Fight for joy!

About a month ago Ben and I did an early morning run to the grocery store for coffee beans, so naturally I was bra-less, with a hat covering my dirty hair.  And, of course, we ran into a lighting designer that Ben sometimes works with who wanted to meet me.  (So much for my hat disguise– small city.)  The guy- Dave- asked what I was working on, and I lowered my eyes and muttered something about a highschool production of Guys & Dolls while shrugging off my words, when he interrupted me.

“Noooo!  I keep telling myself that I have to find something fun in every project.  It’s like a game, you see.  I was talking to my Mom on the phone, and she said ‘David!  You have to fight for joy!’.”

At the time, I just wanted a shower and my bra back.  But, now, I’m thinking a lot about Dave’s Mom, and her words.  It’s probably because the weather changed.  The endless stream of warm, sunny fall days appear to be coming to an end, and the grey is already messing with my head.  I have to fight for joy, man!!!!!  I have to fight for joy, even when I’m down because my winter coat is pretty much the ugliest thing ever (fondly known in our home as my sausage Mom coat).

So, I made soup.  Because soup is basically joy, and spicy soup is even better.  I like to eat spicy soup with a paper towel next to me reserved only for snotty spice-induced nose blowing.  That’s why I like eating soup in the privacy of my home.

My Vietnamese sister-in-law might consider this recipe to be bastardized Pho, conceived by a Minnesotan chef.  But, it tasted like the real thing to me.

Pho (Vietnamese Rice Noodle Soup) the Fast Way from The Splendid Table’s How To Eat Supper

I get a regular Pho craving, so I was pretty thrilled to learn to make my own.  I usually eat it with chicken or tofu, but this recipe calls for beef.  You can easily substitute one of the former (as well as veggie stock instead of the chicken stock).  Your first batch might be a little pricy(ish), if you don’t keep items like fish sauce and hoisin sauce on hand.  The next batch will be cheap!

For The Broth:

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

One 2-3 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced

6 whole cloves

1 whole star anise (or 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds)

about 2 teaspoons ground pepper

about 8 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth)

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons fish sauce

For the Soup:

6-8 oz. linguine-style rice noodles

6-8 oz. top round steak sliced extremely thin (you can substitute tofu or chicken)


Cilantro, Thai basil, thinly sliced jalapeno, bean sprouts, lime wedges

1.  Line a cookie sheet with a piece of foil, and scatter the sliced onion, garlic, ginger, cloves, anise, and paper on the foil (note: I ground up the cloves, anise, and pepper with a pestle and mortar).  Toast these under the broiler for 5-8 minutes, turning the onion once as it cooks.


2.  Scrape all of the toasted business in a large stock pot.  Add the broth, sugar, and fish sauce, and bring to a bubble. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

3.  While it cooks, put the rice noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water for 10-15 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water when they are a little harder than you want them (the broth will continue to cook them).

4.  Divide the noodles between two bowls.  Divide the meat between the bowls (yes- raw!  The broth cooks the beef.)  Top with the broth & toppings of your choice (hot sauce and hoisin sauce, too!).


Happy thursday.  Fight for joy.

Final soup!


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