finding that comfortable place

My comfortable place of the day was one heck of a bowl of broth-noodles filled with tomatoes, made-from-scratch prawn paste (chạo tôm), fried tofu cubes, and accompanied by a plate full of my favorite greens.

This is my own twist of making Bún Riêu, a childhood favorite broth-noodles that cemented in the memories of our early years in the U.S.. Mom often made Bún Riêu with the Riêu paste coming from a jar sold at Asian markets because we could not find fresh crabs to make the paste back in the early 90s. Summer time came with heaps of verdant herbs that Dad planted and tended to in our backyard garden of that house on Cedar Avenue.

Mom’s version often came with pig feet and coagulated pig blood that might sound bizarre to non-Asians but we devoured them. And especially, Mom’s version of Bún Riêu also came with bamboo shoots; those yellow, fibrous but tender strands of bamboo added another dimension to every bite.

My version of Bún Riêu has been largely modified to avoid cooking with pork, even though I still miss gnawing on those pig feet and blood cubes to no end. I don’t even think I should call it Bún Riêu but rather give it a different name so those traditional foodies don’t call me out as an imposter. Perhaps it should be named Bún Nước Lèo Tôm Cà, Noodles-Broth-Prawns-Tomato. Sounds about right!

Today I made a vegetable broth from scratch, and then the paste was a combination of fresh prawns and dried shrimps that I put in the food processor. I used extra firm tofu and cut into cubes and broiled them instead of frying. I love the crimson color of annatto seeds so I used a lot of it to make the oil that gives a vivid red hue at the top. I didn’t have any bamboo shoots available, and neither did I have any fish paste to make fish cake/stick to add as toppings.

I had two bowls for dinner. Two small bowls — so much for self-control. But to be fair, I loaded it up with lots of green 😀 The boys also ate one small bowl each; Peanut finished his but PP was reluctant. He said he prefers Phở over this noodles. I have to beg him to eat and enjoy it with me as I told them the memories I had with this.

It was not exactly Bún Riêu, but hey, I have veered off the traditional path for a long while since I met and married Mr. O, who is a Muslim and prohibited to have pork, so modification and adaptation have been my ways to stay close to what I love to eat, and still remain respectful to his wish. Nevertheless, he sometimes gives me a nod to eat dishes with pork if we were to go out and have meals with my family. He wouldn’t touch it, and wouldn’t allow the boys to eat it, but he would wink and tell me to have a few bites.

I have a great recipe for a wholesome vegetable broth that is not bland. It was just as good, if not better and healthier, as the broth made from pork bones.

My beloved plate of herbs and lettuce. I went to a Vietnamese supermarket on Monday to send a money remittance for Mom (who just got back to Vietnam from a 10-day trip to Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia — this 76-year-old woman is a traveler!) and grabbed two packs of Vietnamese herbs — kinh giới (lemon balm) and rau diếp cá (that fishy herb that could be off-putting for a lot of people).

Okay, maybe one more photo of my Bún. Not my bun, but bún. Be aware that Vietnamese language could be misinterpreted when reading in English. 😀


Peanut was home with me today, and also will be home tomorrow. He had high fever of 102F this morning so I took him to the pediatrician and he was diagnosed with croup. It’s not life-threatening, but he should be home resting. I made chicken rice soup (cháo gà) and also concocted a small pot of warm ginger-turmeric-honey tonic for him to drink throughout the day to reduce fever and the barking cough.

He wants to go back to school tomorrow because the teacher is throwing a popcorn party for the class as they were one of the few classes that raised the most money at the recent fundraising event for the entire school. Poor kid!


Mr. O is not liking NYC’s weather and traffic. He stayed at a hotel in Brooklyn, and had to take Lyft to various places for meetings and roundtables. He called and complained that it took 45 minutes to get through less than 10 miles from Mid Manhattan to Brooklyn. Today for dinner he was invited to a meeting that was held at an expensive restaurant, I forgot the name, but he said the food was just mediocre. My husband does not understand fine-dining, y’all. I would have been all over the food, course after course, and give the highest compliment to the chef if I were to be invited for a free meal at an expensive high-end restaurant like that.

Maybe…he got so used to eating the food that I cook for him, and that fine-dining has nothing to my incomparable cooking skills. 😀