The Places We’ve Been: Vietnamese Pho Noodle Soup

Ω January 12th, 2015 Ω Tagged , , , , Ω 6 Comments

vietnamese pho noodle soup

With every year that passes, I dwell more and more on the past. Life can be divided into segments based on any number of criteria: age, particular people, school versus the rest of your life, before/after Madeline, etc. etc.

For me, recent life is divided into places.

There were the Amherst years, sure. They were years of endless problem sets and a certain handsome laundry man, yet my vision of the recent “past” begins right after I received my diploma and snazzy wooden cane.

(And yes, I know you’re not supposed to ruminate on the past. I tend to do so at certain times, such as around the New Year and during birthdays. At least they’re close(-ish) together.)

There was the Cambridge year when Peter and I got our first taste of post-college life AND our first taste of restaurant pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup packed with filling rice noodles, meat, and herbs and spices. We used to visit a restaurant in Harvard Square to get our giant, steaming bowls of pho. A light, filling meal, the Vietnamese soup was perfect for those blustery Massachusetts winter days.

Imagine my disappointment when I visited Harvard Square later and found the restaurant was gone. You will be missed.

cinnamon anise

Then there were the Connecticut years, where we discovered a restaurant serving pho in New Haven. New Haven? Just as cold as Cambridge. Pho soup? Excellent.

Sadly, that restaurant is now also closed. Must be the Jessie curse.

pho noodle soup

By the time we arrived in the Illinois years, Peter had perfected his own pho noodle soup recipe. Fortunate, because I don’t think I could stand single-handedly taking down another awesome restaurant. And so we feasted.

Now that we’ve begun the Oregon years, we’ve been enjoying homemade pho instead of seeking it in the wild (a.k.a. Portland). Perhaps I’ll venture out to try another restaurant’s pho — but only if I feel lucky.

red bowl design

This soup is traditionally made with rice noodles, but I often substitute whole wheat noodles for extra fiber and protein. If you’re not a fan of whole wheat noodles in spaghetti, try them in this soup; the broth softens the firm chewiness of the noodles. I’ve also substituted low sodium vegetable broth and tofu in place of the beef broth and beef sirloin. You can customize the soup however you want.

Slurp up!

Vietnamese Pho Noodle Soup

  Prep Time: 10 minutes

  Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 6 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1/2 inch peeled ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 pound boneless beef sirloin
  • 2 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup scallions, green parts sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh Thai basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves


In a 2-quart saucepan, bring broth, ginger, star anise and cinnamon to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. With a very sharp knife, cut sirloin across the grain into 1/4-inch slices.

While broth simmers, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large saucepan and cook whole wheat pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Remove ginger, anise and cinnamon from broth and bring to a boil. Stir in fish sauce and black pepper. Add sirloin and sprouts and cook 30 to 45 seconds, or until sirloin changes color. Divide noodles into four bowls and ladle soup over noodles. Serve with scallions, basil, and mint.

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P.S. Try some more hot soup recipes!

P.P.S. The past? Merely a memory.

P.P.P.S. However, THIH’s upcoming 5th blog anniversary will likely spur reminiscences, especially about my years as a dietetics student.

P.P.P.P.S. I still find it hilarious that I never changed the shortlink for my first post from “hello-world.” It’s like I’m popping out of your computer screen with a giant creepy smile, going “Hello, World!”

P.P.P.P.P.S. Kind of like this.

Trust me.

Trust me.

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Clearly I’ve been cooped up indoors too long.

P.P.P.P.P.P.P.S. This should help.

Haystack Cannon Beach

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Five Ways to Re-envision Yourself in the New Year

Ω January 1st, 2015 Ω Tagged , , , , , , , Ω 7 Comments

This toy stood no chance against the Maddle-beast.

This toy stood no chance against the Maddle-beast.

Resolutions. A vision for the future. Reinventing yourself. The New Year mantras are the same every year. A new year means a new you, right?

Not so fast. This year, I challenge you to try something different. Instead of reinventing yourself, try re-envisioning yourself.

Why? “Reinventing” implies that you are flawed, that those wobbly bits of yourself that the outside world says you should be hiding in some deep, dark corner (a basement, or perhaps a dungeon) are faults of which you should be ashamed. You should be turning yourself inside out (as Maddie so helpfully demonstrates above), “fixing” those bits, then stuffing them away as quickly as possible.

I say fie to that!

Close your eyes for a moment, dear reader. Yes, you. Think back to the last time you made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, get a new job, find a significant other, etc. How did you feel? Maybe excited to try something new? Maybe jaded, if you’ve had the same resolution for five years’ running? And if you feel like you’ve “failed” in the past, maybe you have a sense of dread?

This year, keep it simple, mahfriend. Instead of reinventing yourself, try five ways to re-envision yourself in the new year. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish when you look at yourself from a new perspective.

(1) Think about your strengths, not your weaknesses.



It’s amazing how often we think about what we’re not good at.

“I can’t even figure out the tip on this check without a calculator. I’m terrible at number stuff.”

“Every time I try to talk to someone, I end up saying something stupid. I’ll never meet anyone.”

“Gol ding it, I burned the tomatoes again. I’ll never be able to cook a decent meal.”

Ouch. We’re can be pretty hard on ourselves. Berating ourselves because of things we’re not good at leads to stress and lowered self-esteem. You know what’s worthy of praise? You. Let’s turn those phases around.

“I organized this wedding shower last-minute, and we all had a great time! Good thing Annie has one of those snazzy calculator watches so she can calculate the tip.”

“She scowled at me after I complimented her hair. How rude. I’m going to talk to that girl who’s smiling at my sweet, sweet dance moves.”

“Well, there goes the tomatoes. Good thing I had the foresight to buy salad mix. Complete meal? Check! Next time, I’ll try a new recipe.”

I’m not good at juggling pickles while riding a unicycle uphill, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. Knitting and running, however — got that down pat.

(2) Enjoy the foods you like without guilt.

chocolate cookies fudgy

I cry a little inside when I hear about using 30-day juice cleanses and gluten-free diets to lose weight. Subjecting yourself to a temporary restrictive diet to lose a few pounds and gaining it all back when you resume “normal” eating is like driving 120 mph on the interstate so that you’ll get to your destination a few minutes sooner. Stressful, possibly dangerous, and you’ll end up taking more time in the long run as you fill out the paperwork on your speeding ticket. Instead, enjoy your favorite cookie. Don’t worry – it won’t be the last one ever.

Want to work on your health, whether that’s lose weight or eat more vegetables or just feel better? Chat with a registered dietitian. They’re pretty awesome.

(3) Allow yourself to be unhappy.


Aren’t we supposed to be happy all the time? That’s the dream, right? Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Boy, that’s a lot of pressure. Being unhappy is okay. No one needs to be happy all the time. Allowing yourself to be unhappy frees you from fearing unhappiness, loneliness, anger, etc. It’s all temporary, anyway.

(4) Your hobbies are enriching, not worthless.

“Oh, I just dabble now and then. I know I should be working instead.”

I fall into this trap now and then. Whenever I work on something, I usually give it 100%, which means hobbies fall by the wayside.

That’s silly.

Our hobbies are just as much a part of us as the project we need to complete for work or school. The key here is that very little in life needs to be perfect. That project doesn’t need to be, and my knitting sure isn’t. Doing what we enjoy can help us get through stressful times.

For example, this little guy holds all the stress of exam week in his crooked smile. Thanks, Mr. Snowman.

Much obliged.

Much obliged.

(5) You determine your own awesome.

You know I had to get an inspirational sunset picture in here.

You know I had to get an inspirational sunset picture in here.

You know that Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent?” So true. The world is an uncertain place with many aspects you can’t control. You know what you can control? What YOU think and do.

So be awesome. Because you are.

My best wishes for a THIH New Year.

The Five Things Series:
[Five Things I’m Loving Lately]
[Five Thing with which I am Moderately Pleased]
[Five Things I’ve Learned]
[Five Ways to Re-envision Yourself]

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