A full list of events is on her blog, Viet World Kitchen.

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