Easy Chicken Pho

As with so many of my recipes, this is not truly authentic. I’m lucky there are many Vietnamese restaurants in Southern California that serve delicious gluten-free pho (both beef and chicken). I’m also aware that every place I’ve ever gone has a slightly different variation of the broth.

Some are salty and a bit spicy. Some have a bit more sweetness. Most are very rich, with intense meat or vegetable flavor.

These different flavor profiles make me confident my soup is just fine for those times when I don’t want to venture outside to get my pho fix. And when I say this soup is addictive, you can either take my word for it, or, well, become an addict yourself!

Yes, beef pho is traditional, but I haven’t mastered a good beef broth (I’ve mastered an okay beef broth), so I stick with chicken when I’m dining at home. Some things, I believe, are best left to the experts.

Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry

This is a great, easy recipe for weeknight meals. Soy sauce and fish sauce marinate the chicken. A bit of brown sugar added to the final stir fry adds a touch of sweetness and helps caramelize the chicken while it’s cooking. Bright green broccoli is the final touch in this fast meal.

Larb, or Ground Meat Lettuce Cups

While you may not have heard of larb by that name, you are likely familiar with the variation known as “lettuce cups”. Lettuce cups often feature Chinese flavors while larb tends to be spicier, with flavors of Thailand and Laos.

This ground meat dish features lime juice, fish sauce, chiles, and herbs. You can use any type of ground meat, though chicken seems to be the most traditional. Serve in lettuce cups and make a little extra sauce for spooning over the completed dish if you’d like.

Once interesting ingredient in this dish is ground toasted rice. It can be optional, but the rice powder adds a bit of crunchiness that is surprising, so I suggest going for it. You can toast the rice on the stove, but I prefer the oven method because it’s less hands-on — I do all the other meal prep while the rice is browning away!

Vietnamese-Style Pancakes

Let me say this: I am addicted to these pancakes. Completely, totally, wholly addicted. I could eat these every single day. And I would be happy.

You can make these as easy as you want or as complicated as you want. I go for easy, meaning I use leftover meats instead of cooking them on the spot — this lets me make these quickly during the week. In addition to the rice flour and turmeric batter, the ingredients include various veggies cut/chopped/julienned into to small pieces, some meat (I often use leftover shrimp or meatballs), and some bean sprouts if you choose. Top with a spicy dipping sauce, and you are in heaven. Trust me.

The trick to cooking these pancakes is to let them get very well-done on the edges. The undersides will be crispy, and the thin batter cooks all the way through quickly.

Chicken Fried Rice

Fried rice is one of my favorite go-to dishes during the week because I always have leftover rice in the refrigerator — I make a big batch every week because it’s great for lunches and dinners. Taking a few minutes to mix up a sauce, shred some chicken, pull out some veggies, and, if I have one handy, crack an egg makes ordinary rice more interesting.

The recipe below assumes you’re working with pre-cooked chicken and frozen vegetables. If you choose to cook your chicken, make sure it’s cut into very small bite-sized pieces. Saute the chicken until nearly cooked through and set aside. Do the same for the vegetables.

Fish sauce is a key ingredient here. It adds flavor that soy sauce alone can’t create. Also, this is a lightly sauced fried rice because the fish sauce adds to much flavor. If you like more sauce, add at the end to make sure your flavors are balanced.

Spicy Thai Beef and Basil with Rice Cakes

This is one of my favorite dishes when I go out for Thai food. Of course, the challenge is finding a place that doesn’t use soy sauce (or uses gluten-free soy sauce). And sometimes rice noodles have a bit of wheat flour integrated or dusted on the noodles. Meaning, sigh, that I haven’t actually found a place that makes this dish gluten-free.

Have I let that stop me? Of course not. This is a fast dish to put together (and can be made with chicken or shrimp if you prefer). You can prep all the ingredients while the noodles are “cooking”. The rest is a quick saute in your wok or skillet.

While this dish is traditionally prepared using fresh rice noodles, I’m having a hard time finding them without wheat flour. So I’ve substituted Korean rice cakes (also known as dduk). Rice cakes are actually thick rice noodles; they have a chewy texture and work well with all kinds of flavors. You can purchase them as a long cylinder or already sliced. I’ve also seen them in a gnocchi-like configuration. They keep well in the freezer, so I buy several packages when I’m out shopping. Find them in the freezer or refrigerator sections of Asian grocery stores.

The best thing about this dish? It can be spicy or mild, depending on your mood. Also, it makes fantastic leftovers.

Banh Mi Style Chicken Breasts

Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich filled with fragrant spices, seasoned meat, and crisp veggies. Traditionally, it’s served on a crusty baguette. I’ve been known to substitute Udi’s Gluten-Free breads as they’re more readily available.

However, one afternoon, I was craving this combination of flavors and found myself breadless. Since I had the chicken and the rest of the ingredients, I improvised. This chicken was so tasty, I snuck it into my leftovers for several days!

It combines sweet, sour, spicy flavors in a way that makes me want to make it again as I type this recipe.