It Ain’t Yer Momma’s Chicken Noodle Soup

Thanks to Bean sharing his germs from school with me, I have a head cold. Right in time for the holidays. Lovely! Being pregnant, head colds present a bit of a challenge. Don’t get me wrong – I am a medication person. I don’t believe in suffering unnecessarily, so I loves me some medicines. But when I’ve got a sensitive little bun in my oven, I’m a lot more aware of what I’m taking and I really try to avoid all medications as much as possible. I take Tylenol occasionally for my back and hips (both of which feel like they belong to an 80 year old woman at the moment), but I try to limit it to that.

This morning I woke up after a particularly hard night of no sleep were I sat upright all night long so that I could breathe and I thought to myself, “Okay. It’s time to do something out this. It’s time to get serious. It’s time to get some pho.”

Pho is Vietnamese noodle and beef soup. It’s like the Vietnamese version of chicken noodle soup. Only way more powerful because it’s spicy. I first had pho in Connecticut with Chris. The Yale University theater is right across the street from York Street Noodle, a small, cheap, cozy, Vietnamese noodle house.  When we moved to New Haven, neither Chris or I had ever had Vietnamese food before.  But the restaurant was right across from the theater and so during weeks when Chris was working full days and nights on a set, it was the only place he could spare some time to meet me for a quick bite.  York Street Noodle was where I first discovered pho.  And I fell in love.  It’s warm and cozy and makes you feel like you’re at your mom’s kitchen table…in Vietnam.

Then I discovered that a few of my co-workers had a place close to our office where they went for Vietnamese food on their lunch break and so I forced my way into the lunch bunch.  On cold, snowy winter days, nothing is better than a big, steaming bowl of pho.

Admittedly, pho is a little scary.  Actually, Vietnamese restaurants can be a little scary.  But it’s only because they are so authentic that I think they can intimidate Americans who are unfamiliar with that kind of food.


Vietnamese is my favorite ethnic food and I think it is highly underrated.  So, my friends, today I am going to explain The Pho to you so that you will no longer be scared and you might possibly venture into one of those cozy, tiny Vietnamese restaurants all on your own.  Actually, I would suggest going the first time with someone who knows what they are ordering so that you have a little help.  But if you find yourself staring at a Vietnamese menu, go with the pho.  You can’t go wrong with pho.

So.  What is it and what do you do with it?  Here’s what it looks like when you order it:


Now, it does vary slightly from restaurant to restaurant. For instance, the restaurants in New Haven served it in a bowl with one type of beef and you just added your toppings. But the restaurant I tried this afternoon in Orlando served it with a lot more options for toppings and several different types of beef that you could add.


Don’t be grossed out. You don’t have to use it all. In fact, I didn’t use any meat. But see that white pile of noodles? Those are the key ingredient. Also key? Sprouts and basil.


And the magic part is the broth. This broth came with meatballs, but I threw those out. I only want the broth. The wonderful, ginger-scented, rich broth. Ahhhh….


Okay. Now that we have all our parts, let’s assemble the greatest cold remedy ever made. First, put the noodles in a big ol’ bowl.


Then pour the broth over them, stirring so that they loosen up and quit clinging to each other for dear life.


Now, at this point you can add the meat of your choice. I chose no meat today because I wasn’t feeling so hot, but the flank steak beef is my favorite when I have meat. It’s cut really thin and cooked perfectly. But I was feeling meatless today.

Next come the toppings. Traditionally, you get sprouts, basil, lime wedges, and sometimes ginger. The place I went today also had jalapenos, but that really weirded me out so I ignored those. Today I went a little bland because of my cold.

First, I added sprouts. They are raw and add a nice little crunch to the soup, especially if you let them sit in the bowl and soften a bit at first.


Then I added some basil. Just the leaves. When they hit that hot broth, the infuse the soup with the most delicious taste and smell. Heaven!


Then comes the cold remedy part. It’s the Vietnamese hot sauce. It’s hot. Incredibly hot. But when you have a cold, you must not skip this step. Pour as much as you can handle without crying into the soup bowl. Then mix it around in the broth until it turns a rosy pink color from the spice.


To eat this mother load of a decongestant, you need a few tools.


First, you need an Asian soup spoon. Actually, you should have these at your house whether you’re eating pho or not. They’re great spoons. I use them for dips and things when I put out appetizers when company comes over. They make cute little serving spoons. But for pho, they are especially perfect. You use the spoon to drink the hot, spicy broth.


Then, you use chopsticks to eat the noodles, sprouts, and whatever other toppings you choose.


Do you like my chopsticks? One of my pho-eating former co-workers, Dana, brought me a set of eight beautiful chopsticks from China. They are lovely and I adore them.

The last tool you will need when you eat a bowl of pho is a box of tissues. If you have a cold, pho is the perfect decongestant. The combination of heat from the broth and the spice from the hot sauce and the smooth texture of the noodles is perfect for loosening up your sinuses. Trust me.

So, now you know how to eat pho. Which means if you find a little Vietnamese restaurant that you really want to try, but you have no idea what to order or how to eat it, now you have no excuse for not going in! And that also means if you have a cold, you’ve got a hearty, healthy, warm remedy to loosen those sinuses!


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27 Thoughts to “It Ain’t Yer Momma’s Chicken Noodle Soup”

  1. Erin

    This is so great! I am going to Vietnam in like 9 days and can’t WAIT for the foood!!! But believe it or not, I have never tried pho. Maybe that’s the reason I am going there… 🙂

  2. kk

    Pho is definitely not underratted here in Canada. We have alot of Vietnamese people here and the variety here is amazing. If you are not sick, you must must MUST try their mango Juice. It’s AMAZING. they add coconut milk in some of their shakes but it’s sooo good! Bun is a dry version of Pho. It’s dry noodles with grilled meat and it’s also pretty good 🙂

  3. I have never eaten pho, but it sounds so yummy. I want to try making it myself someday.

    Feel better soon!

  4. Thanks for reminding me to google my closest Vietnamese restaurant! My best friend (who sadly, lives in another state) is Vietnamese, and she’s taught me a lot of cooking, but now I’m craving some real Pho!

  5. Aimee

    I was first introduced to pho while in Vietnam 2 years ago, and I just can’t find a good place locally 🙁 But there is a place in Arlington, VA (or maybe Roslyn?) that is stupendous! Vietnamese food is so amazing 🙂

  6. I mentioned this on Twitter but I also have the world’s worst cold and I’m 35 weeks preggers! UGH! The hubs just got my cold and I’ve been eyeing his cold medicine jealously. I’ll have to try this out sometime! usually I just stick to tea with honey and lemon. That always does the trick.

  7. Ok, never had pho before, but I love Asian food, so I’m sure I would enjoy this. However, because I live in Kansas on the prairie, we don’t have many restaurant options. But if I get the opportunity to get away from the cows, and into a metropolis, I’ll give this a try. Thanks for sharing. Suzanne

  8. I love trying new food. We have a lot of Vietnamese restaurants here but I’ve never been in one because you’re right – they’re intimidating! But now I feel like I could fake my way through a bowl of Pho. Thanks Katie!

  9. Katie, that looks HEAVENLY right now! After the *ahem* blizzard we had here in Tennessee last night (3 inches! woop!), soup is the only thing on my mind right now. I’ve actually never had Vietnamese food, but I know I can find some here in the city. I’m always up for trying some great, spicy food–especially sinus-clearing stuff! 🙂

    Feel better soon!

  10. I love Pho! Vietnamese food is so good, it’s one of the things that I love living in the city is that I’m surrounded by it 😀

  11. Flora

    The hot sauce you’re talking about is most likely called Sriracha. I’ve seen it used at many Pho restaurants and it’s a great hot sauce to have on hand. :] Hope you get well soon.

  12. Sarah H.

    I’ve never had Pho, but I totally want some now!

  13. Although I live right by Viet town in Orlando I’ve never tried Pho before. Next cold I get, I’m so there.

  14. That sounds like some pretty serious soup! Hope you feel better!

  15. My favorite Vietnamese food is actually Bun, which is similar but not all brothy. I can totally see how some Pho would be a great cold remedy!

  16. Hampanel

    I eat pho all the time and LOVE IT. Vietnamese food is pretty underrated here in the US, so I’m thrilled to see it discussed in this blog! Thanks for mentioning my favorite cuisine! 🙂

  17. That meat looks raw…is it and does it cook in the broth? Sooo confused. I am a Pho virgin

  18. Laura

    Did you know that pho is pronounced ‘fur’ sort of? At least that is my experience in Aussie Vietnamese joints! Yummmm…enjoy!

  19. From one sick pregnant lady to another, THANK YOU!!

  20. Cindy In Owensboro, KY

    The Pho looks wonderful– thanks for sharing. One thing that you can use for your cold while you are pregnant is the netipot– it is a nasal cleanse with a saltwater mixture. I tried it this week and it does help.

  21. Cindy In Owensboro, KY

    I was just looking at the ingredients for the pho a little closer and noticed the bean sprouts especially. Just to let you know, you aren’t suppose to eat raw bean sprouts, alfalfa sprouts,etc when you are pregnant because it can contain E Coli.

  22. Sam

    We just ate Vietnamese this past weekend! It’s funny, I’ve tried all kinds of Vietnamese food, but have avoided the Pho thus far. This past weekend, I decided to try some, but I’m a vegan and this particular restaurant only had beef and chicken Pho. I’m going to keep searching though, because I hear that it exists and it’s amazing!

    Oh, and I second Cindy’s recommendation of Neti products. I have the pot and the squirt bottle. I prefer the bottle, because it is easier to use. The first few times are a bit odd, but once you get used to nasal flushing, it’s a huge help.

  23. I can’t wait to try this! My son just gave me his cold, too. Pho for me!!

  24. I’m so glad you posted this. If went in and ordered what I thought was going to be soup and they brought what you pictured I would be lost! This makes me want to go out bravely and try something new!

  25. York Street Noodle appeared right across from the paint shop during my last year in the Have’. Did I ever make it there? Nope. Sad, huh? We had a wedding to pay for, so money was tight. But man, do I miss the Thai food of New Haven. I turn to Thai to cure my colds.

  26. Michelle

    I’ve read your blog for a couple months now and have never commented, but you really just made me crave some pho! =] Luckily, I’m in California, so even though I’ve moved around the state a lot, there’s almost always a noodle hut close by. I’ve never had it where you add the ingredients like in your pictures – mine always comes with everything in the bowl. It looks great though!

    Oh, even though probably no one will read this comment since this blog entry is no longer the most current one, I wanted to point out that you didn’t mention the pronunciation of pho. For the people who have never ordered a delicious bowl of pho, it’s pronounced like the “fuh” in “fun,” not like “fo.”

    Love your blog.

  27. Asian soup spoons make my soul dance with wonder and joy. Then my soul is all, really? All this for a spoon? Then I tell it to sit down and be quiet. Silly soul.

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