Round Up the Troops!
I have always, luckily, had a very good immune system. This may have something to do with the fact that I apparently liked to eat dirt when I was young. A bit of dirt eating is natural when you make mud pies, isn’t it?! Anyway, I believe that getting my hands (and mouth) dirty probably built up my immune system nicely. Besides a nasty bout of Salmonella when I was 18months old, which presumably came about due to eating said mud pies, I was rarely unwell as a child. In fact, I actually relished sick days when I could stay home from school and cuddle up on the couch watching movies. It so rarely happened, that any sickness I may have felt was offset by my excitement at being able to stay in my pyjamas, raid my Disney collection and escape to faraway lands under the sea or on a magic carpet. Confession: I had a huge crush on Robin Hood as a child. And yes, I am talking about the Disney version, where he is a fox. And not as in “he’s a real fox”…I mean an actual fox. He was so charming! Am I alone? Ok, let’s not dwell on that any further.
Recently I have found myself getting sick easily. I fought an annoying sinus infection from July-August. I won in the end, with the help of an old friend, Doxycycline. I first met Doxy, as I have come to call him, when I was in Thailand at Baan Dada. We became friendly due to his anti-malaria powers. Although he is helpful in some situations, I don’t like to get too close to Doxy or his pals. Most of the time, I stubbornly resist popping pills for as long as I can. I try to will my body to pull through and fix itself. So, when I woke up sick nearly two weeks ago, I looked to my other, more natural friends to join me in this incessant battle.
Water is a natural ally on the battlefield. You must stay well hydrated otherwise you stand no chance. I also try to get fruit on my side, for both a dose of vitamins and a general mood boost. Being a happy warrior improves your chances of winning, and fruit always keeps me bright :) These two allies give me a little support when fighting off a pesky cold. When I know that I am really sick, however, I bring out the big guns…Chicken Soup.
Captain Chicken Soup is my go-to guy when I know that I am in deep and cannot win the battle alone. He has the ability to warm your soul and fight off any ailment with his natural, earthly healing powers. For centuries, people have used chicken soup as a remedy for colds. Some studies have highlighted similarities between the properties in chicken soup and modern-day drugs. It is also suggested that chicken soup has an anti-inflammatory effect, and hence helps the body when in a cold and flu battle.
I read an article in Marie Claire a while ago, featuring a small collection of women and their sacred family chicken soup recipe. These women were from Greek, Italian, Chinese and Isreali backgrounds – such different cultures and food styles. Yet despite these differences, they all spoke of their love for the same dish, chicken soup. What resonated me was that for each family and culture, the soup was made when an individual needed comfort – both if they were physically sick, or if they needed to be soothed emotionally. Homemade soup means love, and it is the ultimate comfort food.
When Ben picked me up at the airport on Friday night, sniffling, coughing and without a voice, I immediately knew what I needed. “Pho?” I croaked, beseechingly. And so we drove to Springvale, which is decidedly not on the way home, for some medicine - so that I could get a little bit of help in this apparently ongoing battle. Round up the troops!
The cavalry marched on in, in the form of thinly sliced beef (I love how the beef cooks in the broth), slippery rice noodles, crunchy bean shoots, fragrant basil, a squeeze of lemon juice, fresh chilli (as well as extra chilli in oil) and last but certainly not least, a warming, full-bodied beef broth. I don’t desire to know the full ingredients list in making this broth. I have heard they take the approach of ‘the more body parts of the animal added, the better’. This may be true, but ‘ignorance is bliss’ is also very true, and probably necessary if I wish to keep Pho as my ally. I don’t need to do a full background check on my troops. If they’re on my side (and they taste good!), they’re all right by me.
I love this chilli oil
Voila! Pho with all the trimmings
I also had some coconut juice. I’m pretty sure they add a lot of sugar before they add the coconut water, but I don’t really mind as it tastes so good. Young coconut water is fairly low in energy and contains some minerals and electrolytes, and is hence a very popular new product (although it has long been consumed in South East Asian and Pacific Island regions). I won't go into the details of coconut water in this post, all I will say is that I find it extremely refreshing and on this particular evening, I was craving one.
Richmond has many good Pho options, however Ben and I tend to gravitate towards Springvale. We frequent Dakao Hoang (Shop 6,17 Balmoral Ave) in particular, as we have a personal connection with the owners and because we love their Pho. I’m keen for more Pho recommendations, though! If you’re a Sydneysider, check out Foodwink’s piece on Sydney Pho. If you’re a Pho virgin, I think it is about time you get your Pho on.
There is nothing like a good Pho, especially when you are unwell. The broth both nourishes you and tastes incredible. Adding chilli helps to clear a stuffy nose too. We have had Pho three times since I have been unwell. Although I still have a cough and some sniffles, I am feeling a lot better. I won’t be relying on my comrades for any more help in this battle - I feel that I can now go it alone. I am confident that I will emerge the victorious winner. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like to visit my friends whenever I get the chance. After all, a good friend doesn’t just show up when they are in trouble and need a helping hand. So, I guess it is my duty to have Pho as much as I can. What can I say?...I’m a good friend :)