I started to feel it Thursday, the watery eyes, the slight tickle in my throat, those familiar symptoms that could only mean one thing. Then Friday it was officially there: a cold. Saturday, though, I managed to take it one step farther. I woke up with a cold and a hangover. And I had to work. Needless to say, it was a very long day, full of coughing fits, dozens of balled up tissues, and maybe about 25,000 sneezes.
As I sat there at work, my nostrils like two little cherries from being rubbed raw every time I blew my runny nose and my mouth gaping open to breathe in the place of my congested nose, I knew exactly what I wanted. While most people would seek comfort in a bowl of chicken noodle soup, the quintessential drink-when-you’re-sick soup, I wanted something just slightly different.
I wanted pho. Spicy, zesty, vibrant, beefy, rich pho. On my walk home I dropped by Golden Flower, a small Vietnamese restaurant in Chinatown and got a small tub of pho.
Once I got home, I had to assemble the pho before its restorative powers could work their magic on my stuffy head. There were three parts to this soup: one, a container of a delicious gold colored broth. Two, a take-out box packed full of thin slices of rare beef, a thick tangle of noodles, chopped onions, scallions and cilantro. Third, a bag full of crisp bean sprouts, fresh mint leaves, a few sliced peppers, a container of hoisin sauce, and a fat wedge of lime.
One by one, I added layers of the ingredients into the broth so it would all be mixed up. The beef, which had been a raw reddish color, turned a pale brown after a few seconds of floating around in the piping hot broth. While everything else I ate that day had been a little bland, flat in taste from a faulty sense of smell, this pho was teeming with bright, delicious flavors. The warm soothing comfort of the broth, the sour zing of the lime, the subtle sweetness of the mint leaves, the beef, the sprouts, the noodles— oh it was perfect! I could taste again! And when I mistakenly bit into one of the dark green peppers my whole mouth burned and my lips tingled in the best way!
This morning I woke up only about half as congested and my nostrils have eased to a light pink. I still have a cold but I think another tub of pho tonight and I’ll be all better tomorrow.