Pho real: Four fab Vietnamese street food recipes to make at home

Mi sui cao (Prawn dumplings with egg noodles) from Jerry Mai's cookbook.
Mi sui cao (Prawn dumplings with egg noodles) from Jerry Mai's cookbook. Photo: Chris Middleton

Bring the vibrant flavour and spirit of Vietnam's bustling streets to your kitchen with four of chef and restaurateur Jerry Mai's fab pho, dumpling and congee recipes. 

Mi sui cao (Prawn dumplings with egg noodles)

This is a really simple recipe that I always make in large batches and freeze in individual portions along with the dumplings. It makes a fantastic quick dinner when I get home late from work and am starving hungry. Just heat it up, cook some noodles and you're good to go.

Serves: 8-10

Jerry Mai's cookbook.
Jerry Mai's cookbook. Photo: Supplied

INGREDIENTS

2 tbsp vegetable oil

fresh thin egg noodles (each bundle is one serve)

80ml garlic oil

300g barbecued pork (purchased from Chinese barbecue shops), sliced

1 bunch Chinese celery, leaves roughly chopped, to garnish

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Broth

5kg chicken bones

1 daikon (white radish)

2 brown onions, peeled

1 garlic bulb, halved

60g sea salt

150g castor sugar

200ml fish sauce

Sui cao

500g green prawns, peeled and deveined

2 spring onions, thinly sliced

50g wood ear mushrooms, minced

1 shallot, minced

1 garlic clove, minced pinch of ground white pepper

2 tbps fish sauce

1 tbps castor sugar

200g packet wonton wrappers

To serve

500g bean sprouts

4 long red chillies, sliced

2 lemons, cut into wedges

soy sauce

METHOD

1. To make the broth, rinse the chicken bones to remove any blood or splinters. Transfer the bones to a large stockpot and cover with 8 litres cold water. Bring to the boil, skimming off any impurities that rise to the surface. Add the daikon, onion and garlic, then reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours.

2. Meanwhile, make the sui cao. Using a knife, roughly mash the prawn meat. Transfer to a large bowl and add the spring onion, wood ear mushroom, shallot, garlic and white pepper. Mix well and season with the fish sauce and sugar.

3. To wrap the sui cao, place 1 teaspoon of the prawn mixture in the centre of a wonton skin. Moisten the edges with a little water and fold diagonally in half into a triangle. Push out any air that may be trapped in the dumpling. Dab the corners with a little more water, then bring the corners round to meet each other and firmly seal. Repeat until you've used all the filling and wonton wrappers.

4. When the broth is ready, season with the salt, sugar and fish sauce. Strain into a clean saucepan and discard the solids. Keep warm over low heat.

5. Bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil. Add the sui cao in small batches and cook for 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked dumplings to a plate and lightly drizzle with the vegetable oil to prevent them sticking.

6. In the same pan of boiling water, cook one roll of noodles at a time. Using tongs, move the noodles around to release the starch. Remove after 1 minute and run under cold water, then return to the boiling water for 15 seconds, strain again and transfer to a serving bowl. Lightly drizzle with garlic oil, then repeat with the remaining noodles and garlic oil.

7. Assemble the barbecued pork and sui cao on top of the noodles. Ladle over the broth and garnish with the celery leaves. Serve with the bean sprouts, sliced chilli, lemon wedges and soy sauce on the table for guests to help themselves.

Chao ga (Chicken congee) from Street Food Vietnam by Jerry Mai.
Photography © Chris Middleton
Recipe for Good Food June, 2019. Not to be reused.

Warm, comforting and filling congee. Photo: Chris Middleton

Chao ga (Chicken congee)

Chicken congee is our go-to staff meal at Annam over the winter months. It's warm, comforting and filling, and super easy to make.

Serves: 4

INGREDIENTS

200g jasmine rice

2 tbsp sea salt

1 tbsp castor sugar

ground white pepper, to garnish

1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced, to garnish

Chicken broth

1kg chicken bones

1 × 1kg free-range chicken

1 onion, peeled

2 garlic cloves

To serve

1 lemon, cut into wedges

4 bird's eye chilies, sliced (optional)

1kg bean sprouts

3 tbsp fried shallots

Maggi seasoning

METHOD

1. To make the broth, rinse the chicken bones to remove any blood and splinters. Transfer to a large stockpot, add the chicken and cover with 3 litres water. Bring to the boil, skimming off any impurities that rise to the top, then reduce the heat to a simmer, add the onion and garlic and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the chicken from the broth and set aside to cool. Strain the broth and discard the solids.

2. Place the rice and 2 litres of the chicken broth in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and cook for 40 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked. The broth should be thick from the rice and resemble a porridge. Season with the salt and sugar.

3. Tear the meat from the chicken and add to the rice porridge. Discard the bones.

4. To serve, ladle the congee into bowls and garnish with the pepper and spring onion. Serve with lemon wedges, sliced chilli (if using), bean sprouts and Maggi seasoning in the centre of the table for people to add to their own congee.

Pho chay (Mushroom and tofu pho) from Street Food Vietnam by Jerry Mai.
Extract from Street Food Vietnam by Jerry Mai, published by Smith Street Books Australia, RRP AU$35.
Photography © Chris Middleton
Recipe for Good Food June, 2019. Not to be reused.

A great vegetarian option. Photo: Chris Middleton

Pho chay (Mushroom and tofu pho)

Pho chay is a great noodle soup option for those who don't eat meat. Feel free to add other vegies to the broth if you like, but root vegetables and cabbage tend to result in a more rounded flavour.

Serves: 6-8

INGREDIENTS

1kg fresh pho noodles (see note)

500g organic tofu, cut into 2cm cubes

200g enoki mushrooms, separated into clumps

200g oyster mushrooms

1 red onion, thinly sliced

1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced

1 bunch coriander, leaves picked

Broth

2 carrots

1 small wombok (Chinese cabbage) white cabbage

250g ginger, unpeeled

1 onion, unpeeled

1 garlic bulb, unpeeled, halved

4 star anise

1 black cardamom pod

1 small stick cassia bark

50g coriander seeds

3 tbsp salt, to taste

1 tbsp castor sugar, to taste

Accompaniments

500g bean sprouts

1 bunch Thai basil

5 bird's eye chillies, sliced

3 lemons, cut into wedges

hoi sin sauce

METHOD

1. To make the broth, place the carrots, wombok and cabbage in a 10 litre stockpot and cover with water to nearly the top of the pot. Place over high heat, bring to the boil and skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Reduce to a simmer.

2. Meanwhile, roast the ginger, onion and garlic over a gas stovetop or barbecue flame, or under the grill until the skins are blistered and aromatic. Rinse off any burnt bits and add, whole, to the broth.

3. Toast the star anise, cardamom pod, cassia bark and coriander seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat until fragrant. Tie the spices in a square of muslin (cheesecloth) and drop it into the broth. Continue to simmer the broth over medium heat for 5-6 hours until it has reduced by 20-30 per cent. Strain the broth into a clean saucepan and season with the salt and sugar. Return the broth to a simmer. Discard the solids.

4. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Blanch individual portions (see note) of the pho noodles (about 120g-150g per person) for 10 seconds, then transfer to large noodle bowls. Evenly divide the tofu and mushrooms among the bowls, pour over the hot broth and top with the onion, spring onion and coriander.

5. Place the accompaniments on a serving platter and place in the centre of the table. Serve the pho and invite guests to season and flavour their own dish.

Pho ga (Chicken pho) from Street Food Vietnam by Jerry Mai.
Extract from Street Food Vietnam by Jerry Mai, published by Smith Street Books Australia, RRP AU$35.
Photography © Chris Middleton
Recipe for Good Food June, 2019. Not to be reused.

A great entry-level pho that's delicate and light-tasting. Photo: Chris Middleton

Pho ga (Chicken pho)

For the uninitiated, this is a great entry-level pho. Pho ga has a delicate and light-tasting broth that contrasts wonderfully with the bold-tasting flavours of the accompaniments.

Serves: 8-10

INGREDIENTS

2kg fresh pho noodles (see note)

1 brown onion, thinly sliced

1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced

1 bunch coriander, leaves picked

Broth

3kg chicken bones

1 old hen or stewing bird (optional)

200g piece of ginger, unpeeled

2 large brown onions, unpeeled

1 garlic bulb, unpeeled, halved

1 × 1kg free-range chicken

6 star anise

2 black cardamom pods

1 small stick cassia bark

50g coriander seeds

3 tbsp sea salt

200ml fish sauce

50g castor sugar

Accompaniments

1 kg bean sprouts

2 bunches Thai basil

6 bird's eye chillies, sliced

3 lemons, cut into wedges

sriracha chilli sauce

hoi sin sauce

lemongrass sate* 

fish sauce

METHOD

1. To make the broth, rinse the chicken bones to remove any blood and splinters, then transfer to a 10 litre stockpot. Fill the pot with enough cold water to cover the bones, then place over high heat and bring to the boil. Boil the bones for 20-30 minutes, until no more blood comes to the surface. Drain and discard the cooking liquid, and rinse any remaining blood or impurities from the bones. Return the bones to a clean stockpot and add the old hen (if using). Cover with water to nearly the top of the pot and bring back to the boil.

2. Meanwhile, roast the ginger, onion and garlic over a gas stovetop or barbecue flame, or under the grill (broiler) until the skins are blistered and aromatic. Rinse off any burnt bits and add, whole, to the broth, along with the whole chicken. Poach the chicken for 15-20 minutes until cooked through, then remove from the broth and set aside to cool.

3. Remove the chicken meat from the bones and return the bones to the broth. Tear the chicken meat into smaller pieces and set aside.

4. Toast the star anise, cardamom pods, cassia bark and coriander seeds in a dry frying pan over medium heat until fragrant. Tie the spices in a square of muslin (cheesecloth) and drop it into the broth. Continue to gently simmer the broth over medium heat for a further 4-5 hours until the broth has reduced by 20-30 per cent.

5. When the stock is ready, remove and discard the bones, old hen and spices. Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan. Season the stock with the salt, fish sauce and sugar. Return to a low heat and simmer until ready to serve.

6. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Blanch individual portions (see note) of the pho noodles (about 120g-150g per person) for 10 seconds, then transfer to large noodle bowls. Evenly divide the chicken among the bowls, pour over the hot stock and top with the onion, spring onion and coriander.

7. Place the accompaniments on a serving platter and place in the centre of the table. Serve the pho and invite guests to season and flavour their own dish.

Note: Fresh pho noodles can be purchased from most Asian supermarkets. If you are unable to find them, you can also use dried thin rice stick noodles (sometimes referred to as pad thai noodles). Cook according to the packet instructions, then drain and divide among noodle bowls. It's best to use an Asian noodle-blanching basket to cook the noodles. These can be purchased from Asian kitchen supply stores or online.

*Sage xa (Lemongrass sate)

This sate is great to have on hand. You can use it to marinate meats and seafood before grilling or just as a simple accompaniment to soups or as a dipping sauce. Make the full recipe, and keep anything you don't use in a sterilised sealed jar in the fridge, where it will keep for up to six months.

INGREDIENTS

6 lemongrass stalks, white part only, sliced

15 long red chillies, sliced

6 bird's eye chillies, sliced

3 brown onions, chopped

12 garlic cloves

1.5 litres vegetable oil

150ml fish sauce

METHOD

1. In a food processor, individually blitz the lemongrass, long chillies, bird's eye chillies, onion and garlic.

2. Place the glitzed onion in a square of muslin (cheesecloth) and squeeze out and discard any excess liquid.

3. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over low heat to 80C on a kitchen thermometer. Stirring regularly throughout the whole process to avoid burning, empty the onion from the muslin into the oil and cook for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes, then add both the chillies and cook for 20-30 minutes. Finally, add the lemongrass and fish sauce and cook for 20 minutes or until the sate is a rich red colour.

4. Set aside to cool completely, then spoon into a sterilised jar and seal. The sate will keep in the fridge for up to 6 months.

This is an edited extract from Street Food Vietnam by Jerry Mai, published by Smith Street Books Australia, RRP AU$35. Photography by Chris Middleton.